Analysts have slammed the newly formed Directory Interoperability Forum led by IBM and Novell as an anti Microsoft alliance that does not include any end user representation.
According to Art Olbert, vice president of IBM's network computing software division, the alliance, which also includes Oracle, Data Connection, Isocor and Lotus, is intended to define, create and implement consistent software development kits (SDK) for use with directories based on such standards as lightweight directory access protocol (Ldap).
The aim of the SDKs, which will be available by the end of the year, is to enable software developers to write directory applications based on a set of common application programming interfaces (APIs) that support compliant directories from all members.
But the launch of the Forum comes on the same day that Microsoft, a key vendor noticeably absent from the line up, announced its acquisition of Zoomit, one of the industry's most well known independent meta directories developers (see related story).
And analysts see the Forum as an anti Microsoft alliance that is squaring up to take on Big Green's Active Directory, which will first appear in its forthcoming Windows 2000 operating system.
Todd Chipman, an analyst with Giga Information Systems, said: "This is a pseudo standards body, which has two key players missing - Microsoft and the Sun/Netscape alliance. There is also no end user representation, so it's taken away a lot of good insight and feedback that users provide to standards bodies."
A Microsoft spokesperson, however, said the company was taking a "wait and see approach to decide whether it makes sense for Microsoft to join."
But Chipman continued that although the Forum might address interoperability issues between its members, problems would still exist for users using directories from Sun/Netscape and Microsoft because they were not members of the Forum.
Steve Adelman, vice president of Novell's global alliances, said Microsoft had been invited to join, however, but had so far declined to do so. "Microsoft is never one of the initial members of alliances, but we look forward to their joining," he said.
But the Forum intends to work with other industry standards bodies that have an interest in directories to promote interoperability. These include the Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF) and the Desktop Management Taskforce (DMTF), and the Open Group has agreed to certify those applications that can work with open directories.
Members have also committed to make their individual application testing efforts comply with the Open Group's new tests and will provide two forms of applications certification - the provider's certification and the Open Group's certification.
IBM's Olbert explained: "The key role of directories is hampered by the fact that customers have multiple directories, so we have joined together to advance the market for open directory applications."
He claimed that, although Ldap was intended to provide interoperability between different directory servers and had been updated, it was neither usable or reliable enough for users.
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