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LDAP means Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, it is a simplified version of X500 protocol. You will find a more detailed presentation [ on Wikipedia].

To describe quickly, all informations are stored in a tree. You have to determine by yourself the directory arborescence (the Directory Information Tree: the DIT). We will begin with a basic tree with two nodes above the root :

  • "People" node where your users will be stored
  • "Groups" node where your groups will be stored

You have to first determine what the root of your LDAP will be. By default, your tree will be determined by your internet domain. If your domain is (we will use it in the above example), your root will be dc=example,dc=com.


First of all, install the ldap server daemon (slapd) on the server ; install the following packages: slapd and ldap-utils (see InstallingSoftware).

Enter your domain as asked and the password that you want for the directory administrator.

Only few changes will be operated on the default configuration. First set the root password in the configuration file (instead of in the directory) by editing the file /etc/ldap/slapd.conf.

Don't use a cleartext password however. To generate an encrypted password first use slappasswd yourpasswd

$ slappasswd
New password:
Re-enter password:

This example shows what happens when using the string "secret" as the password. (By nature of the SSHA encryption scheme, your result will vary.)

Now edit /etc/ldap/slapd.conf and copy paste the generated string.

# Make sure you edit or add these directives after the first 'database' directive.

suffix          "dc=example,dc=com"
directory       "/var/lib/ldap"
rootdn          "cn=admin,dc=example,dc=com"
rootpw          {SSHA}d2BamRTgBuhC6SxC0vFGWol31ki8iq5m

Populating LDAP

The directory has been created at the installation, now it is time to populate. It will be populated with a "classical" entry that will be compatible with directory (for example for a shared directory), with classical accounts (for a web application) and with Unix accounts (posix).

LDAP directory can be fed with a ldif file (ldif means ldap directory interchange format). Generate this example text file init.ldif somewhere on your system:

dn: dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: dcObject
objectClass: organizationalUnit
dc: example
ou: Example Dot Com

dn: ou=people,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalUnit
ou: people

dn: ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalUnit
ou: groups

dn: uid=lionel,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: inetOrgPerson
objectClass: posixAccount
objectClass: shadowAccount
uid: lionel
sn: Porcheron
givenName: Lionel
cn: Lionel Porcheron
displayName: Lionel Porcheron
uidNumber: 1000
gidNumber: 10000
gecos: Lionel Porcheron
loginShell: /bin/bash
homeDirectory: /home/lionel
shadowExpire: -1
shadowFlag: 0
shadowWarning: 7
shadowMin: 8
shadowMax: 999999
shadowLastChange: 10877
postalCode: 31000
l: Toulouse
o: Example
mobile: +33 (0)6 xx xx xx xx
homePhone: +33 (0)5 xx xx xx xx
title: System Administrator
initials: LP

dn: cn=example,ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: posixGroup
cn: example
gidNumber: 10000

In the example above, the directory structure, a user and group have been setup. In other example you might see the objectClass: top added in every entry, but that is default behaviour so you don't have to add it explicitely.

Now, add your entries to the LDAP :

  • stop LDAP daemon: sudo /etc/init.d/slapd stop

  • delete the content that was automaticaly added at installation: sudo rm -rf /var/lib/ldap/*

  • add the content sudo slapadd -l init.ldif 

We can check that the content has been correctly added with the tools from the ldap-utils package. In order to execute a search in the LDAP directory :

ldapsearch -xLLL uid=lionel sn givenName cn
dn: uid=lionel,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com
cn: Lionel Porcheron
sn: Porcheron
givenName: Lionel

Just a quick explanation :

  • -x is because we do not use SASL authentication method (by default)

  • -LLL disable printing LDIF informations

Put your LDAP server to use

Now that it is up and running you can:

  • authenticate your users on the directory as explained in ["LDAPClientAuthentication"]
  • authenticate your users in a web application.
  • use it as a shared address directory for your mail agent.

Use of LDAP are infinite !

LDAP replication

LDAP service often quickly becomes a highly critical service in an information system: all is depending of LDAP: autentication, authorization, mail system, etc. It can be a good idea to setup a redundant system. It is easy to setup, here is a quick howto.


With OpenLDAP 2.2 (on Breezy and Dapper), replication is based on a master-slave relation.

attachment:IconsPage/IconWarning3.png You will have to remember that modifications should ALWAYS be done on the master ! If you modifies the slave, modifications will get lost.

LDAP master

On the master, you have to modify the database section of the /etc/ldap/slapd.conf to add a replica instruction. The following example shows a replica on with the Manager user with secret as password. The replication logfile is the place modifications are stored before they are send to the LDAP slave.

replica uri=ldap:// binddn="cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com" bindmethod=simple credentials=secret

replogfile      /var/lib/ldap/replog

Restart your LDAP server.

LDAP slave

On the slave, you have to authorize your master to update LDAP database. Add the following lines to your /etc/ldap/slapd.conf file in the database section:

updatedn        cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com
updateref       ldap://

Restart your LDAP server.