Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Virtual Directory pros and cons

Virtual Directory is a concept in which application/product providing this functionality does not store any data. It is just a representation of the global data spreaded across an organization into a single place. These products can aggregate the data from directory servers, databases, data coming from applications over web service interface etc. Data coming from the Databases can also be exposed over an LDAP interface.

Main feature is to get the data and provide the consolidated data to the end application. Advantage of this is to reduce the calls to individual systems if they are storing different set of data. For example if Directory Server has user information and Database stores the role information then a common view can be exposed to the end application via which end application can have access to the whole data in one request. Applications don't need to make individual calls to different repositories to get the data.

Keep in mind that Virtual Directories does not store any data on it's own and it does not update data change from one system to the other system. There job is just to gather all the data under one roof for easy access to the applications.

Another advantage of Virtual directory could be to restrict the access to the data. If you give control of the organization directory server to an application then you can not restrict the application to read only first and last name of the person. If application has the access it has access to all the attributes. With Virtual Directory you can restrict access to the data you want application to see.

Interface: Virtual Directory products expose there propritory API's which applications can use to have access to the systems. Since Virtual directories does not store information locally there could be performance issues getting the data from the backend repositories.
Caching problem: If someone says that to overcome the performance issue we can cache the data locally at the virual directory then next question would be how to synch the data which is updated at the backend repository by another application?

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