Installing OpenLDAP from source code: A Walkthrough


If you’re looking for a powerful and flexible directory service solution, look no further than OpenLDAP. OpenLDAP is a free and open-source implementation of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), which can be used to store and manage user authentication information, as well as other types of data such as email addresses and phone numbers. In this article, we’ll walk through the process of installing OpenLDAP from source code on a Linux-based system.

Explanation of OpenLDAP

OpenLDAP is a widely-used directory service that provides an efficient way to store and manage data. It can be thought of as a hierarchical database that is optimized for read-heavy workloads. LDAP directories are often used in large organizations to centralize user authentication information, but can also be used for many other purposes such as email address books or inventory management systems.

In addition to its flexibility and scalability, OpenLDAP offers advanced security features such as access controls, encryption, and SASL authentication mechanisms. This makes it an ideal solution for any organization looking to secure their data while still maintaining ease-of-use and flexibility.

Benefits of Installing from Source Code

While there are many ways to install OpenLDAP on your system, installing from source code offers several benefits. Firstly, it allows you to customize the installation to your needs by enabling or disabling certain features at compile time.

This can help optimize performance and reduce the size of the final binary. Another advantage of installing from source code is that it allows you to stay up-to-date with the latest version of OpenLDAP without having to wait for your distribution’s package updates.

This can be particularly useful if you need access to new features or bug fixes that have not yet been included in official packages. Installing from source code gives you complete control over the installation process, allowing you to fine-tune settings and optimizations to your specific use-case.

Overview of the Walkthrough

In this walkthrough, we will be installing OpenLDAP from source code on a Linux-based system. We will start by covering the prerequisites that are necessary to complete the installation, such as required software and system requirements.

From there, we will download and extract the OpenLDAP source code before configuring it with necessary options. After that, we will build and install OpenLDAP onto our system directories before configuring it as an LDAP server.

We will then populate the LDAP database with entries and configure LDAP clients to communicate with our newly installed server. We’ll wrap up by discussing some important security considerations to keep in mind when using OpenLDAP.

Throughout this walkthrough, we’ll provide detailed instructions and explanations for each step of the process so that even beginners can follow along. So let’s get started!


Required software and versions:

Before starting the installation process, there are several software packages that must be installed on your system. These include a C compiler like GCC (GNU Compiler Collection), make utility, OpenSSL development package, Berkley Database development package, and Cyrus SASL.

It is also advisable to have a text editor such as Vim or Nano installed on the system. Regarding the versions of these packages, it is recommended to use the latest stable release available for your operating system.

System requirements:

OpenLDAP can be installed on a wide range of systems including Linux, Unix-like systems such as FreeBSD and Solaris, macOS X, Microsoft Windows and others. However, it is important to ensure that your system meets certain requirements such as sufficient disk space (at least 500 MB), RAM memory (at least 256 MB) because these may vary depending on the size of your database and number of users you plan to manage with OpenLDAP. Additionally, OpenLDAP requires a stable network connection since it relies heavily on network communication.

User permissions:

To install OpenLDAP from source code you will need root or superuser privileges to perform system-wide operations like installing required packages or creating new directories. It should be noted that using root privileges should be done with caution since it carries risks of damaging or compromising critical parts of the operating system if used improperly.

Therefore before installing OpenLDAP from source code create an unprivileged user account with limited access rights for everyday operations. Besides ensuring that the above-mentioned prerequisites are fulfilled before starting installation another useful tip is to check if any conflicts exist between OpenLDAP dependencies with other installed software packages by running `ldd /usr/local/bin/ldapsearch` command in Bash shell which will show all shared libraries linked against ldapsearch binary file.

Downloading and Extracting OpenLDAP Source Code

OpenLDAP is an open-source implementation of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). The first step in installing OpenLDAP from source code is to download the latest version.

You can obtain the latest source code from the official OpenLDAP website ( Make sure to download the appropriate package for your operating system.

Obtaining the latest version

The OpenLDAP project provides two types of releases: stable and development. The stable release is recommended for production use, while the development release contains new features and bug fixes, but it may not be as stable as the stable release. It’s important to choose a release that meets your specific needs.

Once you’ve determined which type of release you need, select the appropriate version for your operating system. If you’re not sure which version to choose, refer to your system requirements or consult with a system administrator.

Choosing the appropriate package for your system

OpenLDAP provides several packages depending on your needs, including client-only packages and server packages. If you plan on using OpenLDAP as a client only, you’ll only need to download a client package. However, if you plan on setting up an LDAP server or replicating an existing server, you’ll need to download a server package.

Packages are available in different formats such as tarballs (.tar.gz), compressed files (.zip), and source code repositories (Git). Choose whichever format works best for you.

Extracting the source code

Once you’ve downloaded the correct package and have it stored locally on your machine, extract its contents using archive extraction software such as 7-Zip or WinRAR. Extracting typically involves choosing a destination folder where extracted files will be stored. After extracting all files necessary for installation should become visible.

The download and extraction steps are crucial to beginning the installation process of OpenLDAP from source code. Be sure to carefully follow these steps to ensure you have the right version for your operating system, and that you know which package to download for your needs.

Configuring OpenLDAP

Once you have downloaded and extracted the OpenLDAP source code, it is now time to configure it for installation. The configuration process involves running the “configure” script with necessary options.

This script generates a Makefile that will be used to compile the source code into binaries. It is important to choose options that are appropriate for your system to ensure a successful installation of OpenLDAP.

Running Configure Script with Necessary Options

The first step in configuring OpenLDAP is running the configure script with necessary options. The most common option used is “–prefix”, which specifies the installation directory prefix. For example, if you want to install OpenLDAP in “/usr/local/openldap”, then you would use “–prefix=/usr/local/openldap” when running configure.

In addition to the prefix option, there are many other options that can be used to customize your installation of OpenLDAP. For example, you can use “–with-tls=openssl” to enable SSL encryption for LDAP connections or “–with-odbc” to enable support for ODBC databases.

Understanding Configure Options and Their Impact on Installation

It is important to understand what each configure option does and how it impacts your installation of OpenLDAP. Some options are required for specific features or dependencies while others may affect performance or security settings. To help understand each option available during configuration, refer to the documentation provided by OpenLDAP or consult online resources such as forums and user groups dedicated specifically for LDAP administration and management.

Troubleshooting Common Configuration Issues

If you encounter any errors during configuration, there are several common issues that might arise. These include missing dependencies required by specific features enabled using configure options, incorrect paths specified in various parameters required by some LDAP clients and software, and permissions issues when installing OpenLDAP in restricted directories.

For example, if you receive an error message about missing dependencies, you may need to install additional software packages or libraries on your system before proceeding with the installation. Alternatively, if you experience permission errors while running configure script or installing OpenLDAP binaries, it may be necessary to adjust user permissions or run commands as root.

Building and Installing OpenLDAP

Compiling source code into binaries

Compiling the OpenLDAP source code is the second step in the installation process after configuring. The configure script generates a Makefile that instructs the compiler to compile the source code into binaries. It is important to ensure that all dependencies and software components have been installed before proceeding with compilation.

During compilation, errors may occur due to missing dependencies or incompatible software versions. These errors should be resolved before proceeding.

Installing binaries to system directories

After successful compilation, OpenLDAP binaries must be installed in the appropriate system directories. This enables users to access OpenLDAP from anywhere in the system by simply calling it from the command line. The `make install` command copies all necessary files to their respective locations on your file system.

The `make install` command provides several options, such as specifying a custom installation directory and changing file permissions for added security. It is important to verify that installation directories are writable by user accounts that will use OpenLDAP.

Verifying successful installation

Verifying successful installation of OpenLDAP ensures that it has been properly configured, compiled and installed onto your system. There are various ways of verifying an installation, one of which involves checking logs for any errors during startup.

Another way of verifying an installation is by running commands like `slapd -v`, which returns version information and configuration details. To test if your LDAP server is working correctly you can try running a basic query through ldapsearch command for example: “`

ldapsearch -x -b “dc=example,dc=com” “(objectclass=*)” “` The above query searches for all entries under “dc=example,dn=com” with any object class specified.

Building and installing OpenLDAP requires proper configuration, compiling source code into binaries using the Makefile generated by the configure script and installing binaries to system directories. Verification of successful installation is done through checking logs, querying the server and running commands.

Configuring OpenLDAP Server

Creating a basic configuration file

The first step in configuring the OpenLDAP server is to create a basic configuration file. This file contains all the necessary parameters and settings required for the server to operate correctly. The configuration file is typically located in /usr/local/etc/openldap/slapd.conf.

However, this location may vary depending on the installation. The configuration file is a plain text file that can be edited using any text editor such as vi or nano.

The file consists of several sections, each containing various directives that control different aspects of the server’s operation. These include database settings, access control lists, logging options, and so on.

Customizing server settings based on specific needs

OpenLDAP provides a wide range of customizable settings that can be modified to suit specific requirements. For example, if the LDAP server will be used to store user account information for an organization, then it may be necessary to customize certain attributes such as name or email address formats.

One important customization option is schema modification. Schemas define how data is stored and organized within an LDAP directory tree.

OpenLDAP comes with a default set of schemas that cover most common use cases. However, custom schemas can be created or existing ones modified to meet specific needs.

Another customization option is access control lists (ACLs). ACLs are used to restrict access to certain portions of an LDAP directory tree based on various criteria such as user identity or IP address range.

Troubleshooting common configuration issues

Configuring OpenLDAP can sometimes be challenging due to its complex nature and myriad of options available. Common problems include incorrect syntax in configuration files, database corruption issues or permission problems.

To troubleshoot these issues requires some knowledge about how LDAP works and its various components work together. One useful tool for troubleshooting LDAP-related issues is the ldapsearch utility, which allows administrators to query the LDAP directory and view various attributes and objects.

Another useful tool is the slapd log file, which contains detailed information about server activity, including errors and warnings. By analyzing this log file, administrators can get a better understanding of what’s happening on the server and identify potential issues that need to be addressed.

Populating LDAP Database

Creating an initial database

To create an initial database for OpenLDAP, you must first decide which type of database backend to use. The most common options are Berkeley DB (BDB) and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Data Interchange Format (LDIF). BDB is a robust, high-performance backend with transaction support, while LDIF is a flexible format that can be used with various tools and applications.

Once you have decided on the backend, you must create a set of configuration files that describe the structure of your data. The first step in creating an initial database is to generate a set of configuration files using the slapd-config tool.

This tool allows you to define the schema for your directory and specify various settings such as access control and logging. Once you have generated the configuration files, you must start the slapd daemon so that it can create the necessary directories and files for your database.

Adding entries to database

Once your initial database has been created, you can start adding entries to it using either command-line tools or graphical interfaces. The most common tool for adding entries is ldapadd, which allows you to submit LDIF-formatted data to OpenLDAP over TCP/IP or UNIX sockets. You can also use ldapmodify to modify existing entries or ldapdelete to remove them.

When adding entries to your OpenLDAP directory, it is important to follow good naming conventions and avoid conflicts between different branches of your directory tree. You should also consider how best to organize your data into logical groups based on its purpose or function.

Troubleshooting common database issues

Like any complex software system, OpenLDAP can encounter a range of problems related to its configuration or performance. Here are some common issues that users may encounter when working with databases: – Permissions: Make sure that the user running OpenLDAP has appropriate privileges to access and modify your database files.

– Filesystem errors: Check for any errors in your filesystem or storage devices that may be causing data corruption or other issues. – Schema conflicts: Be aware of any schema conflicts that may arise when working with multiple OpenLDAP servers or different versions of the software.

– Performance issues: Monitor the performance of your database regularly using tools such as slapd-monitor to identify and address any bottlenecks or other problems. Creating an initial database and adding entries are key steps in setting up an OpenLDAP server.

However, users should also be aware of common database issues and take steps to troubleshoot them if necessary. By following best practices and keeping close tabs on their directory structure, users can ensure a smooth experience with OpenLDAP.

Configuring LDAP Clients

Choosing the right client software

Before configuring an LDAP client, it is essential to choose the right software for your needs. There are several options available, including command-line tools like ldapsearch and graphical user interface (GUI) programs like Apache Directory Studio. Both types of clients have their advantages and disadvantages.

Command-line tools offer more flexibility and can be used in scripts, while GUI clients provide a more intuitive user interface. It is recommended to choose a client that supports LDAPS (LDAP over SSL) to ensure secure communication between the client and server.

Configuring client settings

Once you have chosen an LDAP client, you need to configure its settings to connect to your OpenLDAP server. The most crucial setting is the server’s hostname or IP address.

You also need to specify the port number (default is 389 for LDAP and 636 for LDAPS), the base DN (distinguished name) of your directory tree, and the authentication method. Depending on your setup, you may also need to specify other options like bind DN/password or SSL certificate information.

Testing connectivity

After configuring your LDAP client settings, it is essential to test connectivity with the OpenLDAP server. You can use simple command-line tools like ldapsearch or more advanced tools like Apache Directory Studio. Testing should involve verifying basic operations such as searching for entries, adding new entries, modifying existing entries, and deleting entries if necessary.

Installing Client Software

Selecting appropriate software based on system requirements

Choosing appropriate software based on system requirements involves selecting a compatible version of LDAP client software that runs seamlessly with all other installed components such as operating systems version etc… It’s essential also that once selected that this software meets security compliance regulation criteria.

Installation process

Installing LDAP client software depends on the operating system used. Some Linux distributions like CentOS and Ubuntu have package managers that install OpenLDAP clients along with other system components.

Windows has GUI-based installers that guide you through the process. The installation process typically involves downloading the client software package, running an installer program, following prompts to select an installation directory and agreeing to terms of service.

Configuration post-installation

After successful installation, you need to configure the LDAP client settings as detailed above in section two. You might also need to set environment variables or update configuration files based on your specific needs. Once configuration is complete, you can test accessibility of LDAP client with server using ldapsearch command or log in from a computer with relevant credentials assigned by administrator.

Configuring LDAP clients is crucial in ensuring successful communication between your OpenLDAP server and various applications that depend on directory services for user authentication and authorization information. Choosing appropriate software, installing it correctly as well as configuring settings should be done carefully to avoid any compatibility issues which could lead to security breaches and data loss.

Security Considerations

Secure Configuration Best Practices

OpenLDAP is a powerful tool that can be used to manage sensitive information. It is important to ensure that your installation is secure and protected. You should implement a range of security measures to ensure that your data is safe from unauthorized access and attacks.

The first step in securing OpenLDAP is to implement secure configuration practices. This includes using strong passwords for all accounts, ensuring that LDAP traffic is encrypted, restricting access to the server via firewalls, and regularly updating the software with security patches.

It’s also recommended that you enable logging on your OpenLDAP server so you can keep track of any suspicious activity. This can help you identify potential threats early on and take action before it’s too late.

Implementing Security Measures

In addition to implementing secure configuration practices, there are other security measures you can take to protect your OpenLDAP installation. These include setting up SSL or TLS encryption for LDAP traffic, utilizing tools like SELinux or AppArmor to limit the amount of data that can be accessed by unauthorized users, and monitoring system logs for any signs of suspicious activity.

You may also want to consider using third-party tools like intrusion detection systems (IDS) or network intrusion prevention systems (NIPS) to further enhance the security of your OpenLDAP installation. These tools can help detect and prevent attacks before they cause damage.


Overall, installing OpenLDAP from source code is a great way to gain greater control over an LDAP database server’s setup and configuration. While it may seem daunting at first, following our walkthrough will allow you to successfully build an OpenLDAP server tailored specifically for your needs. While setting up an LDAP database requires knowledge about many technical areas such as network protocols, databases architectures etc., once implemented correctly it provides a powerfully streamlined infrastructure solution which results in an incredible maintenance and cost saving benefits.

By following the best practices outlined in our guide, you can help ensure that your OpenLDAP installation is secure and well-protected against potential threats. By taking these steps, you can have confidence that your data is safe and secure.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

three × three =

Related Articles