On the opening day of its Brainshare event here, Novell rolled out a blueprint for its next-generation, directory-based applications.

DENIM, which stands for Directory Enabled Net Infrastructure Model, is to be the architecture for network services that leverage Novell Directory Services (NDS) but run on multiple platforms. It's an extension of the company's Net Services concept, first outlined last month.

In his opening keynote, Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said the traditional network setup, where the intranet is separated from the Internet and extranet by a firewall, isn't the right approach to networking, because customers and partners are on the other side of the firewall. The solution is what Schmidt called a "one net" approach, where users get access to resources based on authenticating themselves to the directory, not on whether they are inside or outside the firewall.

In a set of demonstrations, Novell executives illustrated this blurring of the boundaries between intranet and extranet. Novell showcased a new NDS feature, Federation, which links two or more NDS directories in separate enterprises. Users from one directory can become members of a group that's part of another directory. This allows an administrator at company A to assign rights to an employee of company B. The Federation feature is included in the beta version of a new NDS release distributed to all Brainshare attendees.

Novell also demonstrated its DirXML directory-synchronization technology, currently in beta test. Brainshare attendees were shown how a user created in Netscape's directory could be replicated to NDS, Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory. The user was then deleted from all directories using Active Directory.

Kevin Keyser, a senior computing consultant at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, said he was impressed by the Federation and dirXML demonstrations. He said he intends to use DirXML to integrate several directories, including Active Directory.

In another demonstration, Novell showed how NDS can be used to create a single sign-on for Web-based applications.

The DENIM architecture calls for Novell and other vendors to develop applications that leverage the directory. These will be delivered as packaged software products, turnkey appliances and services hosted by Novell itself, said Steve Adams, senior vice president of marketing at Novell.

Speakers at the opening session of Brainshare made little mention of Novell's flagship NetWare operating system, instead focusing on platform-independent services. They were also careful to point at interoperability between Novell's products and Microsoft Windows NT and Windows 2000. Swipes at Microsoft - generally a fixture of such events - were limited to a few mild jokes about Windows' proneness to crashes.

Among the product announcements on the first day of Brainshare were the release of Instantme, an enterprise-ready instant messaging tool, and an open beta of DirXML.

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