What is common between Amitabh Bachchan and Novell? Both
reigned as superstars once. Both have seen trying times thereafter, taking them
to the brink of disaster. One gets reinvented a la Kaun Banega Crorepati,
networking the people of a nation caught in a frenzy of quizzing. But when will
Novell’s turn, to catch the fancy of vast multitudes of people, come? It could
be now, with its new

Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Novell, has wrought a new
vision for the company, called ‘one Net’ (not to be mistaken with Microsoft’s
‘dot Net’–Schmidt announced his plan before Gates did).

Keith C Osborne, VP, Novell Asia-Pacific, said, “Novell
is effecting a shift in its focus, keeping its traditional OS business to
support the backend and running foreground with what we call ‘Net services
software’.” This is because Novell’s legacy as a NetWare-centric
company has not helped them in the past couple of years. The company was fast
losing ground to Windows NT and 2000, and the Linux movement was growing.
Shunning the NetWare-centric path therefore makes sense. If the company strictly
means what it says, it is seeking to gain a foothold in a new market while
continuing to rely on the OS business.

Barely four years ago, after a series of fiscal woes and
executive upheavals at the top, Novell was a company with few products and no
strategy to tackle the emergence of the Internet. In came Eric Schmidt as CEO,
hired from Sun Microsystems. Having been the chief technologist there, Schmidt
had to his credit the making of Java. It took four years to get Novell fully
oriented towards the Internet. The pieces were only being made ready then, and
now is the time to finally roll. And this time the company is calling itself a
Net infrastructure services provider and its business is services and Net

Weaving the fabric

A new architectural model called directory-enabled Net
infrastructure model (DENIM) is the framework that will hold Novell’s Net
services and software together. This architecture has a directory service
straddling all the Net services that will help manage the network and make it
secure; store, publish and deliver content; and provide portal services to
networks of any type regardless of standards and variety of OSs.

Osborne clarifies, “DENIM is not a product but a model
comprising various Novell and third-party products which when tied up helps
businesses simplify the complexities of the Net. It will securely extend and
integrate their applications and networks between companies to accelerate the
transformation to e-business.”

Such a model is then required to transform enterprise
information, Web servers and e-business applications into a single network
services model, allowing organizations to build a more optimized, automated and
personalized Net presence.

The enterprise impact

An impact of the IT Act will be on the burgeoning e-economy,
paving the way for digital commerce–and for the long-awaited legalization of
financial transactions on the Internet. With this will come opportunities for
online transactions, online buying and selling, credit card processing and cash
settlement on the net across borders. ISP Satyam Infoway, for instance, is about
to commence its Safescrypt joint venture with Verisign, a global major in
digital authentication and certification, for online transactions in India.

Of course, there’s a healthy dose of criticism and
skepticism about the Cyberlaws. Says Mukund Kumar, VP, IMG Harita Infoserve,
"These laws have not been understood by many. Even if they were, their
implementation will be complex." Especially across geographies.
"Unless there is a common universal law in place, the IT Act will not be
fully effective."

Other industry persons say that the laws do provide a legal
framework for companies to fall back on in case of breach of contract or
non-fulfillment–but that security issues would be better addressed by public
key infrastructure (PKI). This will enable digital certification and
authentication of both businesses and individuals, so that there is the
reassurance of being able to accurately identify the parties one deals with
online. Such authentication is legally recognized and admissible in a court
which in fact will give companies the security to venture online for e-commerce.


As a new and emerging area, there are several concerns from
the enterprise segment about the effectiveness of these laws. "There is a
need for a ‘cyber army’ or Cyber Emergency Response Team, as in other
countries, that would advise and guide the netizens on what is to be done after
a crime or disaster has occurred," says Naavi. Although the law has not
explicitly provided for such a team, the government could do this separately.
The ministry is working on providing information security management to the SME
segment, to familiarize companies here with prevalent international practices
and standards available in online trading, and sensitize the enterprise on how
to handle attacks from viruses and hackers. It’s also taking steps to create
awareness about the latest technologies available internationally, and to
certify Indian enterprises based on standards in this arena.

Another enterprise need is a protective umbrella to key
infrastructure and the enterprise segment. "A new initiative is the
National Infrastructure Protection Center, which will protect key infrastructure
such as electricity and telephones within the country," Chakravarti says.
In addition, the government is also mid-way into a project to create core
competency in the network security domain in the country.

There’s also criticism of the Cyber Regulations Appellate
Tribunal. Says Naavi. "This is an apex body that will advise the ministry
on cyberlaws," he says. "Then how can this tribunal comprise members
from the ministry?"

Other issues include some ambiguity in the way the cyber
crimes have been classified in two different chapters of the Act, omission of
some aspects related to intellectual property rights and privacy in the IT Act.

Chakravarti says the Ministry is open to any changes that
have to be made in the IT Act. "We can include any point that we may have
left out, now and as and when new requirements emerge. After all, we cannot
anticipate all the security issues before hand."

Despite these issues, most in the industry agree that the
Indian government has done well to respond early to the requirements of the new
economy, in formulating the IT Act 2000. The Act should have a positive impact
on the enterprise and the economy, helping accelerate the penetration and use of
e-enabling tecnologies.

Akila Subramaniam
in Chennai

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