Issue #8 June 2005

Now open: Red Hat® Directory Server and Fedora™ Directory Server

On June 1, 2005 Red Hat announced the release of the Fedora Directory Server and Red Hat Directory Server. These announcements are the first result of over two years of effort planning the extension of the Open Source Architecture into the area of identity management, providing technologies which are the foundation of all efficient enterprises.

What is it?

Directory servers are the switchboard of information for any organization. They provide a highly flexible, high-performance infrastructure for connecting the right users with the right resources and data. Every time a user logs into a system or application they are getting access to either resources (such as printers and file storage), data (such as account balances), or functions (such as the ability to update account information), all of which are best enabled by directory servers. Enabling efficient control of users and resources will make an organization more responsive to business requirements but also provide an exceptionally strong platform for ensuring compliance with an ever-increasing number of government and industry regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12.

Under the leadership of the open source community and Red Hat, we intend on helping enterprises achieve the most scalable secure identity management foundation possible.

Why did we do this?

  1. There are strong needs today

    With the significantly expanded number of Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® deployments and immense community activity in the Fedora Core project, we've noted an increased need from both our customers and the community to have a scalable, integrated, open source technology to manage the users and the resources accessed through a Linux infrastructure.

    Additionally, consolidation of user and resource information for both efficiency of management as well as compliance and auditing requirements are driving significant investment today. The release of directory servers from Red Hat provides a platform for ensuring that businesses meet these requirements efficiently.

  2. Tomorrow's promises

    Identity management is a rapidly growing field, with an estimated US$14-16B being spent annually to manage identities and security. Directory servers are the foundation of higher levels solutions such as single sign on and user Provisioning. Today these solutions are plagued by competing standards and proprietary implementations, yet with Red Hat's commitment to the Fedora Project we encourage and anticipate rapid evolution in both the technology but also the adoption of LDAP as the platform for strong identity management.

To accomplish both of these, we have created both an open source project, Fedora Directory Server as well as a supported subscription offering, Red Hat Directory Server.

Fedora Directory Server is a Red Hat-sponsored, community-supported technology project under the umbrella Fedora Project, which will provide a development platform for future extensions. Any community member can get access to both the code and the binaries and work with the technology either to evaluate or extend the project.

Red Hat Directory Server is the enterprise-tested, supported offering from Red Hat. As customers are looking to deploy a supported, scalable, integrated identity store, we encourage them to deploy Red Hat Directory Server.

While initially the technologies included in Fedora Directory Server and Red Hat Directory Server will be the very similar—with time, as we have seen with Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, we will see more rapid evolution and integration of technologies into the Fedora Directory Server. We will evaluate the technologies introduced in Fedora Directory Server and where appropriate for enterprise, mission-critical deployments, we will test and integrate those technologies into our Red Hat Directory Server offering.

We've already seen significant community involvement. Since releasing the Fedora Directory Server on June 1, 2005, within hours there were thousands of downloads and there have already been plug-ins created by the community for integration with additional protocols that were previously unsupported and work on additional documentation. This rapid extension, coupled with the burgeoning features going into the underlying Linux platform such as native virtualization and potential integration with identity management, are clear testaments to the value of having an open source development model.

Why are these technologies so important?

The technologies Red Hat open sourced and which are now offered as solutions within the Open Source Architecture have a long history dating back to the initial development of directory technologies. In 1996 Netscape hired the inventor of LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol—the language used by the switchboard), Tim Howes and his colleagues including Mark Smith and Gordon Good from the University of Michigan created the initial release of the Netscape Directory Server. In 1999 America Online acquired Netscape and formed the iPlanet Alliance with Sun to jointly develop Netscape servers including the Directory Server. From 1999 to 2001 the Netscape Directory Server team worked with Sun's Directory Server team and later the Innosoft Directory Server (IDDS) team in Santa Clara, CA, Austin, TX, and Grenoble, France on Directory Server and related products such as Meta Directory and Directory Access Router. This relationship resulted in the extended scalability that is important for organizations or applications managing millions of identities within the Directory Server. The iPlanet alliance ended in October 2001 and until 2004 the Netscape Directory Server, again as a division of America Online, invested significant development effort in performance and advanced technologies such as multi-master replication. In December 2004, the Netscape Directory Server was acquired by Red Hat.

Throughout this history, you'll note a strong focus on scalability and performance under a proprietary development model—Red Hat has now open sourced what is readily recognized as the most scalable and widely deployed LDAP server technology in the world.

Red Hat's focus will be continuing the themes of scalable identity management and building a platform, both in the open source community as well as for our enterprise customers, for the most secure identity and security management possible in the industry.

Further reading