Directory, App Servers Up Ante

Solaris 9's LDAP integration and app server deployment license add significant enterprise value.

The addition of Sun One Directory Server 5.1 and future inclusion of Sun Open Net Environment Application Server 7 Platform Edition deliver significant value to Solaris shops and are important competitive catch-up steps for the operating system.

Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris 8 bundled an iPlanet LDAP server but didnt actually use it. In contrast, Solaris 9s user authentication tools—including the log-in program, Telnet and Secure Shell—are natively LDAP-enabled.

"With Solaris 9, [LDAP] is fully integrated in the product itself. Solaris 8 didnt use it directly, and customers didnt have to use it," said John Barco, group product marketing manager for identity management with Sun, in Santa Clara, Calif. "The core reason the directory is embedded in the OS is manageability of the operating environment. With Solaris 9, we want customers to transition from NIS [Network Information Service]/NIS+ to LDAP. It provides the foundation for identity management in the enterprise."

The LDAP server in Solaris 9 is generously licensed as well, allowing as many as 200,000 entries in the directory distributed throughout as many LDAP server instances as desired.

Directories have long been key strategic offerings for network operating system vendors, especially for those developing for large enterprises.

Banyan Systems Inc.s VINES was the pioneer here and was appealing largely for its StreetTalk directory. Novell Inc.s eDirectory (formerly Novell Directory Services) is a key attraction to NetWare, and Microsoft Corp.s Active Directory provides similar features for the Windows environment.

In contrast, neither Suns NIS nor NIS+, its replacement, escaped from its market niche. NIS did get support in the broader Unix world, but it has weak security and isnt generally extensible. NIS+ added better security capabilities but was a Sun-only effort. Neither was based on LDAP (as NDS and Active Directory are), and LDAP is the clear directory standards winner.

Indeed, the transition to LDAP provides Solaris users with an industry-standard directory technology widely supported by third-party applications. For example, instead of just storing user and machine name details in a NIS+ directory, Solaris 9 administrators will be able to store full employee directories in the LDAP tree and use the directory as an e-mail database with any modern e-mail client. LDAP is also taking on a role as a centralized application settings repository for enterprise servers.

In addition, LDAP is more flexible and more scalable than NIS+. NIS+ supports only a single master server, introducing a performance bottleneck and administrative headaches. LDAP allows for multiple masters that cross-synchronize with each other, allowing greater system scalability and more administrative and deployment flexibility.

Sun is providing transition tools to help Solaris sites move from NIS+ to LDAP. (A Solaris system cannot be both a native NIS+ client and a native LDAP client, so sites will have to choose one system or the other.) The Solaris 9 NIS+ server rpc.nisd can upload its directory to an LDAP server and, using that directory as a source, serve out LDAP directory data using NIS+ protocols.

The next version of Sun ONE (formerly iPlanet) Application Server, Version 7, is in beta now and is expected to ship by September. When it is released, both Solaris 9 and Solaris 8 customers will be able to download it for free and deploy it in production on their servers, taking advantage of all the CPUs each server has. The application server will also be distributed as part of Solaris 9 Update 2, which will be released in December.

Sun ONE Application Server 7 Platform Edition is a full J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) 1.3-certified application server with JavaServer Pages 1.2, Java Servlet 2.3 and EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) 2.0 support (along with all the other J2EE 1.3 required components).

However, Solaris 9 does not (and will not) include Sun ONE Web Server. Version 7 of the application server has a built-in HTTP Web server (running in-process with the application server) that takes advantage of Solaris kernel-level Network Cache and Accelerator Web page cache.

Many organizations will not want to run a Web server and an application server on the same system for performance or security reasons; a multitier arrangement is still supported but not for free. The embedded Web server also doesnt support virtual hosting.

Platform Edition also does not include any failover, fault- tolerance or clustering features.

West Coast Technical Director Timothy Dyck can be reached at

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