Backed by several industry giants, start-up company Bow Street Software announced last week that it is taking initial steps to write open-source specifications for standardising XML as the lingua franca for network directories.
Flanked by representatives from Microsoft, IBM, Novell, Oracle and the Sun-Netscape Alliance, Bow Street officials say a consensus is growing that XML (extensible markup language) can be the standard for directory services that will enable businesses to move toward co-ordinating networks over the Internet.
"We believe directories are the only appropriate service platform to usher in the trend toward Internet management, support channels, customer service and all kinds of business applications," says Jack Serfass, president and chief executive officer of Bow Street, during a teleconference at the Catalyst 99 Conference in California. "XML represents a whole new world for these business services."
Bow Street will co-ordinate an effort to develop a directory services markup language (DSML), Serfass says. More information about the project is available at www.dsml.org, although proposed specifications will not be publicly available for two to three months, a company spokeswoman says.
Representatives from the likes of Microsoft and IBM endorsed the efforts and say they will participate in drawing up the specifications.
"XML is an outstanding standard that IBM and all the other vendors have rallied behind," saysJeffrey Jaffe, general manager of eNetwork Software and Security at IBM.
Also announced at the conference, Novell is bringing its own XML-based directory software product for integrating network services into the arena. Called DirXML, the software will allow applications, network operating systems, databases and network devices to be connected, the company says. The standardisation of XML "plays into our own products," says Chris Stone, vice-president of strategic and corporate development at Novell.
Bow Street will announce its own XML-based Internet networking product in the next month, Serfass says.
Microsoft, which has opposed such open-source initiatives as the Linux operating system and Apache Web server, endorsed Bow Street's project. The software giant says it will include DSML specifications in software from ZoomIT, the meta-directory company it acquired last week, according to Peter Houston, product manager for Microsoft's active directory.
In other directory-related news, Microsoft and Cisco Systems announced recently that they are extending their agreement to jointly develop Cisco Networking Services for Microsoft's active directory.