Red Hat has released the Netscape directory technology it acquired last November as open source under the GNU General Public License (GPL) in the form of the Fedora Directory Server, mirroring its Fedora Linux project.

An enterprise version with full technical support will be released by the middle of this month, Red Hat said. Netscape Directory Services (NDS) has been renamed Fedora Directory Server and Red Hat Directory Server.

"There is now a standards-based, open source solution available in a market that has been historically dominated by high-cost proprietary options," said Karen Tegan-Padir, VP of Engineering, Infrastructure Technologies at Red Hat.

The release gives Red Hat and other Linux distributors an open-source challenger to proprietary systems such as Microsoft's Active Directory, Sun Java Enterprise and particularly Novell's eDirectory. Directory services are essential for large businesses, allowing them to manage identity and security information for employees, customers and partners. They provide a single database for storing information about the network and network based resources such as users, servers, files, printers, shares and the like.

Fedora Directory Server is immediately available for download at www.fedora.redhat.com, Red Hat said. The company instituted the Fedora programme to keep a direct collaboration with the open source community after switching its main focus to the more tightly managed Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). RHEL is tied to a support relationship with Red Hat and has infrequent releases, while Fedora software is freely available, encourages speedy development and releases updates more often.

Fedora Directory Server is compatible with Fedora Core 3 and Solaris 9, while Red Hat Directory Server will work with RHEL, Solaris and HP-UX 11i on HP's Integrity and HP 9000 servers.

Red Hat is working on releasing more of its Netscape technology as open source, and has made a suite of Directory Server Configuration Tools available to developers in binary form ahead of an expected open-source release. An open-source certificate server based on part of the Netscape Enterprise Suite is also planned, Red Hat said. The company already has a large contract with the US Defense Department for the server. Other upcoming Fedora releases include the Fedora Global File System (GFS).

Open-source directory services already exist in the form of OpenLDAP - already included in some Linux distributions, including that of Red Hat - but this has been criticised as difficult to set up and maintain.

At the time of the NDS acquisition, Red Hat said the software would give it better access to the enterprise and government markets, and would eventually help it increase the price users pay for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.