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You have seen a number of cases where it is advantageous to use directories. In each of these cases, however, there are other technologies that perform the same function. You may wonder why you should use a new technology instead of continuing to work with a technology that you know very well. You would not consider making such a change unless directory services offered some significant advantages over the technology you are already using. The following is a list of advantages:
Growing diffusion: Because LDAP is a standard protocol, more and more software suppliers are adopting it in their products. For example, Microsoft uses LDAP to maintain configuration information in Win2000; Sun uses it to hold NIS maps in its Solaris 9 operating system; and Oracle uses it to resolve database names.
Low cost of ownership: Because LDAP is a standard protocol, you can write your own clients to connect to directory servers. If you use a proprietary solution, you have to pay license fees every time you install a new client on your network.
Low training costs: Because most LDAP servers are easy to install, configure, and maintain, the cost of training LDAP administrators is low.
Distributed solution: Because LDAP is a protocol, it is natively network-enabled. Moreover, the LDAP protocol is natively enabled for a distributed architecture, allowing you to distribute information across the entire network for use in all applications. You can even replicate a part of your directory in the intranet and push it out to a server on the Internet.
Platform independence: Because LDAP is a standard protocol, there is a wide choice of implementations of LDAP servers, ranging from important suppliers such as "Star Alliance" (SUN + Netscape) to open-source solutions such as the OpenLDAP implementation of the University of Michigan. From this large choice of vendors, you will find the one that best fits the platform you are using. Furthermore, client and server can run on completely different operating systems.
Easy client implementation: The large number of LDAP application programming interfaces (API) — for nearly every programming language you can imagine — allows you to easily add LDAP support to a great many applications. Consequently, a large number of commercial applications have already been LDAP-enabled or will become LDAP-enabled in the near future. Home-grown applications are also easily LDAP-enabled.
Built-in security in the respository: The access information is stored in the repository itself and can be very fine grained. Some products also give you the ability to control access rights to external factors, such as the IP number the client is connecting from, the time that a connection is requested, the type of data that is requested, and so on. Because these controls are executed centrally by the server, they are easy to maintain. Clients therefore do not have to worry about these details.
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