Directories remain a great mystery of life

My readers frequently ask how to explain the importance of directory services to management. I've also been asked the same question (how to explain the importance of directory services to business executives) by directory service vendors.

My readers frequently ask how to explain the importance of directory services to management. I've also been asked the same question (how to explain the importance of directory services to business executives) by directory service vendors.

I recently went to the Burton Group's Catalyst conference to see if someone else had devised a good, reasoned argument for the importance of directory services.

I discovered the problem is even bigger than I thought. While I expected to find users, managers and programmers from the business sector who didn't understand, I was shocked to see even directory service vendors and other software vendors were just as clueless.

At least the attendees admitted they didn't know enough about directory services - that's one of the reasons they came to the conference. As one stated, "I've worked with databases for 30 years and directory services for 30 days."

There were some who understood - such as Radiant Logic's Michel Prompt, the folks from OpenNetwork and ArchiTect, and Microsoft's Peter Houston.

The Burton Group, especially Jamie Lewis, Phil Schacter and Dan Blum, also understand. But too many of the presenters showed a remarkable lack of knowledge of the importance of directory services and how directory services are being used in today's networks.

Both Microsoft and iPlanet had trouble seeing beyond their products into the heterogeneous mix of directories most firms are using and will use for the foreseeable future.

A number of Web-based security vendors continue to use their own files and databases to store policies needed throughout the network - one of the big strengths of a directory. They seem to feel that an encrypted text file is more secure than the directory!

Even executives from vendors of directory service products, such as Oblix's Gordon Eubanks, had trouble grasping the concept of distributed, virtual directory services.

And Novell, arguably the granddaddy of directory services vendors, sent its new chief information officer not to explain the directory but to tell bad jokes about his trials and tribulations installing the directory.

So don't feel guilty that you're having trouble explaining it to your execs - even those whose business it should be to understand have trouble understanding the directory revolution.

Kearns, a former network administrator, is a freelance writer and consultant in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at wired@vquill.com.

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