Many people probably haven't heard of Apple Computer's Rendezvous, but they will soon. Rendezvous and its supporting technologies allow network-service autodetection on a LAN. It's a capability that has made Macintosh users reluctant to leave the Mac world.
Apple has made several announcements about Rendezvous and its infrastructure. First, it offered the source code to Rendezvous under the Apple Public License. Second, it submitted three drafts to the IETF that would make Rendezvous and its technologies Internet standards. Apple is attempting to make Rendezvous a standard across the industry (see BuzzCut, "Rendezvous on the LAN Side").
But several issues with this technology will have to be addressed before we jump on the bandwagon. The foremost is security. Rendezvous is designed to autodetect everything that is available--printers, shared drives, etc. But think about the negative ramifications: You have a meeting with a vendor or competitor at your headquarters. They bring a laptop and plug into your network. They see everything. Not good. Apple's site uses the example that you can print to your neighbor's printer via a wireless connection. Cool, but do we really want to go there?
Next is the issue of control. I read through the RFCs (requests for comment), trying to determine how to limit autodetection. I couldn't figure it out. If you have 2,000 employees, and you have printers set up all over the network, do you really want or need each desktop PC to see all printers? If you have shared drives for top managers, do you want them visible to the entire network? These issues need to be addressed in the RFCs.
This technology has some potential uses. Systems admins spend way too much time configuring desktops. But we need more due diligence. It doesn't help to make the systems admin's job easier in the configuration arena if his or her work is tripled in the security arena.