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Novell's safety Net

Novell continues to distance itself from its proprietary past by adopting new Net standards like LDAP.

Novell (NOVL) wants to leave its proprietary past in the dust.

For the past several months, the company's strategy for refurbishing its older technology has been to embrace new Net standards. Novell offered up another example today by adopting the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) standard for network directories that promises to make Novell's own Network Directory Services (NDS) more relevant to intranets.

A directory is basically an address book for every user on a network. Directory services allow users to communicate over a network without having to know complicated user addresses, and prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to network resources. It sounds simple enough, but when that network encompasses thousands of users in hundreds of locations, maintaining an address book is a complicated task.

NDS is widely considered one of Novell's key technological assets. Although NDS was originally developed as part and parcel of Novell's network operating system NetWare, the company is now interested in separating NDS and licensing it to Unix operating system vendors.

Making it a Net-savvy technology would make it even more interesting to those vendors and that's where LDAP comes in.

Originally championed by Netscape Communications, LDAP has quickly gained acceptance as an evolving protocol for setting up directories for intranets.

The rapid adoption of the LDAP standard and inclusion within NDS will help Novell as it attempts to make its principal technological advantage--directory services--a de facto standard for the industry.

As promised, Novell has delivered a LDAP server for NDS. By including LDAP services in NDS, an administrator will be able to access a network directory through any LDAP-compatible browser. NDS therefore can be a single directory interface for an administrator to get user information from different operating systems and applications.

Novell's new LDAP server is available free of charge at Novell's Web site and will run on IntranetWare, NetWare 4.11, and NetWare 4.1. LDAP services will be available for NDS on Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX, Sun Microsystems' Solaris, and Santa Cruz Operation's Unix platforms, later this year.

Novell appears to have regained some measure of financial equilibrium through its Internet-centered strategy. The company met analysts' expectations in November for its fourth quarter by reporting flat earnings and a 20-percent revenue dip.

The company is still fighting, however, to pump up its financials to year-ago levels. It also remains a company in transition with no new CEO yet in the place of Robert Frankenberg, who left at the end of August.

But the current brain trust's strategy of refocusing the company by evolving its NetWare network operating system into IntranetWare--a bundling of Internet tools with the base platform--may be working. Company officials reported 38-percent growth in NetWare and IntranetWare revenue over the third quarter.

The financial effects of the decision to license NDS will probably take several quarters to materialize, but today's LDAP release may contribute to its widespread adoption.

Separately, Novell has posted a beta version of an NDS service called Novell Workstation Manager that can manage Microsoft Windows NT Workstations on its Web site. The product should be commercially available later this quarter.

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