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
The move to open source the information directory product (known as LDAP) follows Red Hat’s acquisition of certain Netscape Enterprise assets
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
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
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
“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.”