Novell has renamed its meta-directory technology and refocused the software as a key component of its identity management and Web services platform.

The company released Nsure Identity Manager 2, which helps companies create and manage user identities. The product was formerly called DirXML and provided meta-directory services for integrating repositories of user information. The software will continue to provide that integration, as well as the ability to synchronise user identity attributes and set rules and policies on how identity information can be altered.

Novell plans to use Identity Manager 2 and its other identity management products, such as eDirectory and BorderManager, to form a security service that will plug into its Extend Web application server. The two together are evidence of Novell’s bid to offer a suite of products that corporations can use to build a service-orientated architecture to support Web services. Novell plans to announce version 5 of Extend next week at LinuxWorld.

Novell, along with Microsoft and IBM, is leading a trend toward merging meta-directory and provisioning software. With Identity Manager 2, Novell is adding a more user-friendly interface, easier mechanisms for setting user access rules, and better password management and auditing capabilities.

"What we are seeing here with the renaming and enhancements is a move to be more on par with traditional provisioning products," says Gerry Gebel, an analyst with the Burton Group. "This is a significant upgrade of DirXML and shows the importance of provisioning for identity management."

In the past few months, Sun Microsystems acquired provisioning vendor Waveset, and access management vendor Netegrity bought provisioning partner Business Layers. Last year, Microsoft spun its meta-directory technology into a new provisioning-focused product called Microsoft Identity Information Server. Two years ago, IBM bought provisioning vendor Access360 and meta-directory technology from MetaMerge and have worked the two products into its identity management platform.

Novell’s Identity Manager 2 features a new Policy Builder with a browser-based, point-and-click interface for creating, setting and modifying policy. The Policy Builder replaces the need to use Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT) to program policies.

Novell also has added a handful of password management features including a system-wide password policy, password self-service, password distribution and bi-directional password synchronisation. The new features also include role-based administration and monitoring and reporting tools to track changes to the identity infrastructure.

"These are the first steps of our strategy for this year and beyond," says Bob Bentley, product manager for Identity Manager 2.

The Identity Manager 2 software is available now and runs on Linux, Windows, NetWare and Solaris. Pricing starts at US$29 per user.