Executive touts directories role in Web services

Novell's recent acquisition of Java application server and tools vendor SilverStream Software stands to put directory technology...

Novell's recent acquisition of Java application server and tools vendor SilverStream Software stands to put directory technology at the forefront of the upcoming battle over managing Web services-based infrastructures, a SilverStream official said this week.

Fred Holahan, SilverStream's vice president and general manager for the business-to-business solutions division, predicted that directory software would become the essential linchpin to store, manage, and control the metadata on executable application components in a services-oriented architecture.

"All of this information needs to be sourced and exposed and, in my opinion, the place where that will all happen in the future will be the directory," Holahan said, adding that directories have an advantage by already organising the human component to the enterprise through identity management, access control, and authentication.

The amount of metadata that defines attributes of "rechunked" pieces of applications and processes will be profuse, according to Holahan, thus demanding a highly scalable management solution.

Such attributes could include information on how to find particular components, how to connect them physically to other components, and their individual requirements around security, transactions, choreography, and performance.

Asked if this is just another take on UDDI, Holahan said that a UDDI server and directory technology such as Novell's complement one another.

"Public registries like UDDI are, essentially, views or applications that sit on top of another directory," he said.

According to one analyst, directories will play an important role in Web services, but it is still too early on in the development of the architecture to gauge its extent.

"It won't give a vendor a leg up to have a strong directory right now," said Frank Gillett, integration analyst at Forrester Research.

"But I can see where the directory guys are saying, 'We can do what a UDDI server does even better, so you don't need that'. My hunch is that the two will remain separate but that the directory guys will also offer UDDI."

As for the progress of the Novell-SilverStream merger, Holahan said the two companies are in the early phases of ironing out the details of their union.

SilverStream's products, which include its J2EE application server and eXtend product line of Java tools and Web application framework, will be rebranded under the Novell name sometime in the future.

Holahan said the merger grew out of what were initially partnering discussions between the two companies; but as talks wore on a full joining seemed more beneficial to both sides.

"Novell's directory strengths were something we viewed as a huge missing piece in SilverStream's puzzle and for services-oriented architectures," he said. "And [Novell's] perspective on us was that we are an early leader on Web services."

According to Gillett, the union makes sense for both companies: SilverStream gets instant credibility and an installed base from Novell, while Novell gets its hands on more cutting-edge technology.

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