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Singing LDAP’s praises

May 12, 20033 mins
Access ControlEnterprise Applications

* LDAP praise from a telecoms equipment vendor

Alcatel is a communications company with a long history of telephony, but a rather short history of computer technology.

It traces its beginnings to the Compagnie Générale d’Electricité (CGE), founded in 1898, but is linearly descended from Société Alsacienne de Constructions Atomiques, de Télécommunications et d’Electronique (Al-C-A-Tel, see?) which was founded in 1928 and acquired CGE in 1966.

There has been a lot more acquiring, divesting, merging and partnering going on since then, but the bottom line is that Alcatel, long a dominant player in the telephony hardware field, is now heavily involved in the entire range of end-to-end communications needs of carriers, service providers and enterprises. So what’s that got to do with identity management?

Alcatel just recently published a white paper, entitled “LDAP An Unsung Hero of the IP Communications Revolution.”

Alcatel, you see, would like people to realize that Voice over IP (VoIP) is not the sole domain of Cisco (well, Lucent and Nortel would also like you to think that) and a paper like this should draw the attention of identity management vendors and directory service providers.

It’s an interesting paper (get a copy at – it is (ugh!) a PDF file, but worth the extra overhead in this case) although it does repeat some of my favorite bugbears when describing LDAP.

The biggest howler is probably “LDAP is not designed to be a high-powered database engine.” It’s not designed to be a low-powered one either – it’s just an access protocol. Nevertheless, there is good information about the use of LDAP as a look-up and referral tool for online telephone directory systems that go well beyond the traditional white- and yellow-page paradigms.

The paper cites, as one example, a school directory that includes contact details of students and parents so that the right person can be communicated with quickly and efficiently no matter what the situation might be. Of course, this all leads to a discussion of Alcatel’s use of LDAP within its enterprise communications system.

This paper is also remarkable in that it contains the first reference to DEN (Directory Enabled Networking) that I’ve seen in a couple of years. But the author (anonymous) attributes to LDAP originator Tim Howes (mistakenly identified as Tim Howe) the idea that “LDAP will help make networks the true utility level infrastructure needed to enable any device from any location with any interface [to] connect to any other device.” I personally think that’s over the top, but if you need to cite sources to justify increasing your budget for LDAP or associated identity management stuff, go for it.