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-- by Joseph C. Panettieri
For NT administrators, navigating the Windows NT directory market is anything but smooth sailing. Banyan Systems, Microsoft and Novell are all evangelizing new hierarchical directory services that let you manage virtually every network resource, from user names to printers to online videos. However, an early glimpse at each vendor's NT directory service reveals there are rough seas ahead for NT users.
First up is Novell Directory Services (NDS) for NT, which should be available by the time you read this. It's based on the X.500 directory standard and inherits 90 percent of its code from NDS for NetWare 4.x (the remaining 10 percent was written specifically for NT). At first glance, NDS is a logical cross-platform choice for managing networks that include NetWare 4.x, UNIX and NT servers. Many UNIX vendors, in fact, support NDS. Still, a closer look reveals that NDS for NT does not support file and print services-two critical requirements for NT administrators.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has shipped a beta release of Active Directory for NT 5.0, with general availability slated for mid-1998. It supports the Internet's Domain Name System, X.500 naming standards and LDAP. On the downside, Active Directory won't blanket Microsoft's various BackOffice applications anytime soon. Microsoft Exchange Server, for instance, has its own directory and won't use Active Directory until at least late next year.
Banyan Systems' StreetTalk 7.5 for NT directory service, now in its third release, faces similar problems. It isn't integrated with BackOffice, and Banyan's mounting financial losses could cause concern among some NT administrators.
For now, the safest route for most enterprises seems to be running NDS for NetWare 4.x side-by-side with NT. Once the NT directory market fully matures, it'll be a very different story.