SALT LAKE CITY — A Canadian diversified resource company is in the process of rolling out a Novell Inc. identity management product as part of a portal project to improve security and manageability of its network.

Toronto-based Sherritt International Corp., which is involved in the production of thermal coal, nickel, cobalt, oil and electricity, will launch the first phase of an IBM WebSphere portal later this week. At this stage, it will serve as an internal portal for the company’s four business units.

These include the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, Nickel production facilities in Saskatchewan as well as oil and gas and power facilities in Calgary. The portal will eventually be extended to redesign the company’s Web site.

As part of the project, Sherritt is implementing Novell Nsure identity management software across the organization to integrate employee identities. It is also using Novell eDirectory to set up and manage a company user directory.

“We’re trying to capitalize in single sign-on,” said Sherritt CIO Brad Holub. “We have users in multiple sources. (Nsure) is one of the first tools that can manage that effectively.”

Through the internal portal, Sherritt employees will have access to human resources information, operational metrics on the production side of the business, reporting and monitoring and document sharing capabilities. The portal may also eventually be integrated with office e-mail, said Holub.

Identity management is one of the predominant themes at this year’s BrainShare conference, which attracted approximately 6,000 attendees from 50 countries. On Monday, Novell announced two new integrated application and identity platforms based on industry standards and open source — Application Services Foundation (ASF) and Identity Services Foundation (ISF).

At the conference’s opening keynote, company chairman and CEO Jack Messman said the completion of Novell’s acquisition of Suse Linux last year has allowed it to focus on two key areas: Linux and identity.

Despite the fact that Novell boasts over 10 million desktops worldwide are running on Linux, only two per cent of Canadian businesses are currently running the Linux OS on their desktops, according to IDC Canada

“Fifty-eight per cent of those companies have less than 10 per cent of Linux deployed on their desktops,” said Dave Senf, program manager at IDC Canada.

Security remains the single most important issue for chief information officers, said Messman.

“Businesses are struggling to manage the what, how and who of information delivery,” he said. “People believe identity is about people and passwords. Identity-driven computing is Novell’s strategy to enable organizations to drive greater leverage from all of their IT assets.”

Recent cases of security breaches in the U.S. such as ChoicePoint and, more recently, Lexis-Nexis, highlight the need for companies to have identities for everything across their organization, Messman said in an interview with ITBusiness.ca Monday.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Messman said in reference to the above cases. “Just because a person has access doesn’t mean that (he or she) can see certain data. (He or she) has to have the right credentials.”

Messman added Novell doesn’t view Microsoft as a competitor in this space yet, as its identity management solution lacks a directory, which he said is a key part of Novell’s strategy.

Sherritt is also looking to migrate off its Windows NT environment to a combination of Novell and Linux platforms. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board — with which Sherritt partnered in 2001 to form Luscar Energy Partnership to acquire coal producer Luscar Ltd. — is a long-time Novell customer and recently upgraded to NetWare 6.5. 

Holub is currently working on a project proposal to implement the recently released Novell Open Enterprise Server (OES) across the organization later this year. OES provides users a suite of services including application, file and storage and management based on both NetWare and Suse Linux platforms.

Because of the nature of Sherritt’s business, which grows by acquiring companies, Holub said it’s important for the company’s IT infrastructure to remain flexible and adaptable.

“With open standards you’re not locked into a single vendor,” said Holub. “With Microsoft Active Directory, we were feeling like we were getting painted into a corner.”

In putting together the proposal for this project, which Holub expects to present to management by early next quarter, he expects a few initial hurdles in getting it approved. These include assuring management that there will be the necessary vendor support and that Novell and Linux can deliver a reliable infrastructure.

“ID management is easy to get approval on,” said Holub. “We have to convince senior management that the support will be there.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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