Analysis: Novell's key position in the Liberty Alliance

Recently, Novell announced it is joining the Liberty Alliance project, the organization initiated by Sun as a counterweight to the since discontinued "Hailstorm" initiative from Microsoft. The Liberty Alliance project is initially designed to allow a single sign-on solution for affiliated Web sites as part of a future design encompassing most aspects of the "Web services" technologies.

In fact, Novell's Gary Hein was featured prominently in the unveiling of the initial Liberty Alliance specification, demonstrating how Novell's existing products (eDirectory and iChain in particular) can be used to implement the technology.

Most of the companies involved in the Liberty Alliance are nontechnology companies looking for a solution. Novell has established relationships with more than a third of them, which puts the Provo networkers in a prime position to understand customers' needs and their plans for implementing Liberty.

Novell's tradition as a neutral player providing cross-platform support for Liberty as well as Microsoft's Passport, WS-Security and other standards as they come into existence, puts it in a good position to take advantage of the best offerings from all sides.

While there has been a lot of talk around future business-to-business and business-to-consumer implementations of Liberty, the first wave of Alliance deployments will be focused within the enterprise. This would allow employees to achieve single sign-on to internal applications as well as enabling corporates to connect with their business partners and vendors. Novell is, of course, a leader in enterprise management, and is uniquely positioned to drive adoption of the Liberty specification.

Novell pioneered the concept of federated identity with eDirectory in 1999. The Liberty Alliance is a complementary effort, from a more standards-based approach.

In other words, Novell is uniquely placed to "deliver the goods" for companies wishing to implement the Liberty Alliance specification. NDS/eDirectory is, of course, crucial. But NetWare is the best platform for the directory, isn't it?

Liberty Alliance support, coupled with Novell's recent acquisition of SilverStream Software, puts the NetWare vendor right at the core of the Web services initiatives that are exploding all over the technological landscape. All of these services will need an operating system platform that's "lean and mean," performs nonstop and almost maintains itself. Windows .Net server? Linux? Solaris? I don't think so.

Bone up on your Web services vocabulary, then be ready when your upper management starts to talk about it. This could be the start of a new era for NetWare.

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