LDAP, aka the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, is a staple in the IT industry. Part of the reason for its status results from LDAP’s development all the way back in the early 1990s, when Tim Howes and his colleagues were at the University of Michigan. LDAP provided relative ease of use as compared to Direct Access Protocol or DAP, the original tool for accessing X.500, which was a directory service/protocol for accessing information stored in a directory (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) that emanated from the telecommunications industry. Still, some people are asking, what is the definition of LDAP?
What Problem does LDAP Address?
Defining LDAP means digging into why it was created. The problem that Tim Howes and his colleagues were faced with solving was that university faculty required a better way to create a directory service – i.e. control and authenticate user access to their systems and applications, while also creating an authoritative directory of user information. Historically, this was done using the X.500 directory service and protocols with a solution such as DAP (directory access protocol) to provide access. But, X.500 was hard on both the systems (large footprint) and network (bandwidth intensive). In fact, many of the systems on people’s desks in the early 1990s could not connect to an X.500 directory service, so it was limited to specific systems (think more mini-computers or micro-computers back in the day – not PCs). Due to these limiting factors, LDAP was created using a limited subset of the DAP protocol to eliminate the overhead issues that plagued X.500/DAP. The limited subset reduced the overhead as compared to DAP which allowed it to use less bandwidth on the network and consume less space on endpoints. As a result of of these efficiencies, LDAP would find great success and become the de facto internet directory services authentication protocol.
Stemming from the the success of LDAP, in 1998 OpenLDAP™ was released. OpenLDAP is open source software which is still in use today. The benefit of the open source OpenLDAP solution is (Read more...)