Saturday, May 10, 2008

The COBOLization of LDAP

In a panel discussion at the recent European Identity Conference I referred to LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) as "The COBOL of Identity." It came amidst a discussion of future identity-sharing protocols and was intended as 1) a cheap laugh; and 2) as a short, memorable way of saying that LDAP would always be with us.

I mentioned it again in a newsletter about the show ("Building an Identity Bus, Part 2") which has now been misread by a couple of people, so let me set the record straight.

Jeff Bohren writes: "That’s cute, but not terribly accurate. COBOL has had competing languages almost from the very beginning. If you chose to use COBOL, you did so because you felt it met your requirements better than the other existing alternatives. So Dave, what is the alternative to LDAP today? What will it be in 5 years?" That was the point, Jeff - that, like COBOL, LDAP will always be with us.

Clayton Donley opines:
"There's no pressing need to get rid of LDAP in existing applications. None at all. It works. The applications support it and will continue to support it indefinitely.
Even in next-generation application I see LDAP support being integrated -- hardly what I see of COBOL ...
What does this say about any future identity services?
They must support LDAP-enabled applications.
Does this mean that they will only support LDAP? No."


It does seem that when a bold thought is made as an pithy, somewhat humorous statement that it's seen as some how denigrating the subject. so let me say it once again -

Like COBOL, LDAP is so deeply ingrained in our computing arsenal that it can never be entirely replaced.

Now since one is a programming language while the other is a protocol the analogy will break down upon close inspection. But I will stand by it.


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