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Overview of Open Directory Components

Open Directory is based on OpenLDAP, an open-source implementation of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), a standard protocol used for accessing directory-service data. In addition to LDAP, Open Directory includes plug-ins for several other directory types, including Active Directory, and NIS.

While LDAP was used in Mac OS X Server v10.3 and v10.4 for its shared database, earlier versions of Mac OS X and Mac OS X Server used the NetInfo directory service for local directory services. Starting with Mac OS X v10.5, NetInfo has been replaced with flat files. This structure, coupled with the Directory Utility application and the Kerberos utility, comprise the bulk of Open Directory on Mac OS X.

Open Directory acts as an intermediary between directories (which store information about users and resources) and the application and system software processes that want to use the information. Open Directory leverages other open-source technologies, such as Kerberos and LDAP, and combines them with powerful server administration tools to deliver robust directory and authentication services that are easy to set up and manage. Because there are no per-seat or per-user license fees, Open Directory can scale to the needs of an organization without adding high costs to an IT budget. Administrators can deploy Open Directory configuration information automatically using DHCP or manually using the Directory Access application at the computer.

By default, Mac OS X computers request network configuration information, including LDAP configuration, from a DHCP server. If the DHCP and LDAP servers are set up correctly, the client automatically gets access to network resources, including user authentication services, network home folders, share points, and preferences.

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