Oracle formally announced its Oracle Internet Directory on Tuesday to try and build on its hopes of turning its database into a computing environment to rival Microsoft?s Windows NT.
The database supplier will sell the directory as an optional add on to Oracle 8I, which was announced in September and is set to ship in March.
Oracle claims that 8I can serve as a Web server, Java application server and file server, but attests that the addition of a directory server brings it into even closer competition with Microsoft?s forthcoming Windows 2000, which will include Big Green?s Active Directory directory services.
The vendor also claimed that a single Oracle Internet Directory could store up to 500 million entries and serve tens of thousands of simultaneous users.
It will come in two versions, a Hosting Edition targeted at Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and an Enterprise Edition for use as in enterprises, and as a result, will support security features such as Secure Sockets Layer and X.509 digital certificates.
Jeremy Burton, Oracle?s vice president of server marketing, said there were currently up to 180 different directories being used in each enterprise, but he added: "We want to bring that down to a more manageable number like three or four."
While the launch of its own directory server would appear to bring Oracle into direct competition with Novell, a Novell executive joined Oracle to launch the offering.
Both companies claimed their products were complementary and would work together as they were both based on the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) 3.
"We look at Novell as the leading provider of what we call an enterprise metadata directory," said Burton, while he explained that Oracle Internet Directory would serve mainly as an "application centric" directory, although it would be able to communicate with Novell?s Netware Directory Services (NDS) via LDAP.
Adrian Viego, Novell?s general manager of strategic relations, said that NDS was less suited to managing certain Oracle applications and that Novell would develop a special version of NDS to run on top of Oracle 8I - although he gave no indication of when such a product might ship.
But Novell and Oracle did not explain how they intended to automatically synchronise their directories, which means that new users must still be added separately to each directory.
Jon Oltsik, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, explained: "They are building an Oracle computing environment. The directory server enhances this."
But he said that, because with Oracle 8I, "you need a database administrator to set up a directory," it was at an inherent disadvantage to NDS. He was also sceptical about Oracle?s claim that its Internet Directory and Novell?s NDS were complementary rather than competitive.
"There is no question that [Oracle] would like the "directory of directories" position for itself. But if you read between the lines, Oracle?s directory doesn?t even support all of Oracle?s own products [yet]. It has to get that in order before it moves on to other things," he concluded.
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