LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol)
A standard for querying and updating a directory and an answer to the failures of X.500's overweight Directory Access Protocol.
Unlike, X.500, which requires the OSI protocol stack, LDAP uses the far more popular TCP/IP stack (and omits some X.500 functions).
From IBM's LDAP FAQ:
LDAP defines a communication protocol. That is, it defines the transport and format of messages used by a client to access data in an X.500-like directory. LDAP does not define the directory service itself. However, when referring to a directory that can be accessed using LDAP, the directory is usually called an LDAP directory.
Today, LDAP Version 3 (LDAPv3) is the foundation for a centralized enterprise directory available to any application.
Every directory vendor supports LDAP, and there are thousands of LDAP-compliant products that act as clients to those directories. The protocol has become the standard used throughout large companies to access directory information about users and resources.
What LDAPv3 lacks is widely adopted access control and back-end integration extensions, such as replication, which are needed to integrate disparate directories and build a distributed directory service. Today, metadirectories solve that issue within a company, but the problems have mostly trapped LDAP behind the firewall. Experts say it will take help from emerging technologies such as XML to solve it.
Directory standard at a crossroads, Network World, 04/22/02.
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Diagram specification can be mentioned more for quick understanding.
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