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Oracle Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)

Expert Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

November 19, 2010

What does a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) do?  As the name infers, LDAP is a directory access protocol.  It is language commonly used by LDAP clients and servers for communication.

At its conception, LDAP was an Internet-ready implementation of an ISO standard for directory services.  Directory services, in this context, refer primarily to specialized databases for the storage and retrieval of distributed information not requiring a large number of updates.  Online merchandise catalogs and human resource information such as employee name, telephone number and email address are two examples of information suited for LDAP applications.

The "Lightweight" component of LDAP comes from the fact that it was designed to require a minimal amount of networking software on the client side, making it particularly attractive for use with online directories because it reduces the need for entering and coordinating redundant information in multiple services.

In the real world, LDAP offered a solution to the classic challenges facing an increasingly distributed society:

  • Administrative costs reduced by LDAP: Administrators were required to maintain what added up to be essentially identical information in multiple places. For example, the addition of corporate new hires required the creation of a new user identity on the network, a new e-mail account, addition of the user to the HR database and issuance of individual credentials for all applications to be used by the new employee, such as user accounts on development, testing and production database systems. Of course, when an employee left the company, all of those steps had to be reversed.
  •  Data Inconsistencies reduced by LDAP: The above administrative burden created the high potential for data inconsistencies cause by multiple administrators entering redundant information in multiple systems.  It became difficult, if not impossible, to synchronize this distributed information across all systems. The result was data that was inconsistent across the enterprise.
     
  • Security issues reduced by LDAP:  A necessary evil associated with the administrative burden mentioned above was the inevitable problem of each separate directory having its own password policy forcing users to struggle with multiple user names and passwords in order to access all the different system.

The LDAP standard greatly simplified management of directory information in three ways:

  • LDAP provides all users and applications with a single, well-defined interface to an extensible directory service. This makes it easier to rapidly develop and deploy directory-enabled applications.
  • LDAP reduces the need to enter and coordinate redundant information in multiple services scattered across the enterprise.
  • LDAP makes it easier and more practical to deploy Internet-ready applications that leverage the directory.

And then along comes Oracle.  LDAP has been incorporated by Oracle in a variety of ways:

Bulk Loading Users for Single Sign-on (SSO)

Oracle Internet Directory (OID)

As far as connecting to LDAP via PL/SQL via DBMS_LDAP, Rampant author Dr. Timothy Hall has provided the following tips:

Running the following script as SYS will install the DBMS_LDAP package, which is not installed by default:\

SQL> @$ORACLE_HOME/rdbms/admin/catldap.sql

Then use the init and simple_bind_s functions to connect to the LDAP server and authenticate yourself:

l_session := DBMS_LDAP.init(hostname => l_ldap_host,
                             portnum => l_ldap_port);

l_retval := DBMS_LDAP.simple_bind_s(ld => l_session,
                                    dn => l_ldap_user,
                                passwd => l_ldap_passwd);

The next step is to search the directory.  The following is a base query that can be modified for more complex searches:

l_attrs(1) := '*'; -- retrieve all attributes
l_retval := DBMS_LDAP.search_s(ld => l_session,
                             base => l_ldap_base,
                             scope => DBMS_LDAP.SCOPE_SUBTREE,
                             filter => 'objectclass=*',
                             attrs => l_attrs, attronly
                             => 0, res => l_message);

The above search yields a list of entries.  To loop through the entries:

IF DBMS_LDAP.count_entries(ld => l_session, msg => l_message) > 0 THEN
    -- Get all the entries returned by our search.
    l_entry := DBMS_LDAP.first_entry(ld => l_session,
                                    msg => l_message);

    << entry_loop >>
    WHILE l_entry IS NOT NULL LOOP
    ...
    ...
    l_entry := DBMS_LDAP.next_entry(ld => l_session,
                                   msg => l_entry);
    END LOOP entry_loop;
END IF;

Similarly, you can loop through the entries to find their attributes:

l_attr_name := DBMS_LDAP.first_attribute(ld => l_session,
                                  ldapentry => l_entry,
                                   ber_elem => l_ber_element);

   << attributes_loop >>
   WHILE l_attr_name IS NOT NULL LOOP
   ...
   ...
   l_attr_name := DBMS_LDAP.next_attribute(ld => l_session,
                                    ldapentry => l_entry,
                                     ber_elem => l_ber_element);
   END LOOP attibutes_loop;

Likewise, you are able to loop through the attributes returned by the above query to find their values.  The values loop looks like this:

<< values_loop >>
FOR i IN l_vals.FIRST .. l_vals.LAST LOOP
  DBMS_OUTPUT.PUT_LINE('ATTIBUTE_NAME: ' || l_attr_name || ' = ' || SUBSTR(l_vals(i)    ,1,200));
END LOOP values_loop;

To see a full example of all of these loops combined, you can find the full article HERE.

 
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