Calendra unveils LDAP app dev tools

In an attempt to streamline LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) database access, French content management vendor Calendra on Tuesday released Version 3.0 of its Directory Manager solution.

Directory Manager 3.0 comes with a graphical interface that lets developers create LDAP applications for end-users, much like Visual Basic, according to Kregg Ray, vice president of Calendra's OEM sales group.

A rights management feature lets enterprises grant access permissions. Moreover, because the Calendra applications are easy to use and require no knowledge of the underlying protocol, end-users will be motivated to keep directory information up-to-date, Ray said.

"We call it 'delegated administration'," he explained. "It moves the responsibility for maintaining content into the hands of users, rather than a centralized IT function."

The solution also has Web services functionality: Directory Manager can be invoked, in XML form, via SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol). In this way, small parts of directory functionality can be embedded in other applications that were not originally written as directory applications.

Directory Manager 3.0 is a Java-based application server that runs on servlet engines from major vendors, including WebLogic, WebSphere, BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp., and Oracle Corp. The product also ships with the Tomcat open-source servlet engine. Development is purely visual, requiring no code, said Gregoire Michel, Calendra's chief marketing officer.

"All the technical parts of the job are pre-done in the product, which saves a lot of time for users who want to develop applications," Michel said.

Many analysts think Calendra's solution fills a gap in enterprise database technology. Users have long been hampered by a lack of tools for creating directory applications, said Dan Blum, an analyst with the Burton Group research firm in Midvale, Utah.

"Lots of customers are deploying directories today, and it's not trivial to write your own LDAP applications," Blum said. "You want to get the user base to employ the directory to increase its usefulness and really leverage it. So having a facility to develop applications that unleash the power of the aggregated data can be pretty valuable. There's value in having the right hand knowing what the left hand is doing, so the easier it is to write applications that look at the directory, the better."

"Access to directories today is not very straightforward at all," Ray agreed. "There's a lot of mission-critical strategic data that's stored in directories that allow access to resources, like applications and people within the enterprise who are being contacted from outside.

"Today, LDAP is in the state that relational databases were in 15 years ago," he noted. "The only access method you had [to relational databases] was SQL, so you had to hire people with those skills. The same thing is true with LDAP. LDAP queries have a very specific syntax, and you have to understand the APIs. It's very complex work."

Blum was particularly impressed with Calendra's Web services features.

"Once you've deployed a directory in a particular data model, it's not all that flexible," Blum said. "You live with the consequences of whatever name space structure you set up, and you need to be careful about messing with access controls. It's useful to have a layer in between that lets you manipulate the data in different ways without changing the production directory."

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