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Red Hat to Open Source Directory Server

UPDATED: Linux vendor Red Hat plans to release Netscape's Directory Server to the open source community, which could add improved scalability to current open source lightweight directory access protocol offerings , according to a developer for the number one Linux distributor.

The move to open source the information directory product (known as LDAP) follows Red Hat's acquisition of certain Netscape Enterprise assets from AOL in September of 2004 for about $20.5 million.

Netscape Directory Server is an LDAP server that provides a network centralized registry for application and user settings, as well as policies and access control information. A number of Linux distributions, including Red Hat, already include the OpenLDAP open source project.

"One of the things that we, as software developers who care about whether or not we're using open source software, have been missing is a decent directory server," Red Hat developer Christopher Blizzard wrote in a recent blog posting. "No offense meant to the openldap folks, but it's well known that openldap doesn't scale as well as it needs to and is missing some very basic functionality that competing proprietary directory servers include today."

Blizzard, perhaps best known in the open source community as the maintainer of Red Hat's Mozilla packages, was commenting on a story by internetnews.com that said Sun is planning a release to the open source community soon. However, the release would not include two of its hotly contested properties -- its Java programming language or Solaris operating system.

Blizzard noted that some of that code "may include forked copies of all the assets that Red Hat recently purchased from AOL." The comments suggest that Sun's plans could beat Red Hat's to the punch on directory server code headed for the open source community.

Blizzard described the Netscape assets as items that would fill a "huge hole" in Red Hat's software stack of product offerings.

Red Hat plans to release the Directory Services under the GPL within nine to 12 months, according to Leigh Day, a company spokeswoman.

OpenLDAP is an established open source directory server project that is currently part of Red Hat as well as other Linux vendors' offerings. Blizzard contends that the Netscape Directory server is fully featured, fast, actively developed and enterprise-ready.

Red Hat needs to talk to the "larger community" to help build out a structure for a successful, outward-facing project, Blizzard noted. He also argued that the most logical way of making the Directory Server a successful project as well as adding value to Red Hat customers, "is to build a successful open source software project out of the source code."

The Red Hat developer admitted that current perceptions of Red Hat in the open source community might make that difficult.

"More and more often it seems that Red Hat is seen as the 400lb gorilla in the open source world. At least this is what I hear from people I talk to, "Blizzard wrote. "We make people nervous. Personally, I worry about this perception."

In Blizzard's opinion, Red Hat is still true to its open source roots, even though some might disagree. He argued that, from Red Hat's perspective, open source is a balance of business interests and the interests of the larger community and that multiple viewpoints need to be included.

"The marketplace of ideas must be open for business," Blizzard wrote. "This means that Red Hat's developers must be seen as competent peers, not as undeserving despots. This project must be no different."