I recently received a press release from UnboundID announcing the availability of a new "synchronization server". This software keeps two LDAP servers in sync (as the name suggests) - bidirectionally. In theory very useful, and it's free too. But there's a small trick: the synchronization server supports both Sun's DSEE (Directory Server Enterprise Edition) and the new Unbound ID Directory Server. In the release, Unbound ID makes no secret of what this software should be used for: to migrate away from Sun's directory toward Unbound ID's competing solution.

UnboundID is a start-up based out of Austin, TX. It was founded by several ex-Sun employees, including Neil Wilson, author of the "slamd" load generation engine, and formerly one of the key people behind Sun's OpenDS. I have already raved about their new LDAP SDK for Java, in my opinion the finest and most complete LDAP development kit for any language ever written.

The company is going after the very lucrative Telco and large service provider market, and launched a frontal attack on Sun Microsystems, who is the market leader in that space. UnboundID is offering a 30-40% reduction in yearly maintenance costs if customers switch from DSEE to their solution. Of course there is the usual fine print, and this offer is limited to medium-sized directories with less than two million entries. Why should Sun customers switch from DSEE to UnboundID Directory? According to UnboundID, their server is faster, has less footprint and is supported on a wider platform range.

It is not really obvious to me however why Telcos and large service providers would want to switch. For one, DSEE has been the de-facto market leader for massive-scale directory services, and customer satisfaction is high (not just if you believe the marketing - I've personally heard the same from Telcos using the product). A directory server running in a Telco is an absolutely super-critical component, and ripping it out and replacing it is akin to heart surgery. DSEE is very mature after having been around for many years and the kinks have been ironed out in many very large deployments a long time ago already (in fact, I was in one of those deployments in 2002 - that was fun). UnboundID would obviously need to make a very good case and give organisations a high level of assurance for them to switch over. The Telco sector is much more innovative than others, and tends to be on the bleeding edge of technology - but even so, there is a reluctance to switch from a very mature product that "just works" to a brand-new product.

That's why UnboundID offers the "synchronization server" in order to try to entice organisations to run both directory servers next to each other for a longer period - to evaluate and eventually become comfortable enough with the UnboundID server to make the switch. It seems that the "synchronization server" has been written specifically for this purpose.

Which, personally speaking, I think is a bit of a pity, but hopefully UnboundID will realise the immense value that this synchronisation server could have once they've gotten over their frontal attack on Sun. A generic synchronization server that would keep multiple directories from multiple vendors synchronised is a fantastic value proposition, and I'm sure many organisations would jump at it. Especially when it comes from such brilliant minds like Neil Wilson's who is known for his awesome LDAP stuff.