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Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is a protocol designed to access directory systems over TCP/IP. Because of this various databases provide an LDAP interface such as Microsoft's Active Directory, Novell's eDirectory, as well as more dedicated LDAP solutions such as OpenLDAP.
Joomla! has had a native LDAP library,
JLDAP (changed to
JClientLDAP in ) and a native LDAP authentication plugin. This allows Joomla! to authenticate against LDAP systems out of the box: to configure, go to the Plugin Manager and enable and edit the Authentication - LDAP plugin.
You can also read a tutorial on Joomla! LDAP Authentications Plugin: Window 2003 Server Active Directory Configuration.