Newbie questions about LDAP

Stephen Allen freebsduk at
Thu Jun 22 00:11:06 BST 2006

Please accept my apologies if my newbie-ness is annoying...

I sort of know what LDAP does (in a very limited way) but before 
installing it on my test FreeBSD box (my learning box!) I'm trying to 
understand it.  I've done some reading but not really found the answers 
I need, either because of the author's prior assumptions or my prior 

I know you Active Directory uses LDAP for dishing out AD stuff.
I know many places use LDAP for dealing with email address books.

My conceptions were that LDAP is simply a protocol for accessing a 
database of some sort, that database could store anything, not just user 
account information.  Also, I think I read that you need only specify a 
skeleton dataset for LDAP and you could store whatever you liked.

Most of the articles only mention LDAP as a way of retrieving user 
account information and it's now confused me.

If I install an LDAP server of some sort, could I configure it to store, 
let's say... "name, address, email address, telephone" then configure it 
also to store another dataset, for example... "part number, price, 
quantity" without having 2 separate databases lying around?

Or have I got it wrong again... is LDAP just a method of accessing 
normal database backends?  I just can't seem to find explanations (in 
easy English) how it all fits together.

Can anybody help please?

Many thanks,
Steve :)

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