Open-sourcing eDirectory?

The topic of open-sourcing eDirectory comes up every so often. The answer is always the same, it can't be done. Novell NDS and the eDirectory that followed it uses technology licensed from RSA, and RSA will not allow their code to be open-sourced. And that's it.

However... it isn't the RSA technology that allows eDirectory to scale as far as it does. To the best of my knowledge, that's pure Novell IP, based on close to 20 years of distributed directory experience. The RSA stuff is used in the password process, specifically the NDS Password, as well as authenticating eDirectory servers to the tree and each other. The RSA code is a key glue to holding the directory together.

If Novell really wanted to, they could produce another directory that scales as far as eDirectory does. This directory would be fundamentally incompatible with eDir because it would have to be made without any RSA code, which eDirectory requires. This hypothetical open-source directory could scale as far as eDir does, but would have to use a security process that is also open-source.

This would take a lot of engineering on the part of Novell. The RSA stuff has been central to both NDS and eDir for all of those close to 20 years, and the dependency tree is probably very large. The RSA code even is involved in the NCP protocol that eDir uses to talk with other eDir servers, so a new network protocol would probably have to be created from scratch. At the pace Novell is developing software these days, this project would probably take 2-3 years.

Since it would take a lot of developer time, I don't see Novell creating an open-source eDir-clone any time soon. Too much effort for what'll essentially be a good-will move with little revenue generating potential. That's capitalism for you.


The FLAIM db engine has already been open sourced, which codebase is a pretty interesting read:

Maybe rather than opensourcing eDir, they just improve openLDAP to scale just as well?

you're right, nothing scales like eDir does. Add in the fact that it's pretty reliable at self a eDir problem? wait a while....that's the mantra above my desk. Every time I've tried to chase down an issue, it's disappeared.