Critical Path ships rearchitected metadirectory

Critical Path Inc. is hoping its new software will help demystify the deployment and maintenance of intriguing yet complex metadirectory technology.

Announced Tuesday, InJoin Meta-Directory 3.0 has been re-engineered to centralize management of the metadirectory join engine and its connectors, which link disparate directories. The connectors translate data into formats that can be shared across directories linked by the metadirectory, a central hub for synchronizing and joining, or merging, data from directories, databases and corporate repositories.

Typically, directory connectors are deployed as agent software on individual directories, an architecture that scatters software all over a company. The InJoin design turns the connectors into more of a plug-in to the join engine, according to company officials. The plug-ins can then be upgraded independent of the join engine.

InJoin also supports any number of existing directories from Critical Path, Microsoft, IBM or iPlanet as the "host" metadirectory, negating the need to add yet another directory to an enterprise infrastructure.

"InJoin is trying not to be just another directory, it's a brokering engine [for data exchange], it doesn't store any data," says Michael Hoch, an analyst with Aberdeen Group.

The InJoin Meta-Directory Server is the first incarnation of the metadirectory under the Critical Path logo since the company bought the technology from Isocor more than a year ago. The metadirectory market is becoming a crowded field with Microsoft, Novell, Siemens and iPlant, which also uses the Isocor code base.

While the vendor field may be crowded, corporate deployments are sparse.

"These things still require custom development and consulting - they are tool kits, not products," says Jonathan Penn, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "In the long term, everyone will have a metadirectory. But one of the issues now is getting configuration, management and diagnostic tools up to snuff."

Penn says 2003 may possibly become a breakthrough year. Another big issue is cost. Giga studies show a 10 to 1 ratio in terms of cost for professional services to those for metadirectory software. For example, a US$1 million investment in software would require $10 million in services. Penn expects the ratio to drop into the 5 to 1 range around 2003. For that to happen, vendors will have to make metadirectories easier to use.

Critical Path hopes InJoin moves in that direction. The metadirectory incorporates a number of set-up wizards and extensive default rules for getting started. Also, the centralized connectors communicate with target directories over standard protocols including Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), Open Database Connectivity and native APIs.

"We have simplified the installation and on-going management," says Eric Leach, product manager for InJoin Meta-Directory. "Now you don't have separate management for the join engine and the connectors." InJoin Meta-Directory supports connectors for databases and LDAP-compliant directories. It also has a Universal Connector that works with Lotus Notes or custom scripts.

The metadirectory costs $15,000. The connector prices are $25,000 for databases and $5,000 for LDAP. Per-user pricing tops out at $15, with volume discounts available.

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