Somers, N.Y.--A group of more than 30 companies that provide or support directories, including IBM Corp., Novell and Oracle Corp., announced the formation of the Directory Interoperability Forum, a group that will back open standards. Directories are the software that enables computer networks to store and access different kinds of information, including e-mail addresses, phone numbers and passwords. The forum intends to speed development and deployment of directory-enabled applications that run across different computing environments. Fortune 500 companies typically maintain as many as 190 separate directories, making interoperability among the applications that use them critical, according to Forrester Research. Open standards are especially important to software developers who write applications that rely on directories.