Several weeks ago in Windows 2000 Magazine UPDATE, I wrote about the Active Directory (AD) adoption rate, which, according to Microsoft, is occurring much faster than industry analysts previously thought. In that article, I discussed one such AD adoption with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield's John Reynolds, who oversees one of the largest AD migrations in the United States. I found Reynolds to be forthcoming and honest, and when he's spoken about his experiences at various industry events, most people come away impressed.
Microsoft's primary competitor in the directory space, Novell, didn't take kindly to this article, however. After talking with the company, I want to present its side of the directory services story. I spoke with Novell Director of Product Management Ed Anderson about AD, Novell's directory products, John Reynolds, and other topics that I raised in the original article. Anderson oversees Novell's directory product line, including eDirectory.
"What Novell has done is pretty unique relative to other vendors such as Microsoft," Anderson told me. "Novell is focused on taking our core technology—directory services—and making it available in a more broad and general way. We released our first directory service almost 10 years ago on the NetWare platform in 1993. Back then, of course, the Internet wasn't a significant business presence, so we focused on the management of internal resources. As the Internet grew, we added features and made the directory such that it could extend the value of our NetWare platform to other server platforms. Specifically, our directory service is cross-platform. We separated dependencies from the directory so that it runs as an independent service on any platform, including Windows NT, \[Windows\] 2000, and various UNIXes, such as Solaris, AIX, and Linux, and we're now looking at other platforms where it makes sense."
Anderson explained that the scalability of Novell's directory products extends beyond simply adding more users. "We have true scalability across the board," he said, "so regardless of whether you have a directory with millions of users or thousands of users, it will have the same kind of performance." Anderson also touted Novell's adoption of open standards such as Lightweight Directory Access Protocol version 3 (LDAPv3), digital certificates, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption, XML for data sharing, and Internet protocols such as HTTP.
And Anderson had a few bones to pick with the original AD article. "Relative to Mindcraft benchmarks \[cited in the UPDATE article\], we've done an extensive amount of testing both here and independently and have never been able to duplicate those results. Anecdotally ... what is the real relationship between Mindcraft and Microsoft?" Anderson and I agreed that Mindcraft seems to turn up every time Microsoft needs a benchmark win. And some people complain that Mindcraft has regularly created tests that draw attention to strong Microsoft features. "The server configurations \[used in the benchmark\] were pretty impressive; that's some serious iron," Anderson noted. "It will be interesting to see how a couple of different \[directory\] products really \[stack up\] in a test environment." Penton Technology Media has agreed to publish the results of such a test in Windows 2000 Magazine, and we're working to put that together now.
"Relative to the cost of eDirectory," he said, "we have not been able to validate \[John Reynold's\] claim at all internally. The people who were involved with Anthem claim that it's untrue. But I've seen that figure quoted \[in UPDATE and other places\] before, and I'm curious that Anthem is making that claim." Novell announced this year that eDirectory deployments of less than 250,000 users would be free and that the company offers a matching bundle that further reduces costs: If you purchase any other Novell product, you get matching eDirectory licenses for free as well. "Over the past year, we haven't had a directory deal that was anywhere in the ballpark that \[Reynolds\] claimed," he added. "So under any circumstance, this claim cannot be true, unless a salesperson had the wrong information outside of our corporate guidelines."
Anderson also disagreed with Microsoft's claims that 75 percent of its customers were at some stage of AD deployment. "This claim is not consistent with analysts' estimates," he said. "GIGA has been the most vocal about AD penetration, in both \[Windows\] NT and \[Windows\] 2000 environments, and it's more in the range of 10 percent. We looked at that and, well, we question what Microsoft means when they say 75 percent. Does that mean their customers got it free with Windows 2000 Server? And that they intend to move to it eventually? Are they using it in labs \[or are they really rolling it out now\]?"
So why might you consider Novell eDirectory over AD? Anderson has plenty of reasons. "Consider the environment," he said. "Novell eDirectory is available on other platforms too, not just Windows. Consider Anthem: eDirectory is actually better suited to their environment, because they have a bunch of other systems in there as well \[as Windows\]. And eDirectory runs on all those systems." Anderson also cited eDirectory's superior replication features, better performance on high-availability systems, more efficient disk space usage, and mature management tools.
I admire Novell for taking up the good fight rather than letting itself be steamrolled by the Microsoft juggernaut. The company successfully prevented Microsoft from continuing a disingenuous "Server Crunch" advertising campaign aimed at Novell's top customers, for example, and is currently seeking damages. And although the aim of the original UPDATE AD article wasn't to disparage Novell or its products, I welcome the counterpoint and the company's willingness to fairly compare the products.
A couple of unrelated notes: I mentioned a few weeks ago that Windows 2000 Magazine was changing its name, and I can now tell you what that name is: Beginning with the January print issue, we'll be known as Windows & .NET Magazine, although the logo clearly emphasizes Windows. With Microsoft changing the product name every other year, we wanted to choose a name with some legs. Hopefully, this is it.
Also, I'm looking for Windows XP feedback, both good and bad. I've been overwhelmingly positive about this product, but I'm interested in hearing about some real-world experience with this new OS. And don't be shy if everything worked fine: Feedback is generally negative, and I'd really like to get an accurate view of how XP is working for real people. Please give me a rough thumbs up or thumbs down vote and, if you have time, an explanation of why. Because of the amount of email I get, I can't reply to each message, but if you don't want to be quoted, please specify that. Send your feedback to [email protected] I'll publish the results on the SuperSite for Windows and will provide a link here and in WinInfo Daily UPDATE.