Novell is to offer its NDS eDirectory for free to developers and software vendors in the hope it can spread the software throughout the market and steal pole position from Microsoft.
Software vendors have always been offered the directory for free so they could develop apps for it. However once those apps had been developed, customers would have to buy an eDirectory licence from Novell to run them. That is no longer the case.
The intention is, of course, to get the directory used as far and wide as possible. The directory forms the centre of Novell's OneNet strategy for the future, so by making it as ubiquitous, it can live off services that run on top of it - like ZenWorks and GroupWise.
There is also the advantage that for every company running its systems on top of eDirectory, there will be one less that buys Microsoft's all-in-one approach .Net vision.
Again the old Microsoft/Novell battle is kicking off. Novell's OneNet vision will work for the ironic reason that Microsoft has decided to copy it. Novell's technology, as ever, is superior. It also doesn't require everything in the system to have a Novell-approved stamp on it. But this doesn't mean it won't be swept aside.
The decision to make eDirectory free is the most intelligent one Novell has made in six months - but it hasn't been taken easily. By making it freeware, it has lost a useful foothold in an evolving market as well as a chunk of revenue. However, it's the right decision to make (and should have been made earlier). If Novell stands any chance of surviving through its OneNet vision, it is through a widespread dissemination of eDirectory.
We asked Peter Joseph, Novell's director of corporate strategy in the UK, about the decision to make eDirectory free. "This is a recognition of the need to grow the market," he told us. "Directories are becoming more popular as they enable companies to build strong relationships with other companies. This isn't just about the use of a directory but about solutions built on top of that directory."
Asked whether the decision to make it free was down to poor sales of eDirectory and the looming presence of Microsoft, he said: "We absolutely are successful and are focussing on the solutions market - and we want to make that even bigger. Novell's strength is that it is open and heterogeneous. To use Microsoft you have to live in a Microsoft world."
Novell may just have thrown itself a lifeline. ®