Directory, XML spark Novell

As Novell Inc. pushes forward with its services-oriented makeover, the company used last week's BrainShare user conference in Salt Lake City to recast itself as a serious player in the snazzy future of Internet services.

As part of its underlying vision for a single, unified network, Novell is positioning its eDirectory and DirXML technologies as the linchpins for tapping in to Web-enabled network services.

According to one analyst, Novell's positioning has strengthened its current position and future outlook.

"Novell is no longer waiting for NetWare to die. They are moving forward with messages that resonate with contemporary uses. One example is the use of the directory as enabling devices for e-commerce," said Martin Marshall, managing director at Zona Research.

After coming off a tough year, the company recently added muscle to its services by announcing plans to acquire systems integrator Cambridge Technology Partners Inc. in a US$266 million deal. Novell also trotted out last week an alliance with storage vendor EMC Corp. and several new products, including a NAS (network attached storage) device and wireless functionality for future versions of Novell NDS eDirectory and eGuide products.

Novell's newer offerings, particularly DirXML, which acts as the link between the directory and outside Web-based systems, may play a critical role in positioning the company for success, Marshall said.

"DirXML is the key technology for Novell because of the potential it has for integrating personalization systems. Every major vendor wants to control access-control lists and authorization, and none of their personalization engines work with one another," Marshall said. "The potential of DirXML is wide and strong and could be the answer for Novell."

During the conference many Novell executives, including CTO Carl Ledbetter, touted the importance of the eDirectory.

"The directory is the centerpiece of our technical strategy but not the business strategy because it won't be a big revenue driver," Ledbetter said. "Microsoft built their empire on DOS because so many developers built applications for it. The directory will be Novell's DOS. We want people to build applications for the directory."

The directory's capability for authentication, access, and security is an extraordinarily powerful thing, Ledbetter said.

Despite its ups and downs, Novell still commands loyalty from its large customer base, several of which were on hand at the show offering testimonials.

Campbell Soup recently renewed its license with Novell, upgrading its NetWare platform to Version 5.1 and licensing the new ZENworks 3 management product, as the company instituted changes meant to streamline management processes, said Charles Destefani, manager of client/server services.

"We use these [products] for desktop standards management, third-party evaluation, and for remote control of the desktop," Destefani said.

BrainShare bits

At BrainShare, Novell showcased a partnership and several new products and features.

* The Novell-EMC Cooperative Support Agreement: A cross-company technical support partnership with storage vendor EMC* Novell Network Storage Appliance: A NAS (network attached storage) device that supports Windows, Unix, Linux, Macintosh, and Novell clients* Wireless features for forthcoming versions of Novell NDS eDirectory and eGuide products* eDirectory support for Compaq Tru64 and IBM AIX operating systems* Forthcoming NetWare 6 features: iFolder, which updates data across multiple workstations and Web devices, and Novell Internet Printing, which gives secure access to printers via a Web browser* Single Sign-on 2.1: Software for centralized password management across multiple networks* Novell Portal Services 1.0: Software that offers a single view of multiple files, collaboration tools, and applications

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