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Subentries in the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)

The information below is for an old version of the document that is already published as an RFC.
Document Type This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as an RFC.
Author Kurt Zeilenga
Last updated 2018-07-18 (Latest revision 2002-08-26)
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INTERNET-DRAFT                                    Kurt D. Zeilenga
Intended Category: Standard Track                 OpenLDAP Foundation
Date: 18 August 2002                              Steven Legg
Expires in six months                             Adacel Technologies

                            Subentries in LDAP

Status of this Memo

  This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with all
  provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

  This document is intended to be, after appropriate review and
  revision, submitted to the RFC Editor as a Standard Track document.
  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.  Technical discussion of this
  document will take place on the IETF LDAP Extension Working Group
  mailing list <>.  Please send editorial comments
  directly to the author <>.

  Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task
  Force (IETF), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that other
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  and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
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  Copyright 2002, The Internet Society.  All Rights Reserved.

  Please see the Copyright section near the end of this document for
  more information.


  In X.500 directories, subentries are special entries used to hold
  information associated with a subtree or subtree refinement.  This
  document adapts X.500 subentries mechanisms for use with Lightweight
  Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).

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  Schema definitions are provided using LDAP description formats
  [RFC2252].  Definitions provided here are formatted (line wrapped) for

  Protocol elements are described using ASN.1 [X.680].  The term
  "BER-encoded" means the element is to be encoded using the Basic
  Encoding Rules [X.690] under the restrictions detailed in Section 5.1
  of [RFC2251].

  The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
  document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119].

1. Overview

  From [X.501]:
      A subentry is a special kind of entry immediately subordinate to
      an administrative point.  It contains attributes that pertain to a
      subtree (or subtree refinement) associated with its administrative
      point.  The subentries and their administrative point are part of
      the same naming context.

      A single subentry may serve all or several aspects of
      administrative authority.  Alternatively, a specific aspect of
      administrative authority may be handled through one or more of its
      own subentries.

  Subentries in Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) [LDAPTS]
  SHALL behave in accordance with X.501 unless noted otherwise in this

  In absence of the subentries control (detailed in Section 3),
  subentries SHALL NOT be considered in one-level and subtree scope
  search operations.  For all other operations, including base scope
  search operations, subentries SHALL be considered.

2. Subentry Schema

2.1. Subtree Specification Syntax

  The Subtree Specification syntax provides a general purpose mechanism
  for the specification of a subset of entries in a subtree of the
  Directory Information Tree (DIT).  A subtree begins at some base entry
  and includes the subordinates of that entry down to some identified

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  lower boundary, possibly extending to the leaf entries.  A subtree
  specification is always used within a context or scope which
  implicitly determines the bounds of the subtree.  For example, the
  scope of a subtree specification for a subschema administrative area
  does not include the subtrees of any subordinate administrative point
  entries for subschema administration.  Where a subtree specification
  does not identify a contiguous subset of the entries within a single
  subtree the collection is termed a subtree refinement.

  This syntax corresponds to the SubtreeSpecification ASN.1 type
  described in [X.501], Section 11.3.  This ASN.1 data type definition
  is reproduced here for completeness.

    SubtreeSpecification ::= SEQUENCE {
        base                [0] LocalName DEFAULT { },
                                COMPONENTS OF ChopSpecification,
        specificationFilter [4] Refinement OPTIONAL }

    LocalName ::= RDNSequence

    ChopSpecification ::= SEQUENCE {
        specificExclusions  [1] SET OF CHOICE {
                                chopBefore [0] LocalName,
                                chopAfter [1] LocalName } OPTIONAL,
        minimum             [2] BaseDistance DEFAULT 0,
        maximum             [3] BaseDistance OPTIONAL}

    BaseDistance ::= INTEGER (0 .. MAX)

    Refinement ::= CHOICE {
        item                [0] OBJECT-CLASS.&id,
        and                 [1] SET OF Refinement,
        or                  [2] SET OF Refinement,
        not                 [3] Refinement }

  The components of SubtreeSpecification are: base, which identifies the
  base entry of the subtree or subtree refinement, and
  specificExclusions, minimum, maximum and specificationFilter, which
  then reduce the set of subordinate entries of the base entry.  The
  subtree or subtree refinement contains all the entries within scope
  that are not excluded by any of the components of the subtree
  specification.  When all of the components of SubtreeSpecification are
  absent (i.e. when a value of the Subtree Specification syntax is the
  empty sequence, {}), the subtree so specified implicitly includes all
  the entries within scope.

  Any particular use of this mechanism MAY impose limitations or

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  constraints on the components of SubtreeSpecification.

  The LDAP syntax specification is:

      ( DESC 'SubtreeSpecification' )

  The native LDAP encoding of values of this syntax is defined by the
  Generic String Encoding Rules [GSER].   Appendix A provides an
  equivalent ABNF for this syntax.

2.1.1. Base

  The base component of SubtreeSpecification nominates the base entry of
  the subtree or subtree refinement.  The base entry may be an entry
  which is subordinate to the root entry of the scope in which the
  subtree specification is used, in which case the base component
  contains a sequence of RDNs relative to the root entry of the scope,
  or may be the root entry of the scope itself (the default), in which
  case the base component is absent or contains an empty sequence of

  Entries that are not subordinates of the base entry are excluded from
  the subtree or subtree refinement.

2.1.2. Specific Exclusions

  The specificExclusions component of a ChopSpecification is a list of
  exclusions that specify entries and their subordinates to be excluded
  from the the subtree or subtree refinement.  The entry is specified by
  a sequence of RDNs relative to the base entry (i.e.  a LocalName).
  Each exclusion is of either the chopBefore or chopAfter form.  If the
  chopBefore form is used then the specified entry and its subordinates
  are excluded from the subtree or subtree refinement.  If the chopAfter
  form is used then only the subordinates of the specified entry are
  excluded from the subtree or subtree refinement.

2.1.3. Minimum and Maximum

  The minimum and maximum components of a ChopSpecification allow the
  exclusion of entries based on their depth in the DIT.

  Entries that are less than the minimum number of RDN arcs below the
  base entry are excluded from the subtree or subtree refinement.  A
  minimum value of zero (the default) corresponds to the base entry.

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  Entries that are more than the maximum number of RDN arcs below the
  base entry are excluded from the subtree or subtree refinement.  An
  absent maximum component indicates that there is no upper limit on the
  number of RDN arcs below the base entry for entries in the subtree or
  subtree refinement.

2.1.4. Specification Filter

  The specificationFilter component is a boolean expression of
  assertions about the values of the objectClass attribute of the base
  entry and its subordinates.  A Refinement assertion item evaluates to
  true for an entry if that entry's objectClass attribute contains the
  OID nominated in the assertion.  Entries for which the overall filter
  evaluates to false are excluded from the subtree refinement.  If the
  specificationFilter is absent then no entries are excluded from the
  subtree or subtree refinement because of their objectClass attribute

2.2. Administrative Role Attribute Type

  The Administrative Model defined in [X.501], clause 10 requires that
  administrative entries contain an administrativeRole attribute to
  indicate that the associated administrative area is concerned with one
  or more administrative roles.

  The administrativeRole operational attribute is specified as follows:

      ( NAME 'administrativeRole'
          EQUALITY objectIdentifierMatch
          USAGE directoryOperation
          SYNTAX )

  The possible values of this attribute defined in X.501 are:

       OID            NAME
       --------  -------------------------------   autonomousArea   accessControlSpecificArea   accessControlInnerArea   subschemaAdminSpecificArea   collectiveAttributeSpecificArea   collectiveAttributeInnerArea

  Other values may be defined in other specifications.  Names associated
  with each administrative role are Object Identifier Descriptors

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  The administrativeRole operational attribute is also used to regulate
  the subentries permitted to be subordinate to an administrative entry.
  A subentry not of a class permitted by the administrativeRole
  attribute cannot be subordinate to the administrative entry.

2.3. Subtree Specification Attribute Type

  The subtreeSpecification operational attribute is defined as follows:

      ( NAME 'subtreeSpecification'
          USAGE directoryOperation
          SYNTAX )

  This attribute is present in all subentries.  See [X.501], clause 10.
  Values of the subtreeSpecification attribute nominate collections of
  entries within the DIT for one or more aspects of administrative

2.4. Subentry Object Class

  The subentry object class is a structural object class.

      ( NAME 'subentry'
          SUP top STRUCTURAL
          MUST ( cn $ subtreeSpecification ) )

3. Subentries Control

  The subentries control MAY be sent with a searchRequest to control the
  visibility of entries and subentries which are within scope.
  Non-visible entries or subentries are not returned in response to the

  The subentries control is an LDAP Control whose controlType is, criticality is TRUE or FALSE (hence absent),
  and controlValue contains a BER-encoded BOOLEAN indicating visibility.
  A controlValue containing the value TRUE indicates that subentries are
  visible and normal entries are not.  A controlValue containing the
  value FALSE indicates that normal entries are visible and subentries
  are not.

  Note that TRUE visibility has the three octet encoding { 01 01 FF }
  and FALSE visibility has the three octet encoding { 01 01 00 }.

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  The controlValue SHALL NOT be absent.

  In absence of this control, subentries are not visible to singleLevel
  and wholeSubtree scope Search requests but are visible to baseObject
  scope Search requests.

  There is no corresponding response control.

  This control is not appropriate for non-Search operations.

4. Security Considerations

  Subentries often hold administrative information or other sensitive
  information and should be protected from unauthorized access and
  disclosure as described in [RFC2829][RFC2830].

  General LDAP [LDAPTS] security considerations also apply.

5. IANA Considerations

5.1 Descriptors

  It is requested that IANA register upon Standards Action the LDAP
  descriptors detailed in this technical specification.  The following
  registration template is suggested:

      Subject: Request for LDAP Descriptor Registration
      Descriptor (short name): see comment
      Object Identifier: see comment
      Person & email address to contact for further information:
          Kurt Zeilenga <>
      Usage: see comment
      Specification: RFCXXXX
      Author/Change Controller: IESG

        NAME                            Type OID
        ------------------------        ---- --------
        accessControlInnerArea          R
        accessControlSpecificArea       R
        administrativeRole              A
        autonomousArea                  R
        collectiveAttributeInnerArea    R
        collectiveAttributeSpecificArea R
        subentry                        O
        subschemaAdminSpecificArea      R

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        subtreeSpecification            A

      where Type A is Attribute, Type O is ObjectClass, and Type R is
      Administrative Role.

5.2 Object Identifiers

  This document uses the OID to identify an LDAP
  protocol element defined herein.  This OID was assigned [ASSIGN] by
  OpenLDAP Foundation, under its IANA-assigned private enterprise
  allocation [PRIVATE], for use in this specification.

  Other OIDs which appear in this document were either assigned by the
  ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 - Subcommitte 6 to identify
  elements of X.500 schema or assigned in RFC 2252 for the use described

5.3 Protocol Mechanisms

  Registration of the protocol mechanisms defined in this document is
  requested [LDAPIANA].

  Subject: Request for LDAP Protocol Mechansism Registration

  Object Identifier:

  Description: Subentries

  Person & email address to contact for further information:
       Kurt Zeilenga <>

  Usage: Control

  Specification: RFCxxxx

  Author/Change Controller: IESG

  Comments: none

6. Acknowledgment

  This document is based on engineering done by IETF LDUP and LDAPext
  Working Groups including "LDAP Subentry Schema" by Ed Reed.  This
  document also borrows from a number of ITU documents including X.501.

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7. Authors' Addresses

  Kurt D. Zeilenga
  OpenLDAP Foundation


  Steven Legg
  Adacel Technologies Ltd.
  405-409 Ferntree Gully Road
  Mount Waverley, Victoria 3149

  Phone: +61 3 9451 2107
    Fax: +61 3 9541 2121

8. Normative References

  [X.501]     ITU-T, "The Directory -- Models," X.501, 1993.

  [X.680]     ITU-T, "Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1) -
              Specification of Basic Notation", X.680, 1994.

  [X.690]     ITU-T, "Specification of ASN.1 encoding rules:  Basic,
              Canonical, and Distinguished Encoding Rules", X.690, 1994.

  [RFC2119]   S. Bradner, "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14 (was RFC 2119), March 1997.

  [RFC2251]   M. Wahl, T. Howes, S. Kille, "Lightweight Directory Access
              Protocol (v3)", RFC 2251, December 1997.

  [RFC2252]   M. Wahl, A. Coulbeck, T. Howes, S. Kille, "Lightweight
              Directory Access Protocol (v3):  Attribute Syntax
              Definitions", RFC 2252, December 1997.

  [RFC2829]   M. Wahl, H. Alvestrand, J. Hodges, R. Morgan,
              "Authentication Methods for LDAP", RFC 2829, May 2000

  [RFC2830]   J. Hodges, R. Morgan, M. Wahl, "Lightweight Directory
              Access Protocol (v3): Extension for Transport Layer
              Security", RFC 2830, May 2000.

  [LDAPTS]    J. Hodges, R.L. Morgan, "Lightweight Directory Access
              Protocol (v3): Technical Specification",
              draft-ietf-ldapbis-ldapv3-ts-xx.txt, a work in progress.

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  [GSER] S. Legg, "Generic String Encoding Rules for ASN.1 Types",
              draft-legg-ldapext-gser--xx.txt, a work in progress.

  [LDAPIANA]  K. Zeilenga, "IANA Considerations for LDAP", draft-ietf-
              ldapbis-iana-xx.txt, a work in progress.

9. Informative References

  [RFC2234]   D. Crocker, P. Overell, "Augmented BNF for Syntax
              Specifications: ABNF", RFC 2234, November 1997.

  [GCE]       S. Legg, "Common Elements of GSER Encodings",
              draft-legg-ldap-gser-abnf-xx.txt, a work in progress.

  [ASSIGN]   OpenLDAP Foundation, "OpenLDAP OID Delegations",

  [PRIVATE]  IANA, "Private Enterprise Numbers",

A. Subtree Specification ABNF

  This appendix is non-normative.

  The LDAP-specific native string encoding for the Subtree Specification
  syntax is specified by the Generic String Encoding Rules [GSER].  The
  ABNF [RFC2234] in this appendix for this syntax is provided only as a
  convenience and is equivalent to the encoding specified by the
  application of [GSER].  Since the SubtreeSpecification ASN.1 type may
  be extended in future editions of [X.501], the provided ABNF should be
  regarded as a snapshot in time.  The native LDAP encoding for any
  extension to the SubtreeSpecification ASN.1 type can be determined
  from [GSER].

  In the event that there is a discrepancy between this ABNF and the
  encoding determined by [GSER], [GSER] is to be taken as definitive.

    SubtreeSpecification = "{"    [ sp ss-base ]
                              [ sep sp ss-specificExclusions ]
                              [ sep sp ss-minimum ]
                              [ sep sp ss-maximum ]
                              [ sep sp ss-specificationFilter ]
                                    sp "}"

    ss-base                = id-base                msp LocalName
    ss-specificExclusions  = id-specificExclusions  msp SpecificExclusions

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    ss-minimum             = id-minimum             msp BaseDistance
    ss-maximum             = id-maximum             msp BaseDistance
    ss-specificationFilter = id-specificationFilter msp Refinement

    id-base                = %x62.61.73.65 ; "base"
    id-specificExclusions  = %x73.
                                %x69.6F.6E.73 ; "specificExclusions"
    id-minimum             = %x6D.69.6E.69.6D.75.6D ; "minimum"
    id-maximum             = %x6D. ; "maximum"
    id-specificationFilter = %x73.
                                %x69.6C.74.65.72 ; "specificationFilter"

    SpecificExclusions = "{" sp SpecificExclusion
                            *( "," sp SpecificExclusion ) sp "}"
    SpecificExclusion  = chopBefore / chopAfter
    chopBefore         = id-chopBefore ":" LocalName
    chopAfter          = id-chopAfter  ":" LocalName
    id-chopBefore      = %x63.68.6F. ; "chopBefore"
    id-chopAfter       = %x63.68.6F.    ; "chopAfter"

    Refinement  = item / and / or / not
    item        = id-item ":" OBJECT-IDENTIFIER
    and         = id-and  ":" Refinements
    or          = id-or   ":" Refinements
    not         = id-not  ":" Refinement
    Refinements = "{" [ sp Refinement
                     *( "," sp Refinement ) ] sp "}"
    id-item     = %x69.74.65.6D ; "item"
    id-and      = %x61.6E.64    ; "and"
    id-or       = %x6F.72       ; "or"
    id-not      = %x6E.6F.74    ; "not"

    BaseDistance = INTEGER-0-MAX

  The <sp>, <msp>, <sep>, <INTEGER>, <OBJECT-IDENTIFIER> and <LocalName>
  rules are defined in [GCE].

Copyright 2002, The Internet Society.  All Rights Reserved.

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