Microsoft has upped the ante in the battle to control the multi-billion dollar directory services market with the availability of a meta directory tool to manage multiple directories and simplify the deployment of Active Directory.
The release follows the launch, earlier this week, of Novell's DirXML meta directory product, which allows synchronisation between Active Directory and Novell Directory Services (NDS).
Both DirXML and Microsoft Meta directory Services (MMS) 2.2 are designed to allow the co-ordination of multiple directories from multiple vendors.
Microsoft said MMS 2.2 makes deployment of Active Directory much simpler for customers that have information about employees, customers and partners in multiple directories, because of a feature that enables real-time synchronisation of directory information into Active Directory.
The software giant said MMS 2.2 is tightly integrated with Active Directory, allowing for near real-time synchronisation between otherwise incompatible directories as well as other functional improvements. Another key edition to the product is the Active Directory Management Agent, which provides discovery of Active Directory object classes and attribute types.
Mitul Mehta, managing director of independent analyst TekPlus, said Active Directory would become increasingly used despite the difficulties of deploying the technology.
"It's a minefield to deploy Active Directory and get it to do something really useful. That's why you need more tools, and meta level tools are always useful, especially in a Microsoft environment," said Mehta, who added that Microsoft might consider bundling its meta directory tool with Windows 2000.
Chris Neal, systems engineering manager at Novell, claimed that while Novell's meta directory tool aims for interoperability, Microsoft is releasing what he described as "Trojan Horse" tools that would push users towards migrating to Windows-only environments.
"We're encouraging people to integrate whereas Microsoft wants to turn everything Microsoft, and no one vendor can fulfil users' needs," said Neal. "We're providing products and services to integrate two environments and synchronise the two services.
"Users may want to use Active Directory as a point solution but their product is neither stable, mature nor cross-platform."
Simon Moores, chairman of user group the Microsoft Forum, said Novell is fighting a "rearguard" action to prevent losing its business to Microsoft and that directory services are a key part of that battle.
"Companies which are moving along the Windows route will choose Active Directory in preference to NDS," said Moores. "There is an extra cost associated with maintaining Novell's server. It has great technology but IT managers can't afford to be sentimentally attached to Novell."
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