Vendors doubt Microsoft and Cisco's openness on directory standard

Vendors participating in the second meeting of the Directory Enabled Networks (DEN) initiative next week will be looking for Cisco Systems and Microsoft to make good on promises to let other companies influence the direction of the emerging directory standard. What vendors really want is an open specification review process, but most participants are skeptical about that happening with Microsoft and Cisco refereeing the game. Microsoft and Cisco last fall spearheaded the DEN effort to rally support around efforts to represent physical network devices in operating system-based directories.

Vendors participating in the second meeting of the Directory Enabled Networks (DEN) initiative next week will be looking for Cisco Systems and Microsoft to make good on promises to let other companies influence the direction of the emerging directory standard.

What vendors really want is an open specification review process, but most participants are skeptical about that happening with Microsoft and Cisco refereeing the game.

Microsoft and Cisco last fall spearheaded the DEN effort to rally support around efforts to represent physical network devices in operating system-based directories.

The ultimate goal of this union is to give customers the ability to tailor network services -- such as bandwidth allocation -- on a per-user basis.

Microsoft and Cisco claim they are taking great pains to accommodate the interests of all participating vendors. But competitors charge that everything put on the table thus far is slanted in the duo's favor.

At their first DEN meeting, in Redmond, Washington, last November, Cisco and Microsoft unveiled a draft specification that loosely outlined what device features or attributes could be stored in the directory. The specification also deemed that Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Version 3 would specify how network devices should input and extract information to and from any directory.

But competitors charged that clearly missing was a plan for how -- if at all -- Microsoft and Cisco would incorporate modifications and additions to the draft that might erase any competitive advantage for them.

''The process issue was raised in the first 30 seconds of that meeting and they didn't really have an answer,'' said Rod Anderson, director of the NetID product group at Bay Networks Inc. NetID is Bay's IP address management initiative.

Bay, as well as FORE Systems Inc. and 3Com, says the Feb. 24 meeting in San Francisco will test how amenable Cisco and Microsoft are to change. All three vendors plan to submit plans on how the schemes can be altered to better suit a wider array of network gear.

Also, DEN participants claim that Microsoft and Cisco have been very cagey about whether or not they will eventually turn the specification over to a traditional standards body.

''This meeting will test their intentions, good or bad,'' said Michael Simpson, director of marketing for Novell's directory and management products. ''If we aren't convinced they are headed toward openness, the group stands to fall apart.''

Kurt Dahm, a senior product manager in Cisco's directory division, says Cisco and Microsoft will make several announcements on this front next week. They will outline how participants can submit changes to the DEN specification and when the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) will become involved in the process. Additionally, they will detail plans to hand off some control of the specification to a four-member user advisory board.

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