Microsoft and Cisco are to jointly port Microsoft's Active Directory for NT to Unix in a direct blow to Novell.
Building on a development alliance announced last month, the two companies announced the new strategy at this week's Networld+Interop show in Las Vegas. By offering Active Directory on various Unix flavours, Microsoft will rob Novell - which is pinning its future on making its own Novell Directory Services a de facto standard - of its cross-platform advantage.
Novell has been busily signing Unix vendors to offer NDS on their operating systems and, in the past few months, has agreed to deliver its product on Sun Solaris, HP/UX and IBM AIX platforms. Novell has also formed a joint venture with Netscape to integrate NDS with Web servers.
For its part, Microsoft is expected to roll out versions of Active Directory for IBM AIX and Solaris, and possibly others such as Digital Unix, by the end of the year.
For Cisco, analysts believe the main benefit of the deal is to ensure that the networking giant's technologies are tightly integrated with Microsoft NT. From a marketing standpoint, the company wants to be associated with Microsoft and Intel - with whom it also has a close relationship - as the 'big three' of networked computing. Also, in order to retain its routers' 90 per cent market share in Internet and Intranet systems, Cisco needs to ensure its products are closely compatible with the NT/Intel servers on which these networks increasingly run, observers pointed out.
Cisco's networking rivals, such as 3Com, are expected to sign server alliances of their own later this year. 3Com is tipped to form a close relationship with IBM and rumours that Big Blue will even acquire the networking company persist in Wall Street circles. Lucent, the AT&T spin-off, is rumoured to be talking to Sun about a deal.
Under the first phase of Cisco's tie-up with Microsoft, announced last month, the companies agreed to jointly develop a more scalable version of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) standard, and to adopt the same encryption algorithms on NT 5.0 and Cisco routers.
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