How To Install OpenLDAP Server for Centralized Authentication

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP in short) is an industry standard, lightweight, widely used set of protocols for accessing directory services. A directory service is a shared information infrastructure for accessing, managing, organizing, and updating everyday items and network resources, such as users, groups, devices, emails addresses, telephone numbers, volumes and many other objects.

The LDAP information model is based on entries. An entry in a LDAP directory represents a single unit or information and is uniquely identified by what is called a Distinguished Name (DN). Each of the entry’s attributes has a type and one or more values.

An attribute is a piece of information associated with an entry. The types are typically mnemonic strings, such as “cn” for common name, or “mail” for email address. Each attribute is assigned one or more values consisting in a space-separated list.

The following is an illustration of how information is arranged in the LDAP directory.

Ldap Information Model
Ldap Information Model

In this article, we will show how to install and configure OpenLDAP server for centralized authentication in Ubuntu 16.04/18.04 and CentOS 7.

Step 1: Installing LDAP Server

1. First start by installing OpenLDAP, an open source implementation of LDAP and some traditional LDAP management utilities using the following commands.

# yum install openldap openldap-servers	    #CentOS 7
$ sudo apt install slapd ldap-utils	    #Ubuntu 16.04/18.04

On Ubuntu, during the package installation, you will be prompted to enter the password for the admin entry in your LDAP directory, set a secure password and confirm it.

Configure Slapd Admin Password
Configure Slapd Admin Password

When the installation is complete, you can start the service as explained next.

2. On CentOS 7, run the following commands to start the openldap server daemon, enable it to auto-start at boot time and check if its up and running (on Ubuntu the service should be auto-started under systemd, you can simply check its status):

$ sudo systemctl start slapd
$ sudo systemctl enable slapd
$ sudo systemctl status slapd

3. Next, allow requests to the LDAP server daemon through the firewall as shown.

# firewall-cmd --add-service=ldap    #CentOS 7
$ sudo ufw allow ldap                #Ubuntu 16.04/18.04

Step 2: Configuring LDAP Server

Note: It is not recommended to manually edit the LDAP configuration, you need to add the configurations in a file and use the ldapadd or ldapmodify command to load them to the LDAP directory as shown below.

4. Now create a OpenLDAP administrative user and assign a password for that user. In the below command, a hashed value is created for the given password, take note of it, you will use it in the LDAP configuration file.

$ slappasswd
Create Ldap Admin User
Create Ldap Admin User

5. Then create an LDIF file (ldaprootpasswd.ldif) which is used to add an entry to the LDAP directory.

$ sudo vim ldaprootpasswd.ldif

Add the following contents in it:

dn: olcDatabase={0}config,cn=config
changetype: modify
add: olcRootPW

explaining the attribute-value pairs above:

  • olcDatabase: indicates a specific database instance name and can be typically found inside /etc/openldap/slapd.d/cn=config.
  • cn=config: indicates global config options.
  • PASSWORD: is the hashed string obtained while creating the administrative user.

6. Next, add the corresponding LDAP entry by specifying the URI referring to the ldap server and the file above.

$ sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f ldaprootpasswd.ldif  
Add Parameters from Root Password File
Add Parameters from Root Password File

Step 3: Configuring LDAP Database

7. Now copy the sample database configuration file for slapd into the /var/lib/ldap directory, and set the correct permissions on the file.

$ sudo cp /usr/share/openldap-servers/DB_CONFIG.example /var/lib/ldap/DB_CONFIG
$ sudo chown -R ldap:ldap /var/lib/ldap/DB_CONFIG
$ sudo systemctl restart slapd

8. Next, import some basic LDAP schemas from the /etc/openldap/schema directory as follows.

$ sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f /etc/openldap/schema/cosine.ldif 
$ sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f /etc/openldap/schema/nis.ldif
$ sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f /etc/openldap/schema/inetorgperson.ldif

9. Now add your domain in the LDAP database and create a file called ldapdomain.ldif for your domain.

$ sudo vim ldapdomain.ldif 

Add the following content in it (replace example with your domain and PASSWORD with the hashed value obtained before):

dn: olcDatabase={1}monitor,cn=config
changetype: modify
replace: olcAccess
olcAccess: {0}to * by dn.base="gidNumber=0+uidNumber=0,cn=peercred,cn=external,cn=auth"
  read by dn.base="cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com" read by * none

dn: olcDatabase={2}hdb,cn=config
changetype: modify
replace: olcSuffix
olcSuffix: dc=example,dc=com

dn: olcDatabase={2}hdb,cn=config
changetype: modify
replace: olcRootDN
olcRootDN: cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com

dn: olcDatabase={2}hdb,cn=config
changetype: modify
add: olcRootPW

dn: olcDatabase={2}hdb,cn=config
changetype: modify
add: olcAccess
olcAccess: {0}to attrs=userPassword,shadowLastChange by
  dn="cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com" write by anonymous auth by self write by * none
olcAccess: {1}to dn.base="" by * read
olcAccess: {2}to * by dn="cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com" write by * read

10. Then add the above configuration to the LDAP database with the following command.

$ sudo ldapmodify -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f ldapdomain.ldif
Load Domain Configuration
Load Domain Configuration

11. In this step, we need to add some entries to our LDAP directory. Create another file called baseldapdomain.ldif with the following content.

dn: dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: top
objectClass: dcObject
objectclass: organization
o: example com
dc: example

dn: cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalRole
cn: Manager
description: Directory Manager

dn: ou=People,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalUnit
ou: People

dn: ou=Group,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalUnit
ou: Group 

Save the file and then add the entries to the LDAP directory.

$ sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -x -D cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com -W -f baseldapdomain.ldif

12. The next step is to create a LDAP user for example, tecmint, and set a password for this user as follows.

$ sudo useradd tecmint
$ sudo passwd tecmint

13. Then create the definitions for a LDAP group in a file called ldapgroup.ldif with the following content.

dn: cn=Manager,ou=Group,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: top
objectClass: posixGroup
gidNumber: 1005

In the above configuration, gidNumber is the GID in /etc/group for tecmint and add it to the OpenLDAP directory.

$ sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -x  -W -D "cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com" -f ldapgroup.ldif

14. Next, create another LDIF file called ldapuser.ldif and add the definitions for user tecmint.

dn: uid=tecmint,ou=People,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: top
objectClass: account
objectClass: posixAccount
objectClass: shadowAccount
cn: tecmint
uid: tecmint
uidNumber: 1005
gidNumber: 1005
homeDirectory: /home/tecmint
loginShell: /bin/bash
gecos: tecmint
shadowLastChange: 0
shadowMax: 0
shadowWarning: 0

then load fthe configuration to the LDAP directory.

$ ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL  -x -D cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com -W -f  ldapuser.ldif

Once you have setup a central server for authentication, the final part is to enable the client to authenticate using LDAP as explained in this guide:

  1. How to Configure LDAP Client to Connect External Authentication

For more information, see the appropriate documentation from OpenLDAP Software document catalog and Ubuntu users can refer to the OpenLDAP server guide.


OpenLDAP is a open source implementation of LDAP in Linux. In this article, we have shown how to install and configure OpenLDAP server for centralized authentication, in Ubuntu 16.04/18.04 and CentOS 7. If you have a question or thoughts to share, do not hesitate to reach us via the comment form below.

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Aaron Kili
Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

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Leave a Reply
  1. Step 3 doesn’t work in Ubuntu 18.4.3. Error: No such file…

    I had to solve the problem with:

    # dpkg-reconfigre slapd

    and then followed instructions from another website. As this guide doesn’t seem to be updated.

  2. Step 3.

    # sudo cp /usr/share/openldap-servers/DB_CONFIG.example /var/lib/ldap/DB_CONFIG 

    Results in “no such file”

    Tried to locate the file… there is no such file on the server.

  3. What if during the LFCE exam I get a request to spin up an open-ldap server? I will never remember by memory all of that text for the ldif files…
    what are my options there? can’t access the internet to copy a template…?

    Can I put my own template on Github and curl during the exam? Why for ubuntu is that easy with a “graphical” guided way? is there a package for centos that can do the same thing?

  4. No wonder people Use Microsoft ADDS. OpenLDAP setup is not easy to understand steps. Even Powershell Installation of ADDS is easier.

  5. In step 11 I received “ldapadd incompatible with previous authentication choice” error. Removed -Y EXTERNAL and all was well. Step should read “sudo ldapadd -x -D cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com -W -f baseldapdomain.ldif

  6. The openldap-clients package is missing from the installation instruction in step 1. Install openldap-clients (CentOS 7, RHEL 7) and the command “sudo ldapmodify -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f ldapdomain.ldif” works just fine.

    I didn’t like the font used as an l and a 1 appear to be the same. In the ldaprootpasswd.ldif make sure to use a lower case L vice a 1 for line 1 and 4 (olc) not (o1c).

    • ldap_bind: Invalid credentials (49)” if “-Y EXTERNAL” not used or else “ldapadd: incompatible with previous authentication choice”

      • The “example” from the LDAP command should be changed to the one with the one you have "dc=" on STEP 9.

        The password should the one generated with “slappasswd“.

        Also in the baseldapdomain.ldif file, all “example” must be replaced with the one you set "dc=" in STEP 9.

        And yes remove "-Y EXTERNAL" to avoid connection error.

        I think you should state that “example” should be replaced also in STEP 11 as you have mentioned in STEP 11.

  7. In step 5. which folder will you create ldaprootpasswd.ldif in? I guess in /etc/ldap (I am a little bit confused since You mentioned /etc/openldap but it is not created, instead I have /etc/ldap.

  8. I get the error:

    ldappadd: wrong attributeType at line 4, entry "dn: olcDatabase={0}config,cn=config" when running the command sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f ldaprootpasswd.ldif

    • The user and group for that command are both “openldap” (e.g., sudo chown -R openldap:openldap /var/lib/ldap/DB_CONFIG) Also, the directory should be “etc/ldap“.

  9. In step 3 I just get:
    cp: cannot stat '/usr/share/openldap-servers/DB_CONFIG.example': No such file or directory
    what should I do?

    • @Anoobiz

      Which distribution are you using, the file is normally provided with the package. Check if you have copied the correct command with the correct file path.

  10. I’m getting “ldapadd: incompatible with previous authentication choice“ error when typing “sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -x -D cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com -W -f baseldapdomain.ldif“ in step 11, any help please?

      • I am doing it on RHEL 7 and getting following error:

        # ldapadd -x -D cn=Manager,dc=vxindia.veritas,dc=com -W -f baseldapdomain.ldif
        Enter LDAP Password:
        adding new entry ",dc=com"
        ldap_add: Server is unwilling to perform (53)
                additional info: no global superior knowledge
  11. openLDAP vs freeIPA

    • Its good but it lacks integration with Kerberos
    • Supports Debian
    • Good for single authentication rather than single sign-on
    • Good if you need a common repository for user information
    • FreeIPA is good idea, but its not in Debian’s repos (only sid).
    • We could try to install it from sid, but it’s not stable and production ready. it stable only in RedHat family (centos/fedora).
    • Good for single sign on
  12. OpenLDAP vs Apache DS

    • More scalable and light weight.
    • Limited tools for managing LDAP Servers. OpenLDAP must be configured via command line using LDIF’s.
    • repetitive work that you have almost certainly have to have a domain administrator doing
    • OpenLDAP crashes under load. They have poor performance in write and mediocre in read only. They both use a BerkeleyDB internally and exhibit similar behavior
    • ApacheDS has a client solution
    • their config’s are separated into XML files.
    • ApacheDS is built on Java and yes you can expect there to be garbage collection.
    • ApacheDS had to be configured with a special option (no write sync) to add initial users or it would have taken an entire week. They are not satisfactory. It looks like there is some sort of internal locking in the ldap or the database which block access to entries and result in shitty performances.
  13. So many missing parts…
    I’ve trusted you and you failed me.
    ldapadd command not found
    ldapadd: incompatible with previous authentication choice

  14. In step 11 I had to remove -Y EXTERNAL to not get this error:

    ldapadd: incompatible with previous authentication choice

    This did work:

    # ldapadd -x -D cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com -W -f baseldapdomain.ldif

    Thank you for the many times you helped me out already!

    • In step 10, when I run the command ldapmodify -Y EXTERNAL -H ldapi:/// -f ldapdomain.ldif, I had this error : (ldap_modify : Invalid DN syntax(34) additional info: invalid DN).

      Help me please..

    • When i remove –Y EXTERNAL and run with correct password, I still get this error.

      $ sudo ldapadd -x  -W -D "cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com" -f ldapgroup.ldif
      Enter LDAP Password:
      ldap_bind: Invalid credentials (49)
      • In step 11.
        sudo ldapadd -Y EXTERNAL -x -D cn=Manager,dc=example,dc=com -W -f baseldapdomain.ldif
        Enter LDAP Password: corret_password
        ldap_bind: Invalid credentials (49)

        But : I got invalid credentials (49).

        • Anyone, please update on this query, I am also facing the same issue.

          Enter LDAP Password:
          ldap_bind: Invalid credentials (49)

        • When removing -Y EXTERNAL and with the correct password, I get: ldap_bind: Invalid credentials (49).

          When using -Y EXTERNAL only I get: ldap_add: Server is unwilling to perform (53).
          additional info: no global superior knowledge

          CentOS 7.6
          OpenLDAP 2.4.44


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