Re: Meta-Directories Not Dead (They're Aging)

Some of the points that Matt Flynn raises in were addressed in Nishant's reply. However, I wanted to spend a little time on this part of his post:

... There has been a ground swell of apps that directly support Active Directory as the user store. So, maybe the next versions of the HR and LOB apps in the above scenario would attach directly to AD eliminating the need for any solution here. As prevalent as AD has become, that seems more likely than mass-consumption of virtual directory technologies. ...

What's more likely: 1. everyone standardizing on Active Directory, or 2. everyone not standardizing on Active Directory.

Requiring Active Directory means everyone needs to be using Active Directory for everything. Using a virtual directory places no such requirements on the customer or application. It actually REDUCES the need to have a single, unlikely, unified standard.

This is the case because virtual directories emulate what applications expect from many existing directories. This means it's less about writing to a "virtual directory" than writing to your favorite directory standard and having the virtual directory emulate that in a view.

Not going to argue that the LAN guys have a lot of Active Directory sitting out there. Some of it is very strategic, other times it's used only for workstation authentication (and often outsourced to the people managing desktop user populations).

But there's also a lot of portals using Sun. Lots of databases and applications (e.g. eBiz Suite) using OID. Many people are even using Novell. Plus, even the topologies being used for Active Directory in a company often aren't predicted well by people writing off-the-shelf enterprise applications.

Simply "move everything to Active Directory" rarely works except in the smallest of organizations that will rely entirely on a Microsoft stack (no Java, no other directories, no non-Microsoft compliant infrastructure). Basically Microsoft lock-in.

This isn't to say that Microsoft can't be your strategic enterprise directory, or even extranet directory. But expecting every application from every vendor (including your legacy applications written before Microsoft even had a directory) to suddenly not just support Active Directory, but YOUR DEPLOYMENT of Active Directory is pretty unlikely. And it's exceptionally unlikely that everyone in the world will do so at that precise time as well. :-)

Customer Example

A simple example from a customer a few years back:

- 100% Microsoft Active Directory
- 100% ADSI-enabled application

Unfortunately:
- Global replication with a nasty replication delay (30 minutes)

This meant that if a user (traders in this case) changed their password, it might not get to all of the domain controllers until 30 minutes later, meaning that the traders would be unable to login to their application.

Clearly this wasn't foreseen by the application developer as a possible issue. The real solution may have been to completely re-architect their Active Directory environment in a different way, but you rarely have that luxury in the middle of a fire-drill.

What did the customer do? They spent a few hours installing Oracle Virtual Directory, configuring it to know about their domain controllers, and basically said that when a password failed, try it on the master. The master only sees these requests in "exceptional" circumstances and the replication delay has no material impact on the user's experience.

This provided time to come up with a more strategic solution to the problem. Having ultimately solved the underlying problem, the customer went on to deploy the product for other purposes (better loadbalancing and failover, etc...).

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This is Clayton Donley's official blog. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Oracle.

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