This quick start is designed to cover a variety of topics of the Directory Server from setup, configuration, administration, and more. It should help you have a reliable and simple setup configured very quickly.

If you want to learn more about what ldap is, you should read our “ldap concepts” guide.

For this quickstart you’ll need two virtual machines, and they should be able to contact each other by their hostnames. I’ll be using “” and “”.

This document is for Directory Server 1.4.x - for 1.3.x (IE CentOS 7) you should follow the corresponding Red Hat documentation instead of this page.

Installing the software

You’ll need to install a copy of the server. On OpenSUSE leap 15 or tumbleweed this is:

zypper install 389-ds

On fedora or CentOS 8:

dnf install 389-ds-base

If your platform isn’t listed, check our download page for more details on how to install - on contact us!

Finally check you have the correct package version installed - it should be in the 1.4.x series.

# rpm -qa | grep 389-ds

reference: downloads

Our commands

389 Directory Server is controlled by 3 primary commands.

Setup the instance

We want to setup your server now. A basic configuration is:

# /root/instance.inf
config_version = 2


sample_entries = yes
suffix = dc=example,dc=com

Now you can install your 389 DS instance with:

dscreate from-file /root/instance.inf

Hint: if you are running in docker, you’ll need to use the -c flag in your install.

That’s it! You have a working LDAP server. You can show this with:

dsctl localhost status

If you have any issues, re-run the installer with verbose to help identify the cause:

dscreate -v from-file /root/instance.inf

reference: install guide

Setup Admin credentials

To make administration easier, we can indicate through a config how to connect to the directory server. This is a file called ~/.dsrc

For remote administration a configuration is:

# cat ~/.dsrc
uri = ldaps://<name of remote server>
basedn = dc=example,dc=com
binddn = cn=Directory Manager
# You need to copy /etc/dirsrv/slapd-localhost/ca.crt to your host for this to work.
# Then run /usr/bin/c_rehash /etc/openldap/certs
tls_cacertdir = /etc/openldap/certs/

For local instance administration (on the server), you want to use settings like:

# cat ~/.dsrc
# Note that '/' is replaced to '%%2f'.
uri = ldapi://%%2fvar%%2frun%%2fslapd-localhost.socket
basedn = dc=example,dc=com
binddn = cn=Directory Manager

For now, we recommend you use the local version with ldapi

Question: “When I use ldapi on the server that has the DS instance, why don’t I need to provide my password?”

With LDAP, we are able to detect your client-processes UID/GID, and if that’s 0/0 (ie root), we map you to the cn=Directory Manager user of the instance. With this, you could actually set the hash to garbage on the instance, and use local-root as the only admin of the instance. Nice and secure!

reference: install guide

Add users and groups

Now we want to store some users and groups in your directory. Let’s make two users, Alice and Eve with the dsidm command. You can give answers as arguments to the command line, or it will interactively prompt for them.

# dsidm localhost user create
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
Enter value for uid : alice
Enter value for cn : Alice
Enter value for displayName : Alice User
Enter value for uidNumber : 1000
Enter value for gidNumber : 1000
Enter value for homeDirectory : /home/alice
Sucessfully created alice

# dsidm localhost user create --uid eve --cn Eve --displayName 'Eve User' --uidNumber 1001 --gidNumber 1001 --homeDirectory /home/eve
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
Sucessfully created eve

While our commands do our best to use “short names” like alice, eve, etc, many parts of LDAP require a “distinguished name”. This is a fully qualified name to the directory object, which is guaranteed unique. We can look at the dn for any type with the “get” command. This shows us the objects we query for.

# dsidm localhost user get alice
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
dn: uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com

Now knowing the dn, we can reset (overwrite) or change (self change) passwords for these accounts. Note we use the “account” subcommand here, which deals with authentication to the directory, account locking, unlocking and more.

# dsidm localhost account reset_password uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
Enter new password for uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com :
CONFIRM - Enter new password for uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com :
reset password for uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com

Try the same for eve now.

Next, let’s create a group; we’ll call it server_admins, and we’ll add Alice as a member. We have to look up Alice’s distinguished name, or dn in LDAP terms, to add them correctly to the group.

# dsidm localhost group create
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
Enter value for cn : server_admins
Sucessfully created server_admins

# dsidm localhost group add_member server_admins uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
added member: uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com

That’s it! We have users and groups that can authenticate and have information assigned to them.

We can show the authentication works with the “ldapwhoami” command.

# ldapwhoami -H ldaps://localhost -D uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com -W -x
Enter LDAP Password: <Password of alice, not the Directory Manager admin>
dn: uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com

NOTE: If you get an error like:

ldap_sasl_bind(SIMPLE): Can't contact LDAP server (-1)

This can occur because the openldap client tools don’t trust our certificate (the error message is misleading). You can fix this by putting the ca cert path in the environment.

LDAPTLS_CACERT=/etc/dirsrv/slapd-localhost/ca.crt ldapwhoami -H ldaps://localhost -D uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com -W -x

To make this permanent, put ‘TLS_CACERT /etc/dirsrv/slapd-localhost/ca.crt’ into /etc/openldap/ldap.conf.

We can also make some simple changes to our users if we want with the “modify” command. Add will append an attribute into the current set, replace will remove the existing attributes values, and delete will remove the attribute as listed.

For example we can now add a description to our users.

# dsidm localhost user modify alice "add:description:Alice Test User"

Now you can check your changes on the object with:

# dsidm localhost user get alice

This would add “description: Alice Test User” to uid=alice. If we wanted to replace this with a new value, we would run:

# dsidm localhost user modify alice "replace:description:New Description"

If we wanted to remove a single value:

# dsidm localhost user modify alice "delete:description:New Description"

This will let you make minor changes to your users are required, if we don’t supply a wrapper to help out.

reference: users and groups

Add plugins

We ship lots of useful plugins … let’s setup memberof, which adds a reverse link between a user and who they are a member. This makes security lookups much faster.

Administration of plugins is a dsconf tool action, as it’s server administration. We can show the current status of the plugin with:

# dsconf localhost plugin memberof status
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
Plugin 'MemberOf Plugin' is disabled

So it’s currently disabled! Let’s turn it on, and restart our server to enable it.

# dsconf localhost plugin memberof enable
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:3636:
Enabled plugin 'MemberOf Plugin'

# dsctl localhost restart
Instance "localhost" has been restarted

Now, lets configure the plugin to be useful. We want memberof to search for all entries,

# dsconf localhost plugin memberof set --scope dc=example,dc=com
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
successfully added memberOfEntryScope value "dc=example,dc=com"

We need to mark alice as being a valid memberOf target: This is only because it was created before memberOf was enabled. All new groups and users after this point will work as expected - so this is a once off task:

# dsidm localhost user modify alice add:objectclass:nsmemberof

Finally, we can run a “fixup” which will regenerate memberof for everyone in the directory.

# dsconf localhost plugin memberof fixup dc=example,dc=com
Enter password for cn=Directory Manager on ldaps://localhost:
Attempting to add task entry... This will fail if MemberOf plug-in is not enabled.
Successfully added task entry cn=memberOf_fixup_2019-01-14T13:05:04.011865,cn=memberOf task,cn=tasks,cn=config

The fixup won’t take long: We can see that it has worked by checking on Alice again and seeing the memberOf attribute:

# dsidm localhost user get alice
dn: uid=alice,ou=people,dc=example,dc=com
memberOf: cn=server_admins,ou=groups,dc=example,dc=com

Now anytime you add a member to a group it will update the reverse memberOf pointer. This is really great as it allows a fast caching of “what groups someone is a member of” which helps make your server faster and simpler to administer.

Setup SSSD

First install sssd on your machine:

zypper in sssd
dnf install sssd

On OpenSUSE and SUSE LEAP you need to stop nscd which conflicts with sssd.

systemctl disable nscd && systemctl stop nscd

Now generate the config. See how we specify “server_admins”? That means only members of this group can login to this system:

dsidm localhost client_config sssd.conf server_admins

Please make sure you have enabled the memberOf plugin on the server, as explained in the last section.

If you are happy, copy paste (or redirect) the content to /etc/sssd/sssd.conf

On fedora, sssd is already part of pam and nsswitch, so you don’t need to do anything! For SUSE, you need to configure these files yourself, so now is the time to check the full sssd how to for examples.

Next setup the certificates. To do this, copy ca.crt from the ldap server host to your client.

mkdir -p /etc/openldap/certs
cp <...>/ca.crt /etc/openldap/certs/
/usr/bin/c_rehash /etc/openldap/certs

Finally, we can now start sssd:

systemctl enable sssd
systemctl start sssd

And we can resolve our users:

id alice
id eve

If everything is done properly, you should be able to ssh in as alice, but not eve.

reference: Setup SSSD

Configuration for other services

Having users and groups stored here is well and good, but it only matters when other applications can connect to and consume this information. Most client applications request a small number of configuration paramaters: some of them use LDAP specific terms that seem a bit intimidating at first. However all of the information needed is in our server, so we can display a guide of how to use this with:

dsidm localhost client_config display

You will need to adapt and change this as required, but it should help you to identify and understand ldap client integration.

Backup and Restore

Backups and Restores are a vital part of Directory Server administration. As the source of identity truth on a network, it’s critical the data is correct and preserved in case of disaster.

To create a backup, run:

dsctl localhost stop
dsctl localhost db2bak
# OR, for ldif
dsctl localhost db2ldif --replication userRoot
dsctl localhost start

To restore:

dsctl localhost stop
dsctl localhost bak2db 
dsctl localhost bak2db /var/lib/dirsrv/slapd-localhost/bak/<archive name>
# OR, for ldif
dsctl localhost ldif2db userRoot /var/lib/dirsrv/slapd-localhost/ldif/<ldif name>
dsctl localhost start

These backups contain vital and important user data, so protect and secure these properly!

reference: Backup and Restore Strategies

What’s next?

389 Directory Server ships with many other features and plugins. Some you may want to explore:

We want to hear from you to about your setup and configurations, so please contact the team to extend this section!


William Brown (SUSE Labs) wbrown at

Last modified on 5 October 2020