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Novell targets NT with updated directory

The network software provider releases two long-awaited products today based on its strategic core: directory services software.

Network software provider Novell released two anticipated products today based on its strategic core: directory services software.

The company rolled out a version of its directory services tool, known as NDS, that can reside on versions of Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, relying on no underlying Novell software. Essentially, it acts as a software service.

The release of the second version of the NDS for NT software has been anticipated since the early fall. The release comes on the heals of a boffo wrap to Novell's fiscal year last week, the surest sign that the firm has laid uncertainties concerning its competitive future to rest.

This update to the NDS for NT software is significant because previously a network manager had to install a server running the underlying Novell NetWare operating system in a Windows NT network in order to run the previous version of NDS for NT. Now the company has come up with a so-called "replica" server, allowing administrators to implement NDS whether they have Novell software or not.

A directory service provides a network manager with a central database that can be used to keep track of users, systems, and network devices. It can also be used to implement network or group-based policies.

Microsoft is working on a next-generation technology for delivery in an upcoming upgrade to Windows NT--now called Windows 2000. But that upgrade may not see the light of day until late next year, offering Novell an opening to take advantage of user interest in directory software, according to analysts.

"Timing is everything," said Jon Oltsik, analyst with industry consultants Forrester Research. "No one is dissing Microsoft, but the bigger head start Novell gets [with its directory], the better they are."

"People need something," he noted.

Novell executives said they were seeing a lot of interest in NDS for NT 2.0 from networks running only NT.

Novell will offer users of Netware 4 and 5 a free NDS for NT 2.0 replica server free for each license of Netware they already own, for a limited time. Otherwise, the software will cost $695 per replica server and $26 per user.

The company also announced shipment of suite of tools that takes advantage of NDS-BorderManager Enterprise Edition 3.0. The software suite, made of component parts that will also be sold separately, includes firewall, private networking, authentication, and caching services. The software has been in a test program since the early fall.