Matching Rules#

Matching rules are used by the Directory Server to compare two values for the same attribute (i.e., to perform matching operations on them). There are several different types of matching rules, including:

  • Equality Matching Rules -- these matching rules are used to determine whether two values are logically equal to each other. Different implementations of equality matching rules may use different criteria for making this determination (e.g., whether to ignore differences in capitalization, deciding which spaces are significant, etc.).
  • Ordering Matching Rules -- these matching rules are used to determine the relative order for two values, for example when evaluating greater-or-equal or less-or-equal searches, or when the results need to be sorted.
  • Substring Matching Rules -- these matching rules are used to determine whether a given substring assertion should match a particular value. A substring assertion is comprised of at least one element from the following sets: at most one subInitial element, zero or more subAny elements, and at most one subFinal element.
  • Approximate Matching Rules -- these matching rules are used to determine whether two values are approximately equal to each other. This is frequently based on "sounds like" or some other kind of fuzzy algorithm. Approximate matching rules are not part of the official LDAP specification, but we do include them in OpenDS for added flexibility.


The Matching Rule Description Format The matching rule description format is described in RFC 4512, section 4.1.3. This is the format that is used to display matching rules in the matchingRules attribute of the schema subentry, and it shows the properties that may be associated with a matching rule. The definition of the matching rule description format is as follows:
     MatchingRuleDescription = LPAREN WSP
         numericoid                 ; object identifier
         [ SP "NAME" SP qdescrs ]   ; short names (descriptors)
         [ SP "DESC" SP qdstring ]  ; description
         [ SP "OBSOLETE" ]          ; not active
         SP "SYNTAX" SP numericoid  ; assertion syntax
         extensions WSP RPAREN      ; extensions

The elements of the matching rule description include:

  • The numeric OID is used to uniquely identify the Matching Rule in the server. Every matching rule must have a unique OID.
  • The name elements are human-readable names assigned to the Matching Rule that may be used to refer to it in place of the OID. A matching rule is not required to have any human-readable names. If it has only a single name, then it will simply be enclosed in single quotes. If there are multiple names for a matching rule, each will be enclosed in single quotes with spaces between the names, and parentheses around the entire set of names.
  • The description element is a human-readable description for the matching rule. There may be at most one description, and if it is present then it should be enclosed in single quotation marks.
  • The OBSOLETE flag indicates whether this matching rule should be considered available for use. If a matching rule is marked "OBSOLETE", then it should not be possible to create any new attribute types or matching rule uses which reference this Matching Rule.
  • The syntax element identifies the attribute syntax with which the matching rule is associated. This is used to indicate the acceptable format for values on which the matching rule will operate. More information about attribute syntaxes may be found in a subsequent section of this document. The syntax OID must be included in all matching rule descriptions.
  • The extensions for a matching rule may be used to identify other properties for that matching rule that may not be included in the standard definition. OpenDS does not currently support any extensions for use in matching rules.

For example, the following is the matching rule description for the standard caseIgnoreMatch matching rule:

    ( NAME 'caseIgnoreMatch' SYNTAX )

In this case, the OID is "". There is one name, which is "caseIgnoreMatch". There is no description. The OID of the associated syntax is (which is the Directory String syntax). There are no extensions.

Commonly-Used Matching Rules#

There are a number of matching rules defined in LDAP, both in the core protocol specification, as well as other related RFCs and Internet Drafts. Many of these matching rules are defined in RFC 4517 (LDAP Syntaxes and Matching Rules), in section 4.2. Some of the most commonly-used matching rules include:

  • caseIgnoreMatch, caseIgnoreOrderingMatch, caseIgnoreSubstringsMatch -- these are equality, ordering, and substring matching rules, respectively, which ignore differences in capitalization and also treat multiple consecutive spaces as a single space.
  • caseExactMatch, caseExactOrderingMatch, caseExactSubstringsMatch -- these are equality, ordering, and substring matching rules, respectively, which treat values in a case-sensitive manner but do treat multiple consecutive spaces as a single space.
  • octetStringMatch, octetStringOrderingMatch, octetStringSubstringsMatch -- these are equality, ordering, and substring matching rules, respectively, which perform byte-for-byte comparisons of the values, treating them as binary data rather than strings.
  • numericStringMatch, numericStringOrderingMatch, numericStringSubstringsMatch -- these are equality, ordering, and substring matching rules, respectively, which operate on values that start with a numeric digit, and contain only numeric digits and spaces. Spaces are ignored when performing matching with these matching rules.
  • distinguishedNameMatch -- this is an equality matching rule that operates on distinguished name (DN) values. It ignores spaces around the commas or semicolons that separate DN components, spaces around plus signs that separate RDN components, and spaces around equal signs that separate RDN attribute type names from their corresponding values. Differences in capitalization are ignored for attribute type names. Equality matching for attribute values is performed using the equality matching rule for the corresponding attribute type.
  • doubleMetaphoneApproximateMatch -- this is an approximate matching rule that uses the double metaphone algorithm to perform a "sounds like" comparison. Note that this matching rule is not part of any official LDAP specification, but we do include it in OpenDS for added flexibility.

Value Normalization#

One of the tasks that most matching rules need to perform is value normalization. This is the process of transforming a given value to a form that can be used to compare values efficiently. In most cases, the normalization process should reduce all logically equivalent values to the same string so that a very simple string comparison can be performed to determine whether the strings are equal. For example, the caseIgnoreMatch matching rule will typically normalize values by converting all characters to lowercase and replacing occurrences of multiple consecutive spaces with a single space. A more complicated example is the distinguishedNameMatch matching rule, which removes all unnecessary spaces (e.g., around commas, equal signs, and plus signs), converts all attribute types to lowercase, and then uses the appropriate matching rules to normalize the attribute values for each RDN component.

Note that in some cases, normalization alone is not sufficient for determining whether two values are logically equivalent. This is particularly true for cases in which the value is transformed, and there can be multiple different transformations for the same value. For example, this is often done for the userPassword attribute type, where values may be encoded using a one-way message digest algorithm, and if that algorithm includes a salt then each time a given value is encoded it may result in a different string (in fact, this is the intended behavior, which helps prevent dictionary attacks). In cases like this, the matching rule simply needs to use different logic to determine equality, rather than relying solely on normalization.

The OpenDS Matching Rule Implementation#

Because matching rules require logic to perform the appropriate kinds of matching operations, they must be implemented in code. All matching rules in OpenDS must be subclasses of the org.opends.server.api.MatchingRule class, and most of them should be subclasses of one of the following classes (each of which is a subclass of org.opends.server.api.MatchingRule):

  • org.opends.server.api.EqualityMatchingRule
  • org.opends.server.api.OrderingMatchingRule
  • org.opends.server.api.SubstringMatchingRule
  • org.opends.server.api.ApproximateMatchingRule

All of the matching rule implementations that are provided as part of OpenDS are included in the org.opends.server.schema package. When a new matching rule class is implemented, a corresponding configuration entry should be added below the "cn=Matching Rules,cn=config" entry. For example, the configuration entry that defines the caseIgnoreMatch equality matching rule is as follows:

dn: cn=Case Ignore Equality Matching Rule,cn=Matching Rules,cn=config
objectClass: top
objectClass: ds-cfg-matching-rule
objectClass: ds-cfg-equality-matching-rule
cn: Case Ignore Equality Matching Rule
ds-cfg-matching-rule-class: org.opends.server.schema.CaseIgnoreEqualityMatchingRule
ds-cfg-matching-rule-enabled: true

The most important methods from the org.opends.server.api.MatchingRule class that matching rules need to implement are:

public ByteString normalizeValue(ByteString value)
       throws DirectoryException

public ConditionResult valuesMatch(ByteString attributeValue,
                                   ByteString assertionValue)

Equality matching rules need to implement the following method from the org.opends.server.api.EqualityMatchingRule class:

public boolean areEqual(ByteString value1, ByteString value2)

Ordering matching rules need to implement the following method from the org.opends.server.api.OrderingMatchingRule class:

public int compareValues(ByteString value1, ByteString value2)

Substring matching rules need to implement the following two methods from the org.opends.server.api.SubstringMatchingRule class:

public ByteString normalizeSubstring(ByteString substring)
       throws DirectoryException

public boolean valueMatchesSubstring(ByteString value,
                                     ByteString subInitial,
                                     List subAnyElements,
                                     ByteString subFinal)

Approximate matching rules need to implement the following method from the org.opends.server.api.ApproximateMatchingRule class:

public boolean approximatelyMatch(ByteString value1,
                                  ByteString value2)

Matching rule objects may be retrieved from the server schema using their OIDs or any of their human-readable names.

More Information#

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« This page (revision-7) was last changed on 30-Jul-2016 21:00 by jim