måndag 16 december 2013

Native REST in OpenDJ and the REST2LDAP gateway

Directory Services are an ideal way to structure and store, identity data reaching exceptional scale. The long serving protocol of choice is LDAP and of course integrating with or building solutions around directories often involved LDAP SDKs designed some 15 years ago with almost zero standards to build on.  For Java platform developers, however, the JNDI API emerged.

Though the intent was for JNDI to be that standard on the Java platform, it hasn’t evolved with the rest of the platform and lacks basic properties such as Generics and Concurrency support.
ForgeRock’s OpenDJ SDK and the likes are providing an answer to this issue but are still very LDAP oriented with the learning curve associated for LDAP operations and data model.

Development using JNDI is time consuming and far from intuitive for even seasoned engineers. Annoying problems such as the domain separator being a slash instead of a dot results in confusion and difficult debugging, especially as we are dealing with URLs.

The future of LDAP is often debated since its tricky and time consuming to use which results in higher development. Considering that LDAP is pretty much unavoidable in today’s enterprises, it’s surprising that fundamental LDAP training is not part of the required  curricula for software engineers.  At great cost, this important knowledge is ignored by most students out of university and is also often neglected by most startups building new and innovative solutions.

ForgeRock has spent a tremendous amount of effort to provide a RESTful interface around our directory OpenDJ, exposing all the power of the LDAP protocol and OpenDJ but with the simplicity of REST while at the same time maintaining the high performance and scalability.  Technically this means that OpenDJ exposes its directory data, such as users, organizations and groups over HTTP as JSON resources.

The business benefits from using the REST interface to OpenDJ because it  means that applications relying on directory services have a significantly shortened time to market and development time. The simplicity of REST also ensures a higher quality assurance and and more thorough testing.  As an example, in only a week’s time, one of our partners built a web application for a hospital that included different views for different personnel (physicians, nurses etc) without having to train its staff on LDAP and its best practices.  It is clear that using the REST API reduces development costs and accelerates time to revenue for new services and applications.

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