Gang of vendors propose a detente on directory specifications
By Amy Doan and Jeff Walsh
Posted at 5:47 PM PT, Nov 22, 1996
In a crucial step toward easing compatibility headaches among directory
services, eight industry leaders will announce next month a set of
protocols that promises to tightly integrate directories for the first
Microsoft, Netscape, Novell, IBM, Lotus, Banyan, Worldtalk, and Zoomit
next month will present their Lightweight Internet Person Schema to the
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), said sources involved in the
The proposal defines a common set of attributes in enterprise
directories, such as length, placement, and naming of e-mail and URL
data, and it complements the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol
(LDAP) under construction by the IETF.
LDAP defines how to access directories but does not guarantee that the
information retrieved will be consistent across competing products.
If the companies' joint technology becomes an IETF standard, it will
give information a consistent look and feel across servers, easing query
management and server integration.
Users wrestling with incompatible servers were delighted that vendors
are filling LDAP's holes.
"This is extremely important. It defines a simple, common base that
applications can depend on," said Rob Abbott, network manager for the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in Rockville, Md.
One consultant expressed surprise that agreement on basic attributes has
taken so long.
"The agreement should help us share information across LDAP servers, as
we believe was intended from the start," said Greg Cass, president of
the ProsperTech Group, in Austin, Texas.
Products with the agreed-upon hooks are expected in the first quarter of
The Network Applications Consortium will write the draft proposed by the
seven vendors. If five out of the seven vendors agree on additional
attributes, those will be adopted as well.
Plans for consistency at the network level will follow, according to
Simon Khalaf, vice president of product marketing for Worldtalk.
One vendor compared searches across directory servers to shopping at a
"You don't care if they are Novell screws or Microsoft screws -- they
should just work," said Steven Judd, program manager for Microsoft
Active Directory, in Redmond, Wash.
The Network Applications Consortium, in San Francisco, can be reached at