Novell today launched eDirectory 8.7, a new version of its LDAP metadirectory that adds a new utility called iManager, along with the ability to delegate administrative tasks. To help grab market share from the competing Sun ONE iPlanet Directory Server, Novell is offering eDirectory 8.7 free of charge to existing iPlanet users.
Also with 8.7, IBM's AIX joins a roster of supported platforms that already included NetWare, Solaris, Windows NT/2000, and Linux.
The browser-based iManager offers "full parity" with ConsoleOne, a previous administrative utility that required a client application, according to Wendy Steinle, Novell's marketing manager for eDirectory. The iManager tool can be accessed from both standard Web browsers and an assortment of handheld devices.
8.7 also features "role-based administration," a new capability for delegating out various management tasks. "Before, it was 'all or nothing,'" Steinle contended.
"Now, you can delegate e-mail tasks to an e-mail administrator, for example, or you can delegate resetting of passwords to the help desk. It isn't necessary to understand the ins-and-outs of directory trees just to do password resetting. You can also delegate by geographic area, so that an administrator in, say, Atlanta can't effect changes at any other site."
User will delegate to help desk
Troy Aswege, assistant VP of information services for a North Dakota insurance firm, predicted that iManage and role-based administration will suit his company's needs quite well.
"Web-based administration is in line with our strategy, anyway," said Aswege, who works for Noridian Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.
About a year ago, Noridian started using eDirectory in a series of new Webbased applications for constituencies like customers and providers.
"It'll also be good to be able to delegate some, but not all, of the administrative tasks to our help desk. We'd rather that they don't have full access," Aswege said.
Another new capability in 8.7, live backup, is geared to business continuity and disaster recovery, according to Steinle.
More than 70 percent of companies with over 1,000 desktops will start using metadirectories by 2005, according to research from GartnerGroup.
Support for Nsure
Aside from acting as a metadirectory with single sign-on, Novell's eDirectory supports a bevy of Novell management applications - including iChain and DirXML, for example - rebranded in October under Novell's new nSure lineup. Through dirXML, eDirectory also supports other vendors' LDAP directories.
As eDirectory's main rivals, Steinle pointed to iPlanet, Microsoft's ActiveDirectory, and IBM's SecureWay directory.
Novell: eDirectory is 'crossplatform, scalable, unified'
ActiveDirectory, though, is still "Microsoft-centric," according to Steinle. Novell is positioning eDirectory as "more scalable" than iPlanet, and "more unified" than the IBM directory. Earlier this year, IBM acquired Metamerge, a Norwegian-based company specializing in directory integration.
Novell's decision to add AIX as an eDirectory platform was "customerdriven," and was not directly related to competition from the IBM SecureWay directory, said a Novell spokesperson.
Aswege's insurance firm won't need AIX. Noridian's emerging Web-based applications run on Windows NT, however.
"I'd say we're running in crossplatform mode. The NT apps make calls back and forth to iChain, which is operating on NetWare," according to Aswege.
Noridian adopted eDirectory upon choosing iChain as the authentication product for the first of its new Web-based applications. "The two went hand in hand," he observed. A long-time Novell shop, Noridian also found iChain relatively easy to set up and use.
Noridian builds on NetWare management
"We were looking for a secure way of authenticating the user IDs of our customers. My staff was already familiar with the concept of NetWare administration, so we could build on that base. Some of the other 'Blues' are using tools that require more overhead. But we're not a big shop, and we don't have a lot of resources," he said.
Aswege maintained that Noridian has experienced "no issues" with the performance of Novell products.
Noridian is now planning to revamp an older application that lets insurance providers check on claims status and eligibility, for instance. In the new app, iChain will replace an authentication product from another vendor.
Sun One deal
Under Novell's new Sun One promotion, current iPlanet customers can receive the following free of charge: 250,000 user licenses for Novell eDirectory 8.7 plus 25,000 user licenses of Novell DirXML Driver for LDAP.
Standard pricing for eDirectory 8.7 is $2 per user. Discounts, though, are sometimes available, according to Steinle. eDirectory 8.7 is shipping. The product can be purchased either through Novell partners or direct from Novell.