Novell In Discussions With IBM, Red Hat On eDirectory Linux Deal

Bundling deal in works, possible plans to open source eDirectory

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Novell is in negotiations with IBM and Red Hat to possibly fill a major gap in Linux: directory services.

Novell, also known as Big Red, and Big Blue have been in negotiations for the past several months discussing an expanded commitment by Novell to Linux, said sources close to the Provo, Utah, company.

At Brainshare 2002, Novell Vice Chairman Chris Stone acknowledged that talks are underway with Red Hat and IBM, but he stopped short of saying that a deal is done.

"Linux doesn't have a directory and it needs one," Stone said during an interview with CRN on Monday.

Novell's eDirectory currently supports the Linux platform. The discussions with IBM and Red Hat center around bundling the Novell eDirectory services with IBM Linux-based servers running Red Hat, Novell sources say. IBM's chief Linux partner in the U.S. is Red Hat.

The Linux kernel has some very limited directory capabilities, while other operating systems, including NetWare and Windows 2000, offer major directory services.

As part of that strategy, Novell also plans to de-couple its suite of directory-enabled applications--also called Net services--from Netware. That will enable them to run with all platforms including Linux, said Ed Anderson, director of product management for Novell's Net Directory Services.

For example, ZenWorks for Servers 3, announced here on Monday, adds support for Linux and Solaris. The forthcoming Zenworks for Desktops, code-named "Promethius," will also be de-coupled from the Netware client to enable all corporate IT users to deploy the directory-enabled applications in Linux environments and all corporate IT environments

Novell's Stone would not directly say whether or not eDirectory will become an open source project, but others said Novell has no intention of freely distributing the code of its crown jewel. "There are no plans to do that," said Anderson.

However, Vice Chairman Stone acknowledged during an interview that making eDirectory an open source directory would enhance Novell's ability to sell its line of directory-enabled applications such as iChain, OnDemand, DirXML and Zenworks.

As it currently stands, Novell makes eDirectory licenses available free or at little cost to corporate customers so that it can make money on the line of directory-enabled applications, especially DirXML and ZenWorks.

While many doubt Novell will go so far as to open source eDirectory, Stone wouldn't rule out an open source version of eDirectory. At Brainshare, Novell indicated a major shift to all Internet standards, including XML, J2EE and Linux, and a major departure from Novell's proprietary past. For example, Novell will rip out all of the proprietary interfaces of eDirectory and make it fully XML native, officials said on Monday.

"We'll see," Stone hinted of Novell's Linux plans.

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