NDS eDirectory: The Directory of Directories?

A discussion of the Novell Directory Services database system, and the part it plays in Novells Its one Net vision.

 By Drew Bird
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In the article Exploring Novell's One Net Vision , I wrote about how the company was translating this vision into a productive reality. As I discussed, at the heart of Novell's strategy is Novell Directory Services (NDS). In this article, I will look at what NDS is and the role it plays in one Net.

NDS Primer

Novell Directory Services (NDS) is a database system that holds information on network objects such as users, groups and servers. The database can be divided up into partitions, which can then be replicated across the network to foster fault tolerance and accessibility.

DirXML is a directory-based XML infrastructure that allows developers to produce applications that pull data from--and port data to--a directory system via XML.

NDS's origins can be traced back to 1994, when Novell introduced NetWare 4.0. The system it replaced (the Bindery) was a server-centric model that made it difficult to manage large numbers of users on multiple servers. The benefits that NDS offered over Bindery were significant, and it was adopted widely. Today's NDS looks very similar to that first version, although improvements have been made in both flexibility and reliability.

Possibly the biggest challenge facing those new to Novell's directory services offerings is determining what versions are available, and which purpose they're designed for. To start at the beginning, let's clarify one thing. Novell produces only one version of directory services: NDS eDirectory. If you've heard of another product called NDS eDirectory Corporate Edition and wonder where it went, its short life ended when it was renamed Account Management. The reason behind the renaming is unclear, and serves to further muddy the NDS eDirectory waters. One possible reason behind the renaming may have been to stress the differences between eDirectory and eDirectory Corporate edition.

NDS eDirectory is an LDAP and DirXML compliant data repository designed to provide organizations with the ability to store and manage information on objects. What happens to the information after that is the responsibility of the application using it. NDS eDirectory is available for Solaris, Linux, Microsoft Windows NT/2000, and (of course) NetWare. On its own, NDS eDirectory offers little functionality beyond that of a data storage system; but its standard compliance and flexibility make it a strong solution for those business, such as e-tailers, who need to store and manage large amounts of information on many objects. NDS eDirectory certainly seems to be hitting the right notes--it was recently awarded the Network World Readers Choice Award for best LDAP server system.

Account Management, on the other hand, is an example of the functionality that NDS eDirectory can provide. Account Management gives the ability to manage user accounts across NetWare, Windows NT/2000, Linux, and Solaris systems. Administration of objects in the directory can be performed through the Java-based utility Console One, or on a Windows platform through NetWare administrator. By providing cross-enterprise ability, Account Management addresses one of the most complex challenges facing IT designers. Rather than selecting a network operating system that fulfills one role excellently and others adequately, selection can be based on the simple criteria of the best OS for the job. If you want a Linux firewall solution, a Windows 2000 system to act as an application server, and a NetWare server for file and print services, then Account Management provides the ability to manage users and other network objects transparently across the enterprise.

Not wanting to make the NDS naming story any more complicated than it is already, Account Management on NetWare platforms is called NDS. Why? Well, because it always has been--and the success Novell has had with NetWare and NDS is one of its biggest victories. Renaming NDS to Account Management for NetWare could lead some to believe that NDS is dead. As the saying goes, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."

NDS and Account Management

This article was originally published on Dec 26, 2000
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