The What's in a Name? lesson explains in detail how to use a composite name to express a name that spans multiple naming systems. This section explains how a service provider determines which components of the composite name to process and which to pass on. In effect, the service provider needs to determine the naming system boundary that separates its components from those of its (downstream) neighbor.
Strong and Weak Separation
The example in the What's in a Name? lesson has the following composite name:This composite name has three components:cn=homedir,cn=Jon Ruiz,ou=People/tutorial/report.txtThe first component belongs to the LDAP naming system, and the second two belong to the (UNIX) file system. As this example shows, a composite name can have multiple (possibly consecutive) components from the same naming system ("tutorial" and "report.txt" are both from the file system), but one component cannot span more than one naming system. So, the correspondence between the composite name component separator--the forward slash character (/)--and naming system boundaries might not be one-to-one.cn=homedir,cn=Jon Ruiz,ou=People tutorial report.txt
In this lesson, service providers are categorized by whether they treat the composite name component separator as a naming system boundary. Those that do support strong separation, and those that don't support weak separation.
- A provider that supports strong separation processes a composite name by consuming the leading component of the name and leaving the remaining components for other naming systems.
- A provider that supports weak separation does not necessarily treat the separator as a naming system boundary. When processing a composite name, it consumes as many leading components as appropriate for the underlying naming system.
The primary factor for determining whether a provider supports strong or weak separation is the syntax of the underlying naming system. If that system has a flat namespace or a hierarchical namespace with a compound name component separator that does not conflict with the composite name component separator, then the corresponding service provider will support strong separation. Otherwise, the provider most likely will support weak separation. Of course, it can get around the syntax conflict issue and support strong separation by requiring that any compound name component separator be escaped or quoted. This requirement might be inconvenient for users of that provider but it might be the only way by which some providers can support federation. (See later in this lesson.)
Service providers that support strong separation include those for the LDAP, the Windows file system, and the RMI registry. The LDAP naming system is hierarchical and has the comma character (",") as its compound name component separator. The Windows file system is hierarchical and has the backslash character ("\") as the separator. Neither of these separators conflicts with the composite name component separator. The RMI registry namespace is a flat namespace. Service providers that support weak separation include those for the COS naming service and the UNIX file system.
Conditions for Supporting Weak SeparationWeak separation is convenient because it makes composite names look cleaner (fewer quotation marks or escapes are required). Also, this allows users to be less cognizant of naming system boundaries. However, not all service providers can support weak separation. Certain restrictions may force a provider to support strong separation. For example, if the namespace syntax is hierarchical and uses the forward slash character ("/") as its separator but names are arranged right to left, then the provider cannot use weak separation. This is because the conflicting direction prevents any sensible determination of naming system boundaries.
If the naming system is terminal (components from that naming system can appear only at the end of a composite name), then the service provider can support weak separation. For example, suppose that a spreadsheet application's namespace has a left-to-right syntax and uses the forward slash character as the component separator. Suppose also that it names spreadsheet cells that will always be terminal; that is, things will not be named relative to a spreadsheet cell. In this case, the service provider for the spreadsheet naming system can support weak separation. Given a composite name, it will consume all of its components.
If the naming system is nonterminal but the service provider can determine the naming system boundary syntactically, then it can support weak separation. In this case, the service provider would use a syntactic rule to determine how many components from a composite name to consume. For example, the compound name components from the naming system might have a distinguishing characteristic that allows the provider to select the components.
As a specific example, a DCE X.500 name looks like this:A provider for this naming system can support weak separation by looking for components that have a key/value pair separated by an equals character ("="). It will, however, restrict the types of naming systems that can be federated directly beyond its naming system. In the previous example, a naming system that has names that consist of key/value pairs separated by an equals character cannot be federated.c=us/o=wiz/ou=people
If the naming system is nonterminal but the service provider can determine the naming system boundary dynamically, then it can support weak separation. The underlying naming system must be able to return residual unresolved components of names. To determine which components to consume, the provider will resolve the entire composite name and, based on the result of the resolution, use any residual to determine what is not in its naming system.