Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is a method of organizing data for use with databases that follow LDAP standards. This is an open standard, so any organization is able to use the structures without paying a licensing fee. An LDAP directory is optimized for reading over writing, making it a great choice for long-term storage, but not for active databases. The free license and read-centric nature of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol has caused it to become a popular way of organizing information in data warehouses.
The most confusing aspect of LDAP is what the protocol is exactly. The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol is a method of organizing and storing data. An LDAP database is a database that stores information according to the protocol. This point becomes very muddy as terminologies merge.
The Lightweight Directory Access Protocol is both open standard and cross platform. This means that any user on any system is able to easily use and manipulate LDAP databases. It also easily handles virtual database systems, allowing several databases to act like a single entity on the client side. Lastly, it incorporates Internet Protocols directly into its specification, making accessing it over an Internet connection nearly painless.
Since LDAP has a lot going for it, the protocol has become very popular as a means of storing information over a wide network. Many modern database designs have the ability to access LDAP databases, even though they do not directly use the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. This has extended the protocols popularity, as nearly every major database now has LDAP built in or available through a plug-in.
The way a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol database accesses and stores information has a large impact on how it is used. The protocol emphasizes reading data from the database over writing in new information. This makes adding information much slower than taking it out. Fast applications, such as bank records or online ordering, would find the methods too slow. Storage or records systems, such as inventory or tax information, work very well.
The LDAP specifies a hierarchical organization for data. This is a method that is very familiar to most people and makes sorting through LDAP databases more straightforward than other systems. This organization method is often merged with Web addresses, making accessing top-level database information available through a Web browser.
It is easy to think of these levels like the folders on a computer. The top level is the focus of the database, generally the name of a company or organization. Under that are sections for departments or projects within the organization. Under each of those headings are subsections within that area. On a computer, this is like a folder within a folder, each providing more specific information. Eventually, the folder, or database, will contain all of the information related to that specific topic.