Microsoft, Novell to Bridge Active Directory, eDirectory

In the next phase of the two companies' much-discussed collaboration, Novell and Microsoft announced they are working together to develop a method for using existing protocols for bridging network access between eDirectory and Active Directory, with complete details to come sometime during the first half of this year.

Though the two companies did not mention this explicitly, the common bond between the two identity management services for their networks is Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). Both are implementations of an LDAP store, although Microsoft utilizes a kind of abstraction layer that enables Windows Server-based networks to bind an LDAP application to a replica partition rather than specifically to an IP address. Differences in implementation such as this are why bridging the two identity services is not an academic process.

The challenge for Microsoft and Novell will be to utilize their own tools to enable single sign-on capability, which would let a user of a Windows Server-based network (or, to use Microsoft’s term for multi-domain groups, a forest) have her authentication be trusted by a Novell SuSE Enterprise Linux-served domain in the same network.

It would not be a technical first, however:third-party tools do exist for implementing single sign-on. However, such a bridge would free administrators from having to redesign their network topologies to make single sign-on easier, since that capability would have been integrated into the two operating systems.

In a joint statement this morning, the two companies also stated that work proceeds on the development of bi-directional translator software that would actively adapt Office Open XML format documents to ODF and vice versa. A more primordial format converter for both formats was completed earlier this month.

Also, Microsoft said the features will be in place for the next service pack of Virtual Server 2005 R2 to enable Novell SuSE Enterprise Linux to be installed as a guest OS in a virtualized environment. When the "Longhorn" edition of Windows Server is released later this year, SuSE Linux will be recognized as what Microsoft is calling an enlightened guest.

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