faqs.org - Internet FAQ Archives

RFC 1107 - Plan for Internet directory services


Or Display the document by number




Network Working Group                                         K. Sollins
Request for Comments:  1107       M.I.T. Laboratory for Computer Science
                                                               July 1989

                 A Plan for Internet Directory Services

                           Table of Contents

   1. Introduction                                                  1
        1.1. The Issues                                             1
        1.2. Project Summary                                        3
   2. Goals and Requirements for a White Pages Service              6
   3. Pre-existing Services                                         9
   4. Proposed Approach                                            11
        4.1. Stage 1: The Field Test                               12
        4.2. Stage 2: Implementation                               17
        4.3. Stage 3: Deployment                                   17
   5. Conclusion                                                   18

Status of this Memo

   This memo proposes a program to develop a directory service for the
   Internet.  It reports the results of a meeting held in February 1989,
   which was convened to review requirements and options for such a
   service.  This proposal is offered for comment, and does not
   represent a committed research activity of the Internet community.
   Activity in this area is anticipated, and comments should be provided
   promptly.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

1. Introduction

1.1. The Issues

   As part of the planned growth of the Internet (in particular, in
   support of the full science research community in the U.S.), an
   increasing need is anticipated for various sorts of directory
   services.  The increase in the size of the community served by the
   Internet and the burgeoning demands for electronic mail lead to the
   need for a service to find people's computer mailboxes and other
   relevant facts, a so-called "White Pages" service.  At the user level
   to date, there have been no such national or international white
   pages services in general use.  As part of building the National
   Research Network (NRN), it is important that such a service exist,
   not only within the NRN community, but also crossing the boundaries
   from the NRN to the more global network community.  This will enhance
   communication not only among computer scientists, but also among

   scientists and engineers in other fields as well.  Also important and
   related is a so-called "Yellow Pages" service, which permits the
   location of Internet resources based on their attributes.

   A "White Pages" service is one in which one can look up people in
   order to learn information about them for finding them.  In its
   simplest form, a white pages service provides what the white pages
   telephone book provides.  Based on a name, one can find an address
   and a telephone number.  In a network environment, there may be many
   other kinds of location information, such as electronic mailbox,
   electronic calendar, or file server, where one might leave a file for
   the recipient.  In addition, the electronic white pages may support a
   much more sophisticated set of mechanisms for lookup.  One might
   match on a more complex set of attributes than first and last name.
   In addition, the searching might span more than one local white pages
   service.  There are a number of naming and directory service
   specifications and implementations in the field.  They have differing
   functionality and mechanisms to address that functionality.

   Within the the world of networking today, there are a number of
   partial solutions to the directory service problem.  Examples of
   these are the Internet Domain Naming Service (DNS), Clearinghouse,
   DECnet Network Architecture Naming Service (DNANS), Profile, and
   X.500.  The Domain Naming Service provides a directory service most
   commonly used for host naming and mail delivery.  Clearinghouse and
   DNANS are respectively the Xerox and DEC corporate naming services,
   originally for mail delivery, although having other uses as well, in
   both cases.  Profile is part of the work of Larry Peterson to explore
   descriptive naming in a non-hierarchical structure.

   There is a CCITT recommendation X.500 (ISO DIS 9594), which defines a
   general directory service.  One of its primary goals is the naming
   service needed for message handling (X.400).  While X.500 is still
   developing, and would need further evolution to cover all the
   requirements of a service for the Internet, it will have an important
   impact on the Internet community.  It will form the basis of
   commercial products, and it will almost certainly be the directory
   service of many parts of the network world, which implies a need to
   interoperate at a minimum.  There is some concern that despite the
   fact that X.500 is a recognized standard, there are a number of gaps
   and limitations of the approach, that in turn will cause it to be
   inadequate for the needs of the NRN.

   In this context, a meeting was held to review current requirements
   and solutions for directory services.  This RFC reports the results
   of that meeting, including the possibilities for a program of work in
   this area.

   For two days, a group representing academic, commercial, and
   government interests in directory services discussed both alternative
   candidates for a white pages service and the issues in building any
   such service.  The meeting was kept small by inviting only a small
   number of representatives of each perspective.  By the conclusion of
   the second day, a consensus was reached on how one could achieve a
   white pages service in three years.  This is summarized in the next
   section.

1.2. Project Summary

   The consensus of the meeting can be summarized in the following five
   points:

      1. The standards and implementations are close enough to being
         complete that it is reasonable to undertake provision of an NRN
         "White Pages" service.

      2. Although we are close, an effort is needed to experiment with
         different levels of service, to flesh out the standards, and to
         develop code.

      3. An initial evaluation experiment is needed before making final
         detailed plans for a production version of the service.

      4. With strong funding and encouragement, a production service is
         possible in three years.

      5. It is important to act now to provide a coherent solution.
         This means both having an impact on the evolving standards
         and providing a unified, wide-spread solution before a plethora
         of differing solutions appear.

   Although it has clearcut drawbacks, X.500 was identified as the most
   likely candidate directory service.  The reasons for this are that it
   has rich semantics and is becoming the accepted international
   standard.  However, there are problems with its incompleteness and
   with its strict hierarchy.  Therefore, in order to explore these and
   become convinced of its viability, the consensus at the meeting was
   to propose field trials, as the project's first stage.  The field
   trials would be limited in the user community, perhaps restricted to
   computer science departments because of their familiarity with the
   problems, and would be based on experimental or new software.  They
   would include experiments with at least an X.500 implementation,
   Profile, and DNANS.  Each of these services has strong points that
   must be considered as part of the evaluation.  They are:

      X.500:  International standard, hierarchy, search rules and
              filters for searching attributed based names.

      Profile:  Descriptive naming with a richer semantics for
                describing search criteria, an arbitrary network
                of servers.

      DNANS:  Access control, replication, caching, hierarchy.

   In summary, the plan would fall into three stages as follows:

      - Stage 1:  Field Trials.

         There are two aspects to the field trials.  The first is to
         explore several different architectures for a white pages
         service.  To this end, implementations of X.500, Profile, and
         DNANS should be included.  The second aspect of the field
         trials is to distinguish issues inherent in the X.500
         specification from artifacts of a particular implementation of
         it.  Therefore, if possible, two implementations of X.500
         should be included.  Only one such implementation, Quipu, was
         identified as developed enough to be included in a field trial
         at present, but others are under way, and will follow.  This
         stage must also include a careful and objective review of the
         field trials.

      - Stage 2:  Implementation.

         This stage will include work on both the service and user
         interfaces.  The field trials could result in one of a variety
         of conclusions about the service.  These may range from
         concluding that one or another of the services suits the needs
         of the NRN to proposing a compromise position based on a
         combination of shortcomings of any one service and the features
         of others to address those shortcomings.  Because X.500 will
         become the standard in other domains, an interface to X.500
         will be necessary.  Since all of these implementations are
         still under development, in order to provide production quality
         code, more implementation work will be needed.

         Although some work will have been done on the user interfaces,
         much more will be needed in this stage to provide a variety of
         interfaces.  Much emphasis should be placed on this in Stage 2.

      - Stage 3:  Deployment.

         Deployment of the full white pages service requires information
         gathering in order to fill the directory service, placement of

         servers, distribution of and training for use of client code,
         placement and management of services, and delegation of
         authority within the service for authority over the contents.
         Data collection and some delegation of authority as well as
         training for users of the client code would begin during the
         field trial.  This stage would begin concurrently with the
         other two.  During the second year, detailed planning for
         deployment must take place.  This stage would conclude in three
         years, at which time widespread deployment would have occurred.

   In order to undertake this three stage program effectively, the group
   identified the following major projects:

      - Further implementation of code for the field trials.

         In each case (e.g., Quipu, Profile, and DNANS), programs exist,
         although modifications are likely to be necessary.  For
         example, each will need to be modified to utilize the common
         file format into which the input data about users will be
         gathered.

      - Design, development and evaluation of user interfaces.

      - Design and development of data gathering and management tools.

      - Oversight and evaluation of the field trials.

         Careful thought and planning must go into the field trials, to
         guarantee that we learn what is needed to make an evaluation
         and to plan for the white pages service.  The evaluation must
         also produce a document that is both a general specification
         (assuming no one alternative is chosen wholesale) and profiling
         information, in order for later interoperability and
         conformance testing.

      - Detailed planning and later management of deployment.

         This includes delegation of authority over parts of the
         namespace and arbitrating the shape of the namespace
         (addressing the questions about who gets what sorts of names).
         This is in addition to the continued and extended data
         collection and management, distributing the data, placing the
         code, documentation and user education.

      - Standards participation is an important part of the program.

         It is critical as X.500 changes during the next 4 year study
         period that the United States take a strong stand on any

         changes we envision.  It is encumbant on us to utilize
         effectively the results of the largest field trials of this
         work in the international arena.  The group agreed that this
         could take up to one half of one person's time in a year.

      - A task force or working group is necessary to provide a forum
        for communication and discussion.

   It is important to pursue this path now, both to architect a unified
   solution before a collection of ad hoc solutions is deployed, and to
   provide effective input into the X.500 standards work based on the
   field trials.

2. Goals and Requirements for a White Pages Service

   The requirements of a white pages service are the following:

      - Functionality:

         The simple form of a white pages service is straightforward;
         one should be able to query the service with the name of a
         person, and have returned attributes of the person such as
         network mail address and phone number.

      - Correctness of information:

         The information in a white pages service is useless and
         untrusted if it is not updated regularly.  A white pages
         service will not be used, if the information it provides is out
         of date or incorrect.  This will require a set of management
         tools.  Data integrity is an especially difficult challenge in
         this area, in contrast with information that is syntactically
         correct.

      - Size:

         The science and research community has been estimated at ten
         million users.  The number of organizations in the United
         States is on the order of ten to one hundred thousand.

      - Usage and query rate:

         In comparison with the typical telephone book pattern of about
         one lookup a week per person, users of electronic mail in the
         science and research community will send more electronic mail
         messages than they currently make phone calls, leading to an
         estimate of ten searches a week per user for electronic as well
         as paper mail and telephone information.  This leads to a query

         rate of 10**8 queries per week or 170 per second on average,
         with much higher peak rates.  The average could probably be
         handled by a single server, but not the peak rates and this
         would leave little room for growth.  Therefore, a distributed,
         multiple server solution is the only one that make sense.

      - Response time:

         The issue of overall query behavior must be considered
         carefully.  The issue arises when queries, in particular
         searches, are not limited to tightly constrained sets of
         entries.  Since the number of queries generated will be
         proportional to the number of users (and the size of the
         system), the white pages design must avoid costs per query that
         are related to the size of the system.  The consequence,
         otherwise, will be quadratic behavior in response time.

         The response time of the service must also reflect the expected
         usage.  A phone book style query must respond in the waiting
         time tolerable to a user, perhaps ten seconds maximum, or one
         second desirable.  If the service is incorporated as a
         component of a larger service, then the needs of that service
         determine the response time.

      - Partitioned Authority:

         The white pages service under discussion would be used by a
         wide variety of organizations, ranging from small and large
         companies, to network service providers, to government
         agencies.  Many of these would find it unacceptable to delegate
         the authority over their namespaces to some other organization.
         Therefore, partitioned authority including some access control,
         name assignment, and information management must be possible.

      - Access Control:

         The access control required by the white pages falls into two
         categories, read access control, and write or modify access
         control.  There are at least two reasons that read access
         control must be available.  One is that organizations may
         require limiting the access to the actual entries or parts of
         them.  This would be comparable to organizations not being
         willing to distribute their corporate phone books or personnel
         records.  The other reason is that some organizations do not
         want to publicize or make public their organizational
         structure.  Write and modify access control is necessary
         because both individuals and organizations may want to prevent
         inadvertent or malicious creation or modification of

         information.  Access control is an issue for both organizations
         wanting to retain local control of personnel information and
         individuals wanting to control access to private information
         about themselves.

      - Multiple Transport Protocol Support:

         Within the next three years, one cannot expect all the
         organizations in the USA to convert to the OSI protocols.  On
         the other hand, some will.  It is therefore important that any
         white pages service provide interfaces on top of both OSI
         protocols and TCP/IP.  There currently exists a partial OSI
         suite know as ISODE on top of TCP.  This is being distributed
         widely enough that perhaps this should also be supported.

   In addition to these requirements, there are a number of features
   that would make a white pages service more useful.  These are:

      - Additional Functionality:

         Descriptive naming with sophisticated searching based on
         attributes would support a more flexible human interface than
         simple name translation.  Descriptive naming also would support
         a general yellow pages style service.

         The form of a yellow pages service is less certain.  One
         definition of a yellow pages service is a directory that stores
         a number of pre-computed inversions of the directory database,
         so that entries can be retrieved very efficiently using these
         predetermined attributes of the data.  Another definition of a
         yellow pages service is one that provides a very powerful set
         of search primitives, somewhat in common with a relational
         query language, to support retrieval of entries that match
         complex attribute conditions.  In other words, one view of a
         yellow pages service is that it is constructed to avoid
         expensive searches, the other is that it is to facilitate
         general searches.

      - Accountability:

         Accountability is important both for allocation and recovery of
         costs.  Vendors may provide commercial directory services,
         therefore depending on accounting as part of their successful
         commercial ventures.

      - Multiple Interfaces:

         There should be both human and programming interfaces to the

         white pages.  For example, in addition to human lookups, mail
         services could effectively use a naming service allow users to
         include human oriented names than the current electronic mail
         addresses that are required, such as full domain names.

      - Multiple Clients:

         Several different clients should exist both to provide for a
         variety of styles of human usage, and to support selection of
         the most commonly used computer environments (e.g., UNIX, VMS,
         MSDOS, OS2, MAC/OS).

3. Pre-existing Services

   This section identifies other naming services that have been proposed
   or implemented for naming people.  Implementations of all of these
   exist, although some are still only experimental.

      Internet Domain Naming Service

         The Internet Domain Name Service [6,1] is used today to name
         host machines.  It is implemented to address the query rates
         and database sizes consistent with looking up hosts as part of
         mail delivery.  It provides a hierarchy with delegation of
         authority within the hierarchy.  Aliases are also available.
         There is no access control, and the service is widely
         distributed throughout the Internet.  It supports management of
         distribution, replication and caching.  It is operational, and
         provides a rich base of practical experience.  It was
         originally intended to be extensible to cover naming of people.
         It runs on a variety of different operating systems and
         utilizes the TCP/IP protocol suite.

      The DECnet Network Architecture Naming Service (DNANS)

         There is a rather well developed specification [5,3] for a
         naming service that is part of the DECnet architecture, which
         in turn arose from work at the DEC SRC in Palo Alto.  This
         architecture addresses some problems not yet covered by X.500,
         such as access control, replication, and caching.  It was
         explicitly defined to have great scalability and management
         features.  It provides a global hierarchy of names, which are
         mapped into properties.  Therefore, operations of searching
         based on properties or attributes may be expensive and
         difficult.  At present it is only implemented on VMS using the
         DNA protocols, but will be moved to UNIX and TCP in the next
         year.

      Clearinghouse

         This service [7,2] is part of the Xerox network environment.
         It operates today as a global service for Xerox.  They have
         considerable experience with its operation, including problems
         of scale.  Clearinghouse provides a three-level hierarchy of
         names that are mapped to sets of properties.  Loose consistency
         is provided through slow propagation of updates.  Both this
         service and the DEC service mentioned above are to some extent
         based on an earlier Xerox service called Grapevine.

      Profile

         A project at the University of Arizona run by Larry Peterson
         [8] has produced a white pages name service called Profile.  It
         supports descriptive naming and sophisticated lookup tools.
         Profile assumes the existence of some other service such as the
         DNS to navigate among Profile servers.  This navigation service
         need not restrict the relationship among Profile servers to a
         hierarchical organization; Profile supports a non-hierarchical
         global structure.  Names in Profile consist of sets of
         attributes.  Experimental implementations are in operation
         today, and the largest site currently contains about 10,000
         entries.  The Profile code has been available for long enough
         that it has become stable.  The implementation is UNIX-based
         only and uses TCP.

      X.500

         X.500 is the CCITT recommendation (also ISO/IEC/DIS 9594) [4]
         for a directory service.  Because it is a CCITT recommendation,
         it evolves in four year study periods, one of which has
         recently come to a close.  Thus, X.500 has a stable definition
         for the next four years.

         In X.500, the set of all objects forms a single hierarchy, with
         each object being named relative to its parent and a single
         root as the topmost parent.  An object consists of a set of
         attributes.  Searching can be done by use of a logical
         combination of attribute values, known as a filter.  A subset
         of these attributes comprise an object's distinguished name
         relative to its parent.  The hierarchy as described in the
         CCITT recommendation is geographic at its top level and
         organizational within that.  Alternatives can also be defined,
         although they are not part of the CCITT or ISO documents.  In
         addition, there is no proposed mechanisms for distributing
         information about other attribute types or object classes.  As
         with the other services, X.500 is a distributed service.  It

         specifies cooperating servers or Directory Server Agents (DSAs)
         under local control and management each of which knows about
         one or more parts of the hierarchy.  The clients are known as
         Directory User Agents (DUAs).  It is defined to run on top of
         the OSI protocol stack.  The demonstrations of X.500 in the
         context of Internet run on top of the ISODE package, which
         provides OSI transport on top of TCP.

         X.500 is incomplete in that there are a number of identifiable
         areas in which the standard says nothing, but that need to be
         specified for a successful implementation.  Some examples of
         these are: access control (although authentication is
         supported), replication, caching, the database itself (the
         shape of the hierarchy), tools to limit the scope and cost of
         searching, and database management tools.

         There are currently a small number of implementations of X.500
         in progress at such locations as University College London (the
         Quipu project, on UNIX using ISODE), the University of British
         Columbia (UNIX based using their own full OSI suite), MIT
         (experimental, Symbolics Lisp Machine based, Lisp using TCP),
         The Wollongong Group (offshoot of Quipu), The Retix
         Corporation, NIST, and at least several underway in Italy and
         Japan.  There are probably others and a number of other
         American corporations have discussed building their own.  Each
         of these must make its own decision in the areas in which X.500
         is silent.  Quipu is probably the most complete implementation
         of X.500 to date.  The pilot version has about 20 DUAs in seven
         countries with an estimated 20,000 entries total.

4. Proposed Approach

   The conclusion of this report is that some form of X.500 is the most
   likely candidate.  The reasons for this decision are that it has a
   rich semantics and will become the international de facto standard.
   There are, however, serious problems with its incompleteness and with
   its strict hierarchy.  Therefore, in order to explore these and
   become convinced of its viability, the attendees at the meeting
   agreed on field trials, as a first stage.  Initially, this would
   include experiments with at least one X.500 implementation (Quipu),
   Profile to explore a non-hierarchical structure and richer
   descriptive naming, and DNANS in order to explore some of the
   incomplete aspects of X.500 for which DNANS has architected
   solutions.

   A three-stage plan, with all three stages beginning coincidentally
   and as soon as possible, would provide such a service within the NRN.
   The first stage should be complete in a year, the second in two, and

   the third in three.  Stage 1 would be field trials of three
   approaches to naming with an emphasis on distinguishing between the
   specification and a particular implementation of X.500, as well.
   Stage 2 would be a more complete implementation of a white pages
   service base on the conclusions from Stage 1.  Stage 3 would be
   widespread deployment of the implementation developed in Stage 2.
   The planning for Stage 3 is not outlined here in detail, because that
   plan would be part of the proposed work to be done.  If the field
   trials were to lead to the conclusion that none of the services is
   adequate, the plan for the remainder of the work would need to be
   rescheduled.

   If the Internet community is to adopt X.500 (or any other standard),
   it is necessary to make a number of design and management decisions,
   above and beyond the implementation decisions for the DSA.  Since
   there are a number of such decisions to be resolved, and some of
   these are significant, the group recommended that this planning and
   management function should be recognized as a distinct activity.

4.1. Stage 1: The Field Test

   It was agreed that field trials would be a valuable form in which to
   explore the issues of building a white pages service for two reasons.
   First, the software is still in early stages of development or
   deployment.  Some of it is production code, but still first release;
   the rest is part of research projects.  Second, it is important to
   learn from experience with a limited and sympathetic community.  The
   suggested community was the computer science community, in
   particular, computer science departments.  That will not be the case
   completely, since the computer science community in general does not
   use DECnet.  Therefore, for experiments with the DNANS, the NASA/DOE
   community was recommended.  They will be using DNANS in any case, as
   they move to DECnet Phase V.

   The twofold purpose of the field trials is to explore differing
   directory service architectures and to refine the study of X.500
   specifically, to distinguish architectural aspects of it from
   features of a particular implementation of X.500.  Initially, the
   trials would include the Quipu implementation of X.500, Profile, and
   the DNANS.  A second implementation of X.500 should be identified and
   included as soon as possible.  Part of the emphasis of the field
   trials would be on gathering and maintenance of naming information.
   To ease this, a single common file format for storage of and access
   to the naming information and use of a single set of data management
   tools was recommended, although no particular set was identified.
   The various directory services would need to be retrofitted to this
   file format.  Such consistency in file format would mean that the
   services could all be co-resident, sharing files, thus permitting

   single locations to participate in several parts of the field trials.
   This, in turn, would allow for direct comparisons.

   There are a number of issues, which are not addressed in X.500, that
   would need to be resolved for a large scale deployment such as a
   white pages for the NRN.  In particular, these are: clients of the
   service; data collection and maintenance; distribution, replication
   and caching of information; access control, accountability, and
   information integrity; and support by non-OSI protocols.  Each of the
   name services included in the field trials would include decisions in
   these areas, albeit different ones.  The field trials will allow for
   evaluation of these different mechanisms.

   There are two other major issues that must also be addressed:
   functionality and size.  Functionality encompasses both the first
   point of the nature of the interfaces to the service as well as the
   structure of the namespace (e.g., hierarchy).  A discussion of size
   must include not only the number of entries handled by the service as
   a whole, but how those entries are distributed and the query and
   update patterns.

   In general, all of these issues are tightly coupled, but are
   separated here for the purposes of understanding the field trials and
   its potential effectiveness.  They would also be the issues that
   would be the basis for the work done in Stage 2 of the project.

      - Functionality:

         X.500 and DNANS make strong statements about the organization
         of the namespace.  In both cases, it is a single, absolute
         hierarchy with soft links or aliases and attribute-based naming
         useful both in searches of subtrees of the hierarchy and for
         storing information about the objects in the hierarchy.  The
         searches are based on logical combinations of attribute values.
         Quipu implements the naming structure and search functionality
         as specified in X.500.  In contrast, Profile, provides a more
         general facility that supports any form of relative names, not
         just hierarchical, and a small programming language to express
         the functions for searching.  By including Profile in the field
         trials, these more general facilities can be tested.

         X.500 specifies that the service is separated into two parts
         for implementation of the service, known as the Directory
         Service Agent (DSA), and the client, known as the Directory
         User Agent (DUA).  DUAs can be implemented independently of the
         implementation of the white pages service.  Quipu, Profile, and
         DNANS have taken different approaches to the presentation model
         for DUAs, so the three implementations will allow for

         additional experience.

      - Size:

         As discussed earlier, a white pages service must be prepared to
         handle a minimum of 10**7 entries, although they may be
         distributed, and a query rate of hundreds per second.  It must
         also be prepared to handle much higher peak rates.  If the
         address lookup that is presently provided by the DNS is also
         supported by the white pages service, the query rate will be
         much higher.  The designers of the field trials must determine
         whether or not such usage will be part of the final service and
         therefore must be examined in the field trials.  If so, caching
         may be part of the solution.  In addition, the response time
         for DUAs must be reasonable for a human sitting at a console.
         Furthermore, modifications to the data should occur in
         reasonably short periods of time, although this could be
         measured in hours.

         The field trials must allow for experimentation under such
         stressful conditions.  The environment for testing must have
         both large and small nodes, as well as both heavy and light
         load querying and situations in which reorganization can be
         tested.  Such reorganization may be a simple as moving one
         piece of the hierarchy to another point and handling naming
         conflicts in the new environment.  X.500 does not address this
         issue, but it will be needed by the NRN.

      - Distribution, replication, and caching:

         These are areas in which X.500 has very little to say, but a
         great deal of work has been done in other distributed, network
         naming services, in particular both the DNS and DNANS.  There
         seems to be general agreement that distribution of naming
         services should be done on the basis of nodes in the naming
         structure, which also provide the basis for administrative
         partitioning.  All the naming services described here support
         distribution, partitioning of the information for placement on
         cooperating servers.  Neither X.500 (and therefore Quipu) nor
         Profile is prepared to redistribute portions of the namespace,
         for reallocation of administrative responsibilities or load
         balancing, although this should be possible and DNANS is
         prepared to do so.  Replication is necessary for accessibility
         in a large-scale or global namespace, although again X.500 does
         not address this issue.  Quipu has taken a stand on this, by
         defining master and slave copies of the data; it is similar to,
         but not the same as, the approach taken in the DNS.  Caching is
         barely touched on in X.500 and not at all in Profile, but our

         experience with the DNS indicates that caching is critical to
         effective operation of a distributed name service.  The DNANS
         has an architected solution based on objects in the namespace
         as the unit of distribution and replication.  Again, the DNANS
         solution should be explored in the field test environment.

      - Access control, accountability, and integrity:

         Access control and accountability require some degree of
         authentication.  X.500 supports authentication based on using
         an RSA public key algorithm, but does not address issues of
         universal registration, nor issues of access control or
         accountability themselves.  These are left as a local issue,
         although depending on the design of the system, they may have
         global implications.  The problem of integrity of the
         information in the name service is nowhere addressed.  Profile
         also does not address these issues, although it uses
         authentication based on UNIX authentication, involving user ids
         and passwords.  DNANS takes a strong stand on access control,
         architecting it in at the level of individual entries.  Field
         trials will force these issues out into the open.

      - Structure of the naming tree:

         In the deployment of the DNS, about one year was lost to
         arguments about the actual structure of the naming hierarchy.
         People form strong opinions about their name, and fight for or
         against certain hierarchical structures.  The same issue will
         arise here, and advanced planning to deal with the problem is
         required.

         In this case, the problem is made harder by the fact that the
         hierarchy will be global; X.500 is an international standard,
         based on the assumption that there is only one example of the
         tree, partitioned by country.  Probably the American White
         Pages Service, at least at its root, will be run by the NIST or
         its contractor.  We must deal with the problem that in the
         short term, various implementations may not interwork, and we
         must work with NIST to support the needed services.

         Specific issues that come up related to the naming tree are:

            * How is delegation of control of the tree managed?
              For example, who decides what DSA holds what parts
              of the tree?

            * How is the creation of new parts of the tree
              (e.g., an organizational entry) controlled?

      - Support for Tree Search:

         Regardless of the defintion of the white pages service in the
         NRN, it will need to interface to the X.500 world.  The X.500
         naming hierarchy can be expected to become very large, and
         guidance is needed for users to help them navigate the tree.
         Users need help to find their way to unknown parts of the
         namespace.  As in other naming services, a feature of X.500 is
         that additional entries, aliases (similar to links in file
         systems) can be installed to provide an easy path for a user in
         one part of the tree to find other interesting parts of the
         tree.  By establishing a consistent policy for the use of alias
         entries, learning how to navigate the tree can be made much
         easier for a user.  As part of setting up the tree, therefore,
         these sorts of policies need to be defined.

      - Definition of database structures:

         There are a number of data structures that need to be defined
         as part of setting up each of the services.  These include, for
         example, the types of information stored for the entry about a
         person.  This information must be stored in the servers, and
         passed to the clients.  These structures must thus be
         specified.  In other words, the schema defining attributes and
         object classes must be specified for the NRN.

      - Load balancing:

         The dynamic performance of the Internet system must be
         estimated, so that the servers can be sized properly.
         Especially at the root of the tree, the query rate must be
         estimated carefully.  Caching will have a strong influence on
         this.  Therefore, traffic patterns are very dependent on the
         details of implementation.

      - Supporting multiple protocol suites:

         At least three protocol suites are and will continue to be used
         in the NRN environment.  They are DECnet, TCP/IP, and the OSI
         suite of protocols.  Since the white pages service is at the
         applications layer, it must run on top of at least these three
         protocol suites.  It is important to understand the
         requirements of the white pages service for its transport
         protocols.

   By addressing these issues within the field trials, we will be
   preparing for the further development of Stage 2.  A result of Stage
   1 will be a detailed specification of the white pages service,

   possibly an extension to or modification of X.500.  This should
   dovetail with the activities specifying the details required for
   implementation (known as "profiling") by the NIST Workshop for
   Implementors of OSI.  In addition, in order to run the field trial,
   the information capture problem must be addressed, providing the some
   of the preliminary work of Stage 3.

4.2. Stage 2: Implementation

   If the evaluation of Stage 1 concludes that some form of X.500 is
   acceptable, at least one of the two X.500 implementations included in
   the field trials should provide the basis for a production quality
   implementation of X.500 for general deployment.  Further work will
   likely be needed on the basis of the evaluations of the field trials.
   A production version of an implementation requires both reliable
   servers as well as a variety of clients to provide differing
   interfaces on a mixture of hardware and operating systems.

   In addition, especially because of the inclusion of Profile and
   DNANS, a variety of different DUAs will be explored by definition.
   Further investigation into the DUAs should begin in parallel with or
   in conjunction with the field trials.  There should be distinct DUAs
   for both programs and humans.  In addition, there probably should be
   human-user DUAs geared both to the naive user with simple usage
   patterns and the more sophisticated user who wants to perform complex
   queries.  It is also important to design DUAs that do not require a
   great deal of computing power for the small machines still in use in
   great quantity.  Much of the user community may not be able to afford
   expensive equipment upgrades.

   Assuming that X.500 is deemed to be the specification of the service,
   the field trials will address many issues not included in X.500 as of
   1989.  Since it is important for the NRN to support interconnectivity
   beyond its own bounds, it behooves us to feed what has been learned
   back into the standards activities.  This was identified as a
   separate activity because of the intellectual as well as time
   commitment that must be made to do this effectively.

4.3. Stage 3: Deployment

   A plan is required to develop the schedule of service introduction,
   and to co-ordinate the deployment as it is undertaken.  This includes
   mediating service problems, a significant task in its own right.

   The details of deployment were not discussed at the meeting, although
   several of the seeds of deployment lie in Stages 1 and 2.  The first
   of these is the capture and management of information.  The second is
   DUA development.  Both of these must be included Stage 1 in order to

   support a usable environment for the trials.  In addition, the
   information that will have been captured in Stage 1 could be printed
   producing a hard copy of the white pages information.  That could be
   distributed to all scientists and engineers involved; such a project
   would provide an early white pages service.  During the initial
   periods of both Stages 1 and 2, planning for deployment would also
   have to proceed, in order to provide a smooth transition to this
   third stage in the project.

5. Conclusion

   The consensus of the meeting was that following a path that included
   X.500 was both the correct direction and feasible, although X.500
   needs further elaboration.  There were several important items for
   further study.  The first is that there are many issues left
   unresolved in X.500 that have been addressed in other naming
   services, and the NRN should take advantage of the solutions in those
   other services.  The second is that there was some reservation about
   certain features of X.500, especially in the area of the imposition
   of a hierarchy for naming, and only limited flexibility in
   descriptive naming.  The participants believe that is important
   understand whether X.500 provides enough mechanisms to work around
   such problems by finding a higher common ground that includes the
   best features of all the naming services included in the field
   trials.  The final issue with respect to X.500 was that there was
   agreement that X.500 will be an accepted and utilized standard in at
   least part of the networked community and therefore interfacing to it
   will be necessary.  Given that, and the other reasons for choosing
   X.500, the consensus was that the plan described above would bring
   the NRN and its community of users a useful and usable white pages
   service.

References

   1.  Austein, R., "The Internet Domain Name System", Proceedings of
       USA Decus, Massachusetts Institute Technology/LCS, 1987.

   2.  Demers, A., D. Greene, C. Hauser, W. Irish, J. Larson, S.
       Shenker, H. Sturgis, D. Swinehart, and D. Terry, "Epidemic
       algorithms for replicated database maintenance", Proceedings of
       the 6th Symposium on Principles of Distributed Computing, ACM,
       Vancouver, B.C., Canada, pp. 12-21, August 1987.

   3.  Digital Equipment Corporation, "DNA Naming Service Functional
       Specification Version 1.0.1", Order number: EK-DNANS-FS-001,
       Digital Equipment Corporation, 1988.

   4.  International Organization for Standardization, "Information

       Processing Systems - Open Systems Interconnection - The
       Directory", Draft Standard (In 8 parts), Also CCITT
       Recommendation X.500, 1988.

   5.  Lampson, B., "Desiging a Global Name Service," Proceedings of the
       5th Symposium on Principles of Distribute Computing, ACM,
       Calgary, Alberta, Canada, pp. 1-10, August 1986.

   6.  Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names - Concept and Facilities", RFC
       1034, USC/Information Sciences Institute, November 1987.

   7.  Oppen, D., and Y. Dalal, "The Clearinghouse:  A Decentralized
       Agent for Locating Named Objects in a Distributed Environment",
       Tech. Rept. OPD-T8103, Xerox Corporation, Palo Alto, CA, October
       1981.

   8.  Peterson, L., "Profile: A System for Naming Internet Resources",
       Tech. Rept. 20, Department of Computer Science, University of
       Arizona, June 1987.

Author's Address

       Karen R. Sollins
       Massachusetts Institute of Technology
       Laboratory for Computer Science
       545 Technology Square
       Cambridge, MA 02139-1986

       Phone: (617) 253-6006

       EMail: SOLLINS@XX.LCS.MIT.EDU

 

User Contributions:

Comment about this RFC, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA