Kearn's column: 1998 networking MVPs

Each year I pick a most valuable player in networking -- the person who's done the most to further his team's victory in the network space. Last year, it was Novell's Eric Schmidt, who continues to justify that selection, as the entire industry now recognises him for his efforts. This year, we have co-MVPs.

Cisco Systems' John Strassner and Microsoft's Steven Judd are co-chairs of the Directory Enabled Network (DEN) Ad Hoc Working Group. They spent most of the year designing, refining and finally publishing the DEN specification before passing it on to the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) for final review and implementation. Strassner and Judd walked a fine line between directory vendors and hardware manufacturers -- each with their own biases -- to arrive at a schema definition and DEN specification that not only satisfies the vendor members of the working group, but also promises to be the basis for many useful tools for network administrators.

Knowing they wanted to eventually give control to the DMTF, Strassner and Judd tried to closely follow the DMTF's Common Information Model (CIM), which is a common way to describe and share management information enterprisewide. So when a new CIM specification was issued mid-year, the DEN working group had to scramble to redefine its specification to remain in line. That this was done with only a minimal impact on their self-imposed deadline showed the dedication that Strassner and Judd brought to the task. It's now up to the DMTF to quickly and efficiently ratify the specification so vendors can get on with the task of implementation.

I'd also like to bestow a Lifetime Achievement Award (lifetime in this sense being an Internet lifetime, about four years) to Novell's Michael Simpson. As marketing director for Novell Directory Services (NDS), Simpson has worked tirelessly to focus industry attention on the importance of the directory to network computing. Simpson took on what was then a thankless job, as NDS promised much more than it delivered, and he shepherded the product to its position as the world's largest installed directory service, with most major vendors clamoring to climb onto the NDS bandwagon.

Well done, John, Steven and Michael. The awards are richly deserved as we head into what I believe will be remembered as the Year of the Directory.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at