Technical Overview of Directory Services Using the X.500 Protocol
RFC 1309

Document Type RFC - Informational (March 1992; No errata)
Also known as FYI 14
Authors Joyce Reynolds  , Chris Weider  , Sergio Heker
Last updated 2013-03-02
Stream IETF
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Network Working Group                                          C. Weider
Request for Comments: 1309                                           ANS
FYI: 14                                                      J. Reynolds
                                                                S. Heker
                                                              March 1992

                Technical Overview of Directory Services
                        Using the X.500 Protocol

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community. It does
   not specify an Internet standard.  Distribution of this memo is


   This document is an overview of the X.500 standard for people not
   familiar with the technology. It compares and contrasts Directory
   Services based on X.500 with several of the other Directory services
   currently in use in the Internet. This paper also describes the
   status of the standard and provides references for further
   information on X.500 implementations and technical information.

   A primary purpose of this paper is to illustrate the vast
   functionality of the X.500 protocol and to show how it can be used to
   provide a global directory for human use, and can support other
   applications which would benefit from directory services, such as
   main programs.

   This FYI RFC is a product of the Directory Information Services
   (pilot) Infrastructure Working Group (DISI).  A combined effort of
   the User Services and the OSI Integration Areas of the Internet
   Engineering Task Force (IETF).


   As the pace of industry, science, and technological development
   quickened over the past century, it became increasingly probable that
   someone in a geographically distant location would be trying to solve
   the same problems you were trying to solve, or that someone in a
   geographically distant location would have some vital information
   which impinged on your research or business.  The stupendous growth
   in the telecommunications industry, from telegraphs to telephones to
   computer networks, has alleviated the problem of being able to

DISI Working Group                                              [Page 1]
RFC 1309              Technical Overview of X.500             March 1992

   communicate with another person, PROVIDED THAT YOU KNOW HOW TO REACH

   Thus, along with the expansion of the telecommunications
   infrastructure came the development of Directory Services. In this
   paper, we will discuss various models of directory services, the
   limitations of current models, and some solutions provided by the
   X.500 standard to these limitations.


2.1  The telephone company's directory services.

   A model many people think of when they hear the words "Directory
   Services" is the directory service provided by the local telephone
   company. A local telephone company keeps an on-line list of the names
   of people with phone service, along with their phone numbers and
   their address. This information is available by calling up Directory
   Assistance, giving the name and address of the party whose number you
   are seeking, and waiting for the operator to search his database. It
   is additionally available by looking in a phone book published yearly
   on paper.

   The phone companies are able to offer this invaluable service because
   they administer the pool of phone numbers. However, this service has
   some limitations. For instance, you can find someone's number only if
   you know their name and the city or location in which they live. If
   two or more people have listings for the same name in the same
   locality, there is no additional information which with to select the
   correct number. In addition, the printed phone book can have
   information which is as much as a year out of date, and the phone
   company's internal directory can be as much as two weeks out of date.
   A third problem is that one actually has to call Directory assistance
   in a given area code to get information for that area; one cannot
   call a single number consistently.

   For businesses which advertise in the Yellow Pages, there is some
   additional information stored for each business; unfortunately, that
   information is unavailable through Directory Assistance and must be
   gleaned from the phone book.

2.2 Some currently available directory services on the Internet.

   As the Internet is comprised of a vast conglomeration of different
   people, computers, and computer networks, with none of the hierarchy
   imposed by the phone system on the area codes and exchange prefixes,
   any directory service must be able to deal with the fact that the
   Internet is not structured; for example, the hosts and
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