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Novell advances directory services

Novell continues to make headway in its effort to establish its directory services software as an industry standard.

ATLANTA--Novell continues to make headway in its effort to establish its directory services software as an industry standard.

The company's executive team is roaming the halls of one of the largest networking events of the year here with a weapon: tangible proof from high-profile equipment giant Lucent Technologies that their sometimes esoteric administrative software is ready for prime-time.

As Novell's executives continue to hash out relationships with various networking players such as Nortel Networks and possibly Cisco Systems, chairman and chief executive Eric Schmidt hammered home the point during a morning speech at the Networld+Interop industry conference here.

"We use these technologies to hide the complexities of the network," he told a packed hall.

The company, primarily known for its NetWare operating system, wants to turn a function it calls Novell Directory Services, or NDS, into a base for third parties to integrate with and develop for. NDS essentially provides a network manager with a central point for a plethora of information concerning users, systems, and applications.

The benefits of integrating with NDS were not lost on Lucent, which announced plans to integrate with the software earlier this week as a kind of "policy manager" for bandwidth within its equipment.

The largest data player, Cisco, has a high-profile partnership with Microsoft to build on top of that company's next-generation Active Directory--a key component of the forthcoming upgrade to the Windows NT operating system. But evidently talks between Novell and Cisco have heated up once again, buttressed by both a demonstration of NDS technology running in conjunction with Lucent equipment at the show and user demand for the services it provides.

"I think Cisco clearly understands the issue now," said Ron Palmeri, vice president of strategic relations at Novell.

Cisco executives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Novell also plans overtures to companies in the business applications and enterprise management software market, like SAP, Baan, Computer Associates, and the IBM subsidiary Tivoli Systems, according to Chris Stone, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Novell.

The company is already wrapping up a test program for a version of NDS that runs natively on NT, opening up the technology to a variety of users who may not otherwise be interested in a NetWare-specific software package. At last week's annual Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference, Novell was showing off the technology on a trade show floor made up of third-party software developers.

Microsoft executives said at the time that they plan to build a software "connector" to integrate with NDS once NT 5.0 ships, likely in the second half of next year.

Novell next week also plans to formalize a partnership with PeopleSoft, a company that wants to integrate NDS with its line of business applications, such as a human resources package. That deal seemed fait accompli once Novell demonstrated PeopleSoft and NDS software communicating with each other at the recent launch of the company's NetWare 5.0 operating system.

"This is going exactly as planned--large companies validating the directory," Stone said.

The company, largely due to the strategic thrust of Stone, has decided to turn its NDS software into what is sometimes known in the industry as a "platform" to manage the explosion of information on the Net.

"This is an evolution in Novell's business strategy," Palmeri said.

Schmidt, during his morning keynote, continued to praise the benefits of a directory-based administration scheme, hailing a second wave of the Net that will increasingly rely on personalization and security techniques, two functions NDS provides.

"It's the beginning of a very big thing," Schmidt told the crowd.