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A directory is a distributed collection of information, which programs can access in order to make queries or updates. This International Standard defines an application program interface (API) to directory services. This API is known as the directory services API (DS API). It is referred to as the interface throughout this International Standard.

This International Standard defines a standard directory service interface to support application portability at the source-code level. It is intended to be used by both application developers and directory service implementors.

The interface defined in this International Standard is intended to be used to provide access to a range of directory services that are instances of a common abstract model. That model is defined in the 1988 CCITT X.500 Series recommendations and ISO/IEC 9594. The CCITT Recommendations and ISO/IEC 9594 {5-11}? were developed in close collaboration and are technically aligned. (?The numbers in curly brackets correspond to those of the references in 1.2. When preceded by a ""B"", the numbers correspond to those of the bibliography in Annex B.) Hereinafter, they are referred to as the X.500 directory standards . A summary description of the model is contained in A.2.

This International Standard prescribes how the interface that it defines is to be used to access the particular directory service defined in the X.500 directory standards and indicates how it may be used to access other particular directory services that conform to the same abstract model.

This International Standard defines an API that application programs can use to access the functionality of the underlying directory service. It does not define or imply any profile of that service.

Nothing in this International Standard requires that the implementation of the interface or the directory itself actually make use of the Directory Access Protocol (DAP), the Directory System Protocol (DSP), or other parts of the model, just so long as it provides the defined service. Also, the scope of the directory to which an application has access is not determined. It is entirely a local matter whether objects in other directory system agents (DSAs) are accesible.

The interface is designed for operational interactions with a directory, rather than for management interactions, such as knowledge management or schema management. Also, security features are not generally visible in the interface in order to permi t flexibility in security policies.

It is intended that an application program should be able to use the interface defined in this International Standard to access a single directory service or to access several directory services at the same time.

This International Standard uses concepts of OSI abstract data manipulation (OM) that are defined in ISO/IEC 14360 {12}. They are summarized in A.3.

The directory service interface is defined in this International Standard in a programming language independent manner. It contains:

- Definitions of the interface operations; - Definitions of the information structures used in the interface that are associated with the abstract model of directory services; - Definitions of the information structures used in the interface that are associated with the particular instance of the model that is defined in ISO/IEC 9594 {5}-{11}.

This International Standard describes the external characteristics and facilities that are of importance to applications developers, rather than the internal construction techniques employed to achieve these capabilities. Special emphasis is placed on those functions and facilities that are needed in a wide variety of commercial applications.

This International Standard is defined exclusively at the source-code level. The objective is that a conforming application source program can be translated to execute in conjunction with one or more conforming implementations.