Posts tagged ‘ldap’

Reading paged LDAP results with PHP is a show-stopper

I was writing the schema introspection code for Zend_Ldap when I came around a problem with Active Directory’s MaxPageSize restriction. By default Active Directory allows only 1000 items to be returned on a single query, a number which is easily exceeded when reading an Active Directory’s classes and especially attributes from the schema tree. OK – one option would be to increase the MaxPageSize variable, but as the component should be usable on every Active Directory server I couldn’t go for that.

The second option that seemed possible makes use of the paged result sets that Active Directory returns on a query. This way led me into the world of LDAP server controls and deep into the ext/ldap source code. There is astonishingly little information on the topic of paged result sets and LDAP server controls in respect of PHP and ext/ldap. To be honest I assume that only one person really looked into this area seriously and even came up with a solution: Iñaki Arenaza (Blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). His information provided here is the foundation of this article – the discoveries are absolutely not my work, they are all based on what Iñaki Arenaza dug out. I just wanted to bring a little light into this very specific topic (and summarize what I’ve answered on

To make it short right from the beginning: it’s currently not possible to use paged results from an Active Directory with an unpatched PHP (ext/ldap).

Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening.

Active Directory uses a server control to accomplish server-side result paging. This control is described in RFC 2696 “LDAP Control Extension for Simple Paged Results Manipulation” . LDAP controls, which come in the flavors “server” and “client”, are extensions to the LDAP protocol to provide enhancements – result paging is one example, password policy is another one. Generally ext/ldap offers an access to LDAP control extensions via its ldap_set_option() and theLDAP_OPT_SERVER_CONTROLS and LDAP_OPT_CLIENT_CONTROLS option respectively. To setup the paged control we do need the control-oid, which is 1.2.840.113556.1.4.319, and we need to know how to encode the control-value (this is described in the RFC). The value is an octet string wrapping the BER-encoded version of the following SEQUENCE (copied from the RFC):

realSearchControlValue ::= SEQUENCE {
    size    INTEGER (0..maxInt),
                     -- requested page size from client
                     -- result set size estimate from server
    cookie  OCTET STRING

So we can setup the control prior to executing the LDAP desired query:

$pageSize    = 100;
$pageControl = array(
    // the control-oid
    'oid'        => '1.2.840.113556.1.4.319',
    // the operation should fail if the server is not able to support this control
    'iscritical' => true,
    // the required BER-encoded control-value
    'value'      => sprintf ("%c%c%c%c%c%c%c", 48, 5, 2, 1, $pageSize, 4, 0)

This allows us to send a paged query to the LDAP/AD server. But how do we know if there are more pages to follow and how do we have to send a query to get the next page of our result set?

The server responds with a result set that includes the required paging information – but PHP lacks a method to retrieve exactly this information from the result set. In fact ext/ldap provides the required function (ldap_parse_result()) but it fails to expose the required seventh and last argument serverctrlsp from the C function ldap_parse_result() in the LDAP API, which contains exactly the information we need to requery for consecutive pages. If we had this argument available in our PHP code, using paged controls would be straight forward:

$l = ldap_connect('');
$pageSize    = 100;
$pageControl = array(
    'oid'        => '1.2.840.113556.1.4.319',
    'iscritical' => true,
    'value'      => sprintf ("%c%c%c%c%c%c%c", 48, 5, 2, 1, $pageSize, 4, 0)

$controls = array($pageControl);

ldap_set_option($l, LDAP_OPT_PROTOCOL_VERSION, 3);
ldap_bind($l, 'CN=bind-user,OU=my-users,DC=mydomain,DC=com', 'bind-user-password');

$continue = true;
while ($continue) {
    ldap_set_option($l, LDAP_OPT_SERVER_CONTROLS, $controls);
    $sr = ldap_search($l, 'OU=some-ou,DC=mydomain,DC=com', 'cn=*', array('sAMAccountName'), null, null, null, null);
    // there's the rub
    ldap_parse_result ($l, $sr, $errcode, $matcheddn, $errmsg, $referrals, $serverctrls);
    if (isset($serverctrls)) {
        foreach ($serverctrls as $i) {
            if ($i["oid"] == '1.2.840.113556.1.4.319') {
                    $i["value"]{8}   = chr($pageSize);
                    $i["iscritical"] = true;
                    $controls        = array($i);

    $info = ldap_get_entries($l, $sr);
    if ($info["count"] < $pageSize) {
        $continue = false;

    for ($entry = ldap_first_entry($l, $sr); $entry != false; $entry = ldap_next_entry($l, $entry)) {
        $dn = ldap_get_dn($l, $entry);

As you see, the only option to make all this work, is to mess with the ext/ldap source code and compile your own extension. Iñaki Arenaza provides several patches that can be applied to the PHP source to make patching a lot easier. The patches can be found here (last one for PHP 5.2.10 from June 24th 2009) and there is an accompanying blog post available. Iñaki Arenaza even opened an issue in the PHP bug tracker on September 13th 2005 offering his help – but there has been no reaction from the developer’s side. What a great pity.

So, if you have to use paged result sets in an Active Directory environment from within a PHP application you can choose between:

  • patch your ext/ldap and compile your own extension as described in this article
  • raise the MaxPageSize limit in your Active Directory server
  • use a completely different approach bypassing ext/ldap and make use of the appropriate COM components (ADODB) as described here (this only works on Windows machines)

It could have been so easy, if…, yes if only the PHP developers considered applying the available patch to the ext/ldap source code.

November 6, 2009 at 16:52 11 comments

Zend_Ldap promoted to standard trunk

After some last modifications to make the original Zend_Ldap tests pass with the new extended Zend_Ldap classes, the ZF teams has promoted the component to the standard trunk.

I assume that we’ll have a public release of the code with the 1.9 version of Zend Framework.

July 10, 2009 at 09:46 5 comments

Extended Zend_Ldap passes penultimate hurdle

After Ralph Schindler (member of the Zend Technologies Zend Framework team) reviewed my Zend_Ldap extensions and successfully ran all unit tests, the last hurdle the component has to pass is the documentation. Currently the documentation is somewhat rudimentary but I think we’ll get the docs ready until the 1.9-release.

It’s been a long way for this component but at last I think we can have a GO for moving the component to trunk shortly.

July 9, 2009 at 12:08 Leave a comment

How to use the new Zend_Ldap functionality

Zend Framework Logo (small)The following post should demonstrate some of the new features that come along with the extended Zend_Ldap component that is now available in the Zend Framework Standard Incubator. The component was originally designed to augment the current Zend_Ldap component with methods to do all those operations on a LDAP server which everybody is used to when dealing with databases: searching, retrieving, updating, adding and deleting items on the directory server. The component has recently been accepted for Standard Incubator development with the notice to explore the possibility of a migration of all new features directly into the existing Zend_Ldap class. This has been achieved and the component can be considered an all out solution for working with LDAP directory servers which naturally means that there is still a lot of room for improvement. The transition from the authentication-only Zend_Ldap to a fully featured data-access component flowed smoothly and backwards-compatibility could be maintained (at least when connecting to OpenLDAP servers as I don’t have any other LDAP server at hand to run regression tests against). Enough of that blah, let’s have a look at the new features…

Connecting to a LDAP server

There is no change from the old Zend_Ldap – provide the options to connect to the server and call bind().

$options = array(
    'host'     => 'localhost',
    'port'     => 389,
    'username' => 'uid=php,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com',
    'password' => 'password',
    'baseDn'   => 'dc=zend,dc=com'
$ldap=new Zend_Ldap($options);

Retrieving a single entry

To retrieve a single entry from the server you use the getEntry() method.

$carl = $ldap->getEntry('cn=Carl Baker,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com');
 * $carl is an array containing
 * array(
 *    'dn'          => 'cn=Carl Baker,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com',
 *    'cn'          => array('Carl Baker'),
 *    'givenname'   => array('Carl'),
 *    'objectclass' => array('account', 'inetOrgPerson', 'top'),
 *    'sn'          => array('Baker'),
 *    'title'       => array('PR Manager'),
 *    'uid'         => array('cbaker'),
 *    ...);

Searching entries

You can retrieve a list of entries that match a given LDAP filter by using the search() method.

$items=$ldap()->search('(objectClass=account)', 'ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com',
// $items is an object of type Zend_Ldap_Collection
$count=count($items); // the returned object implements Countable
foreach ($items as $item) { // the returned object also implements Iterator
     * $item is an array containing
     * array(
     *    'dn'          => '...',
     *    'cn'          => array('...'),
     *    'givenname'   => array('...'),
     *    'objectclass' => array('account', 'inetOrgPerson', 'top'),
     *    'sn'          => array('...'),
     *    'title'       => array('...'),
     *    'uid'         => array('...'),
     *    ...);
// alternatively you can use searchEntries() to get back an array of entries
$items=$ldap()->searchEntries('(objectClass=account)', 'ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com',
// $items is an object of type array

Searching entries with filter objects

Instead of using a filter string you can create your filter with the object-oriented interface of Zend_Ldap_Filter.

$filter=Zend_Ldap_Filter::equals('objectClass', 'account')
    ->addAnd(Zend_Ldap_Filter::greater('salary', 10000));
$items=$ldap()->search($filter, 'ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com',

Manipulating DN string

DN strings can be parsed into Zend_Ldap_DN objects which allow for easy modifiation of the DN.

$dnString='cn=Baker\\, Alice,cn=Users+ou=Lab,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com';
$dn[1]=array('cn' => 'Users', 'ou' => 'PR');
$dn->insert(1, array('ou' => 'Dismissed'));
// cn=Baker\\, Alice,cn=Users+ou=PR,ou=Dismissed,dc=zend,dc=com

Adding new entries

Zend_Ldap provides an add() method to add entries to the directory.

$ldap->add('uid=created,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com', array(
    'uid'         => 'created',
    'objectClass' => 'account'));

Updating existing entries

The update() method can be used to update existing entries in the directory.

$ldap->update('cn=Carl Baker,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com', array(
    'title' => array('Barkeeper'),
    'uid'   => 'cabaker');
// it's enough to provide those attributes that will be changed

Deleting entries

Deletions can be done recursively when providing true as the second parameter.

// this will throw an exception if the given entry has subordinates
$ldap->delete('cn=Baker\\, Alice,cn=Users+ou=Lab,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com', false);
// this will delete the complete subtree
$ldap->delete('ou=Dismissed,dc=zend,dc=com', true);

Copying and moving entries and subtrees

Zend_Ldap provides methods to move and copy entries and subtrees to other locations within the directory tree. The third parameter specifies if the operation will be carried ou recursively.

// this will throw an exception if the given entry has subordinates
$ldap->copy('cn=Baker\\, Alice,cn=Users+ou=Lab,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com',
    'cn=Baker\\, Charlie,ou=Lab,ou=People,dc=zend,dc=com', false);
// the operation will be done recursively
$ldap->move('ou=Dismissed,dc=zend,dc=com', 'ou=Fired,dc=zend,dc=com', true);

There is a lot more to be discovered in Zend_Ldap such as checking server capabilities via the RootDSE, browsing the schema using the subSchemaSubentry, LDIF im- and exporting and especially the active-record like interface to LDAP entries Zend_Ldap_Node which we’ll cover in the next post.

I hope this post has provided some insight into the features of Zend_Ldap and you’re invited to try and test the new features and give your feedback to further improve the component and get it into production, which means into the standard trunk, as soon as possible. Especially I’m in search for testers who can verify the working of this component against the different LDAP servers available: e.g. ActiveDirectory, ADAM, Siemens, Novell, Sun, and so on.

December 7, 2008 at 20:57 5 comments

Extended Zend_Ldap is in Standard Incubator

Zend Framework Logo (small)

After beeing accepted for Standard Incubator development by the Zend Framework team on November, 1st 2008, the extended Zend_Ldap component (formerly known as Zend_Ldap_Ext) has been moved into the Zend Framework Standard Incubator and can be checked out from there.

This is what the component is all about (from the proposal page):

The existing Zend_Ldap component currently just responds to authentication use cases in all their varieties. There is no posibility to query a LDAP directory service in a unified and consistent way. The current component also lacks core CRUD (Create, Retrieve, Update and Delete) functionality – operations that are crucial to for example database abstraction layers.
This proposals tries to resolve these deficiencies in that it provides a simple two-ply object oriented model to connect to, query and perfom CRUD operations on an LDAP server. The first layer is a wrapper around the ext/ldap functions, spiced up with extended functionality such as copying and moving (renaming in a LDAP context) nodes and subtrees.
The second layer (Zend_Ldap_Node) provides an active-record-like interface to LDAP entries and stresses the tree-structure of LDAP data in providing (recursive) tree traversal methods.
To simplify the usage of the unfamiliar LDAP filter syntax this components proposes an object oriented approach to LDAP filter string generation, which can loosely be compared to Zend_Db_Select.
Usefull helper classes for creating and modifying LDAP DNs and converting attribute values complete this component.
Furthermore it is possible to do some LDAP schema browsing and to read and write LDIF files.
It is important to note, that this proposal is a complete replacement for the current Zend_Ldap component and does not break backwards-compatibility.

Later today I’ll try to publish a short tutorial on the usage of the (hopefully) new Zend_Ldap component.

December 7, 2008 at 16:50 1 comment

Zend_Ldap_Ext proposal updated

Yesterday I updated the proposal wiki page for my Zend_Ldap_Ext proposal to be compliant with the current source. Currently there seems to be not that much interest in an extended Zend_Ldap component but in my opinion the framework should include such a component to allow for simple data exchange with LDAP servers the same way it provides means to talk to databases and webservices.

The proposals originates from my need for a unified data access layer to an LDAP server in my current project. The proposal features:

  • querying the LDAP server
  • retrieving LDAP entries
  • creating LDAP entries
  • updating LDAP entries
  • deleting LDAP entries
  • LDAP filter string creation
  • tree traversal methods
  • other stuff like attribute en- and decoding

Some parts of the proposal are inspired by the brilliant PEAR:Net_LDAP2 package.

I think LDAP usage should be as easy as querying a database and the current ext/ldap with its three different resource types is predestined for beeing wrapped up in an object oriented interface. Just take the following examples:


$sr=ldap_search($ds, "o=My Company, c=US", "sn=S*");
$info=ldap_get_entries($ds, $sr); // result is buffered on the machine
for ($i=0; $i<$info["count"]; $i++) {
    echo "dn is: " . $info[$i]["dn"] . "<br />";
    echo "first cn entry is: " . $info[$i]["cn"][0] . "<br />";
    echo "first email entry is: " . $info[$i]["mail"][0] . "<br /><hr />";

Zend_Ldap with ext/ldap

$ldap=new Zend_Ldap(array(/* options */));
$sr=ldap_search($ldap->getResource(), "o=My Company, c=US", "sn=S*");
$info=ldap_get_entries($ldap->getResource(), $sr); // result is buffered on the machine
for ($i=0; $i<$info["count"]; $i++) {
    echo "dn is: " . $info[$i]["dn"] . "<br />";
    echo "first cn entry is: " . $info[$i]["cn"][0] . "<br />";
    echo "first email entry is: " . $info[$i]["mail"][0] . "<br /><hr />";


$ldap=new Zend_Ldap_Ext(array(/* options */));
foreach ($ldap->search("sn=S*") as $item) { // items will be fetched from the LDAP when needed
    echo "dn is: " . $item["dn"] . "<br />";
    echo "first cn entry is: " . $item["cn"][0] . "<br />";
    echo "first email entry is: " . $item["mail"][0] . "<br /><hr />";

This is just a simple example… But think of moving or copying complete subtrees, renaming entries, traversing the tree recursively and so on. Furthermore there are some common pitfalls with escaping values in filter strings and escaping DN values. My aim is to develop Zend_Ldap_Ext so that it addresses the most common workflows when dealing with LDAP servers.

August 11, 2008 at 11:18 2 comments


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