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Virtual Directories Take Hold

Virtual directories let organizations gather information from many data sources and present that information from one interface, securely. Best of all, open-source options are lowering the entry cost for small


Virtual directories let organizations gather information from many data sources and present that information from one interface, securely. They give companies access to existing information without having to re-create it or develop a new app. New open-source options could bring the cost of virtual directories within reach of small companies.

Radiant Logic was one of the first vendors with a virtual-directory product. MaXware, Persistent Systems and Symlabs, other early-to-market vendors, focus primarily on virtual directories and ID management. BMC Software, CA and Novell also play in this arena. Microsoft and Oracle have virtual-directory offerings as part of their directory- and ID-management products. Two open-source groups, MyVD Virtual Directory and Safehaus Software Foundation, are attempting to gain a foothold in the arena. Surprisingly, IBM doesn't have a true virtual directory, but it does have directory-synchronization products and partners with vendors such as Radiant Logic and Symlabs.

Virtual directories give companies effective ways to access data without undertaking a metadirectory or application-integration project that can lead to data synchronization and infrastructure problems. The market is expected to double in the next three years, to $1.8 billion.

Data only proliferates, never consolidates, so finding ways to access the increasing amount of customer, partner and employee data in databases and directories can be daunting. Virtual directories provide a way, regardless of where the data resides.

Until recently, this arena was dominated by commercial tools, but recent open-source innovations have shifted the landscape. Open-source groups MyVD Virtual Directory and Safehaus Software Foundation are offering options that may appeal to small companies.

The main advantages of a virtual directory compared with a metadirectory include faster deployment time, the ability to avoid synchronizing data from other sources and security efficiencies. Commercial virtual directories are less expensive over time than metadirectories or custom-built ones. Beyond that, open-source alternatives help smaller companies adopt the technology because they are less expensive than commercial products.

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