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How Does Oracle Internet Directory Provide LDAP Capabilities?

If you have an existing LDAP infrastructure in your organization and want to integrate it with Oracle systems, one option is the Oracle Internet Directory (OID). OID is an LDAP v3-compliant directory with meta-directory capabilities. It is based on Oracle database technology and integrates with Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle Applications. This makes it a good choice for identity management in companies with an Oracle environment or Oracle database expertise.

LDAP And Oracle Internet Directory

LDAP is a directory access protocol, and Oracle Internet Directory (OID) is an LDAP v3-compliant directory. Here is a brief overview of the capabilities each technology offers.

What Is LDAP?

LDAP is an extensible directory access protocol that enables communication between servers and clients. It offers a lightweight version of the ISO X.500 (International Standardization Organization) standard for directory services.

LDAP is Internet-ready, requiring minimal networking software on the client-side, making it ideal for thin-client applications. Here is how the LDAP standard can help simplify directory information management:

Standardization—LDAP offers all users and applications a single and well-defined standard interface to one extensible directory service. It lets you rapidly develop and deploy your directory-enabled applications.

Efficiency—LDAC minimizes the scope of redundant information across multiple services across the enterprise. As a result, you do not have to enter or manage redundant information.

Internet-ready—LDAP employs a well-defined protocol and programmatic interfaces to make it easier to deploy an Internet-ready application using the directory.

What Is OID?

OID is a directory service offering rapid retrieval capabilities and centralized data management about dispersed network resources and users. It employs LDAP Version 3 alongside Oracle Database capabilities, such as high performance and robustness. It tightly integrates with the Oracle environment to offer security, availability, and scalability. Here are key benefits:

Scalability—OID uses Oracle Database capabilities to support terabytes of directory information. It employs database connection pooling and shared LDAP servers to support thousands of concurrent clients with sub-second search response times. It also offers data management and command-line tools.

High availability—OID leverages Oracle Database availability features. It stores directory information securely in an Oracle database, using Oracle’s backup features to protect the data. Additionally, since these databases run with heavy loads and large data stores, they can quickly recover from a system failure.

Security—OID provides various access controls. For example, it lets administrators allow or restrict access to a whole directory subtree or specific directory objects. It employs three user authentication levels—anonymous, passwords, and certificates via Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Integration with the Oracle environment—you can set up the Internet Directory to serve as a single point of integration between an Oracle environment and other directories, including NOS directories, application-specific user repositories, and third-party enterprise directories.

There are two other options for managing LDAP in the Oracle ecosystem: Oracle Unified Directory (OUD) and Oracle Directory Server Enterprise Edition (ODSEE). This article will focus on LDAP capabilities in Oracle Internet Directory.

Oracle Internet Directory Architecture

Oracle Internet Directory nodes consist of one or multiple directory server instances connected to a single directory store. The catalog repository is an Oracle database.

Each Oracle Internet Directory node contains these key elements:

Oracle Directory Server instance—also known as a directory server instance or LDAP server instance. It handles directory requests via a single Oracle Internet Directory Scheduler process that listens on a particular TCP/IP port. You can have multiple Directory Server instances on one node listening on multiple ports.

Oracle Directory Replication Server—also known as a replica server. It tracks changes and sends them to replica servers in other Oracle Internet Directory systems. A node can have only one replica server, and its use is optional.

Oracle Database Server—stores directory data. A single node can hold the database and the Directory Server instances.

OID Monitor (OIDMON)—starts, monitors, and terminates replication server and LDAP processes.

OID Control Utility (OIDCTL)—communicates with the OID monitor by writing message data to a table on the Oracle Internet Directory server.

Here is how these components communicate with each other:

  • Oracle Net Services (Oracle’s connectivity solution) enables connections between the catalog repository, the Oracle Directory Server, and the OIDMON.
  • LDAP enables connections between the directory server and the Oracle Directory Services Manager or the Oracle Directory Replication Server.

Managing Directory Access Control

When a directory operation is attempted during a directory session, the directory server checks if the user has permission to perform the operation – if not, it does not allow the operation. The directory server relies on access control information to protect directory data from unauthorized manipulation by a directory user.

The directory contains metadata called access control information, which captures administrative policies related to access control. This metadata is stored in OID as user-modifiable configuration properties. Each configuration property is called an Access Control Entry (ACI).

This list of ACI values, which are together known as an access control list (ACL), is linked to directory objects (user entities) representing the rights of those entities to access a particular object. Each ACI specifies objects to which access is allowed, entities to which access is granted, objects that these entities are allowed to access, and allowed access types.

The directory stores ACIs, representing them as text strings. These strings must follow the ACI directive format. All valid values of an ACI attribute represent separate access control policies. You can manage access control policies in Oracle Directory Services Manager or ldapmodify by setting the values of ACI attributes for the relevant entities.

The following directory access control features are available in OID:

Prescriptive access control – rather than specifying policies for individual objects, the service provider can specify access control lists (ACLs) on collections of directory objects. This feature simplifies access control management, especially in large directories where many objects are governed by the same or similar policies.

Hierarchical access control – service providers can delegate catalog management to hosted companies. Additional fields can be delegated as needed.

Delegated domain administration override – service providers can perform diagnostics and recover from accidental account lockouts and security exposures.

Dynamic evaluation of access control entities – subtree administrators can identify subjects and objects by the namespace they are located in and their association to other objects in the directory.

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