Active Directory Vs. LDAP
Active Directory (AD) has become an almost ubiquitous tool for IT departments around the world, in fact 95% of Fortune 500 companies use an AD. Because of this, it’s vital to understand Active Directory and its relationship to LDAP.
What is LDAP?
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, or LDAP, is a standards-based specification for interacting with directory data. LDAP is designed to provide extremely fast read/query performance for a large dataset.
Imagine you have a website that has a million registered users with thousands of page requests per second. Without LDAP, every time users click a page, even for static page viewing, you will probably need to interact with your database to validate the user ID and its digital signature for this login session. By using LDAP, you can easily offload the user validation and gain significant performance improvement.
LDAP is not just for user validation, any of the following properties provide an opportunity to use LDAP:
- Locating ONE piece of data many times
- Disregarding logic and relations between different data
- You don’t update, add, or delete the data very often
- The size of each data entry is small
- Communicating with a directory
- Having small pieces of data in a centralized location
What is Active Directory?
In order to understand the correlation between LDAP and AD, we must first understand exactly what an Active Directory is. Basically, it’s a Directory Service, meaning a software system that stores, organizes, and provides access to information in a computer operating system’s directory. In software engineering, a directory is a map between names and values. It allows the lookup of named values, similar to a dictionary.
How Does LDAP Work With Active Directory?
Think of LDAP as the language that AD is able to speak. The task of LDAP is to extract information stored in AD. When a user looks something up in AD, like a computer or printer, LDAP is what’s used to find the relevant information and present the results to the user.
In short: AD is a directory services database, and LDAP is one of the protocols you can use to communicate with it.
The Differences Between LDAP and AD
AD is the most widely used directory server and uses LDAP to communicate. LDAP is the protocol used to query, maintain, and determine access in order for AD to function.
Though many use LDAP and AD interchangeably, they are in fact two different types of software.. Think of LDAP as the language that AD is able to speak. The task of LDAP is to extract information stored in AD. When a user looks something up in AD, like a computer or printer, LDAP is what’s used to find the relevant information and present the query to the user.
Another difference between LDAP and AD is how they handle device management. AD has a function called Group Policy (GPO) which allows admins to control Windows devices and offers Single Sign-On abilities, neither of which is available with LDAP. When it comes to ability, there’s a lot to be desired with LDAP, meaning AD-domain admins are on their own when implementing LDAP-compatible devices and servers.
LDAP With a Managed PKI Solution
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