When Tim Howes and a group of colleagues created the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol almost 15 years ago, he had no idea this quiet little front end to the more robust X.500 directory services standard would become such an important weapon in the battle for enterprise Linux supremacy.
Red Hat's announcement last week that it would spend $23 million on Netscape Directory Server, as well as Netscape Certificate Management System, is likely to play a significant role in Red Hat's ability to provide enterprise-class services around the Linux operating system. "It's not enough to simply provide Linux," says Howes, now the chief technology officer and co-founder of Opsware Inc., a maker of IT infrastructure automation software. "What you really want are the applications that run on top of Linux."
Novell's acquisition late last year of Red Hat competitor SuSE Linux raised the stakes for any company seeking to provide enterprise-class Linux and open-source applications. Novell continues to leverage its mature directory services and NetWare operating system to accelerate SuSE's acceptance as an enterprise operating system. Novell Directory Services are used in distributed computing environments to store information about all Internet, intranet, and network resources on a network.
Novell on Friday disclosed that its Open Enterprise Server software would begin shipping next February. Open Enterprise Server includes the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and NetWare operating systems, as well as a common management interface. This interface is designed to let users choose how they want to deploy Novell networking, communication, collaboration, and application services.
When Red Hat's new Netscape-based directory services become available within the next year, they will not only provide open-source software users with an alternative to Open LDAP
they will offer the more advanced authentication and access control capabilities required of an enterprise environment. Both Netscape Directory Server and Open LDAP are based on the specification that Howes, Steve Kille, and Wengyik Yeong wrote while Howes was a University of Michigan doctoral student and employee of the school's Information Technology Services.