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XML Directory Standard Debuts

IBM, Microsoft, Netscape, Novell, Oracle, and others plan to tie a new generation of Extensible Markup Language customer- support management, supply-chain management, and other E-business applications to directory services.

The plans hinge on the development of the Directory Services Markup Language standard, which was introduced yesterday at the Catalyst 99 conference. With DSML, any XML application will be able to access information stored in directories such as Novell Directory Services, Microsoft's Active Directory, and directories used in conjunction with database, messaging, and other applications. For example, with DSML, customer information stored in the directory of a customer-relationship management application will become accessible to any XML-enabled application, letting intranet and extranet users have access to that information.

"Right now, there's a lot of manual entry of information between a company and its business partners," says Jack Serfass, president and CEO of Bow Street Software Inc., a channel-management software developer that will lead the DSML initiative and on whose technology the DSML standard is based. IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, and the Sun-Netscape Alliance have already disclosed plans to support DSML. Microsoft, for example, will develop "connectors" that will link Microsoft applications to XML.

In a separate announcement, Novell yesterday unveiled DirXML, metadirectory software that will use XML to link information stored in directories, network operating systems, network devices, and business applications.

Formerly code-named Virtual Replica, DirXML is add-on software to Novell Directory Services version 8. It lets business applications view information stored in directories and, using XML, replicates that information in the applications. For example, a cell phone or PDA with XML integrated into its digital signal processor would be able to access a company directory and create a "virtual replica" of a portion of a CRM database, a corporate address book, or other information, says Chris Stone, senior VP of strategy and corporate development at Novell.

Novell plans to develop and ship a series of preconfigured connectors that will let DirXML access specific data stores on enterprise networks. DirXML is expected to be released in beta late this year and ship in the first quarter of next year. Pricing has not been set.

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