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ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEM FOR AN ISP
HOSTED SHARED EMAIL SERVER
CROSS-REFERENCE TO A RELATED
This application takes priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. patent application Sen No. 60/144,709 filed Jul. 20, 1999 naming Daryl Huff, et al. as inventor(s) and assigned to the assignee of the present application which is al so [Q incorporated herein by reference for all purposes. This application is also related to the following co-pending U.S. Patent applications, which are filed concurrently with this application and each of which are herein incorporated by reference, (i) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/519,964, entitled "Methods and Apparatus for Automatically Generating a Routing Table in a Messaging Server" naming Belissent et al as inventors; (ii) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/521,282, entitled "Methods and Apparatus for Providing a Virtual Host in Electronic Messaging Servers" naming Belissent et al as inventors; (iii) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/520,865, entitled "Methods and Apparatus for Monitoring Electronic Mail Systems" naming Kavacheri et al as inventors; and (iv) U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/519,948, entitled "Methods and Apparatus for 7^ Delegating Administrative Capabilities to Domains Served by Email Provider" naming Abbott et al as inventors.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates in general to client/server 30 data communication systems and, more particularly, to a mail server included in an electronic mail system for use within a client/server data processing system. More particularly still, the present invention is directed towards a method and apparatus for defining a virtual domain in an email 35 system.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Computer systems are well known in the art and have 4Q become a business staple and are also found in many homes. One feature available to the business world is that of using electronic mailing (email) to send and receive messages and other information to and from one another in a business setting. Similarly, home computers, such as desk tops or laptops, and other information devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), allow telecommuting such that a user can connect to the user's work server and down load and upload messages.
The email system allows clients of a network system, 50 which is maintained by a server system, to send messages or data from one user to another. In order to minimize disk space and requirements as well as to maximize functionality and consistency of the electronic mailing engine used in the network system, the engine is typically located on the server 55 and is merely accessed by a client in order to send messages or retrieve messages to or from another user or client on the server system. In this way, the client system typically allows the user to perform such operations as composing, updating, and sending messages while the server in such a system 6() provides, in part, a server based message repository as well as providing message transmission and reception functions for the user at the client level.
A traditional email system 100, configured to operate in what is referred to as a consumer host mode, is illustrated in 65 FIG. 1. The email system 100 includes a number of consumers and/or businesses 102-1 ("abc.com") through 102-n
("xyz.gov") each of which is coupled to a service provider (SP) 104 ("isp.net"). Traditionally, the service provider (SP) 104 provides the various consumers and/or businesses 102 with just an unprotected IP router. The consumers and/or businesses 102 also operate and maintain their own application servers, including the email server, DNS server, and (if needed) LDAP server (not shown). For their own protection, each of the consumers and/or businesses 102 must operate through a firewall that filters out undesirable packets and insulates the organization's internal network from the Internet. Notice that for many organizations, especially small ones, the email server may actually be the firewall system.
In the email system 100, those consumers and/or businesses 102-1 through 102-n who wish to read their mail must be connected to a service provider (SP) email server 106. The SP 106 also operates an email mailbox 108, and a DNS server 110 that provides the following services, a primary master server for the SP's own domain (ISP.net). to designate as the root server for all consumers and/or businesses, act as a primary master server for consumers and/or businesses who do not wish to maintain their own public DNS server, and as a secondary server for consumers and/or businesses who prefer to maintain their own public server.
As part of the services provided by the SP 106, an SMTP relay host 112 that is managed by the SP offers offer a number of value added services, for which the SP may charge additional fees. In some cases, the relay host can be configured to allow the relay host to accept and hold the consumer's email when their mail server is down. However, unfortunately, the relay host imposes a significant management burden on the SP since in some cases, consumer email may live on this server for an indefinite time raising issues of backup and failure recovery. If one of the consumer servers fails because of being swamped, for example, then the consumer's email may roll over to the SP's relay host. Because of this, most SPs do not offer a relay host for those consumers and/or businesses that are hosting their own email server. The SP also provides a directory service in the form of the LDAP Directory server that is located at the consumer's site, which can be operated by the consumer. In this way, most organizations do not expose their LDAP servers to the public network for security reasons.
In the example shown in FIG. 1, a mail user in ABC, Inc. (which lawfully owns its DNS domain name abc.com, but relies on the ISP isp.net to host its email) desiring to send and receive mail uses the domain name email@example.com even though his mailserver is really mailhost.isp.net. It also means that any user in the abc.com domain, connects to a mailhost in the domain abc.com—for example mail.abc.com—to access his/her mail.
Since the email system 100 requires a separate mail server to be supported by the SP 106 for each of the domains abc.com through xyz.gov, although well understood and easy to manage, the email system 100 is not cost effective for small domains. In addition, as the number of domains increases, the management of the individual services becomes increasingly unwieldy. Internet service providers (ISPs) have a growing interest in hosting email services for always larger and more numerous organizations. Many businesses see the ability to farm out email services as a very attractive cost-saving idea. It is therefore desirable that an email service provider be able to offer email services to multiple organizations each of which has their own virtual domain and to support the ability to define such domains in the directory and host them on a shared mail server. Thus, an email architecture that can support a single mail server
which, in turn, can support many different domains associated with consumers and/or businesses is desirable.
However, when the users within a domain are granted a particular set of user level services, that set of user level services must be a proper subset of the associated allowed set of domain services.
Therefore, what is desired is a set of precedence rules that govern the granting of user level for a particular domain having a set of domain services.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
To achieve the foregoing, and in accordance with the purpose of the present invention, methods for granting a user level service based upon a set of allowed domain level services is provided. In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a method is disclosed where a requested user level service is granted or not based won a set of allowed domain level services. The user level service is requested and a subsequent determination is made whether or not the requested user level service is a member of a proper subset of the set of allowed domain level services. If the requested service is determined to be a member of the proper subset of allowed domain level services, then the requested user level service is granted. In so doing, the granted user level services becomes a member of a set of allowed user level services.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention is illustrated by way of example, and not by way of limitation, in the figures of the accompanying drawings and in which like reference numerals refer to similar elements and in which:
FIG. 1 illustrates a conventional customer hosted type e-mail system.
FIG. 2 shows an Internet email system in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 3 shows an exemplary message store in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 4 shows a flowchart detailing a process whereby a virtual domain is defined in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 5 illustrates a flowchart that details a process that applies a set of precedence rules to the granting of user-level in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 6 illustrates a typical general-purpose computer system suitable for implementing the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
Reference will now be made in detail to a preferred embodiment of the invention. An example of the preferred embodiment is illustrated in the accompanying drawings. While the invention will be described in conjunction with a preferred embodiment, it will be understood that it is not intended to limit the invention to one preferred embodiment. To the contrary, it is intended to cover alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
The Internet has effectively lowered the cost of electronic communication. As the number of people and organizations connected to the Internet has grown, the Internet has evolved into a new channel for communication. To facilitate Internet services, Internet messaging clients and easy-to-use web
browsers have provided cost-effective way of publishing and sharing information with employees inside the enterprise as well as customers, suppliers, and partners outside. Since messaging services has become crucial to enterprise infrastructure in the 1990s, organizations are seeking messaging solutions that provide a lower cost of ownership while increasing the effectiveness and reliability of their communications network. Specifically, they are evaluating the benefits of Internet standards-based messaging systems.
Broadly speaking, the invention describes an Internet standards-based messaging system having a mail server capable of offering e-mail services to multiple organizations each of which has their own virtual domain. The invention is also able to define such virtual domains in the directory and host them on a shared mail server.
The invention will now be described in terms of an internet mail server resident on a server computer coupled to a large network of mailboxes typical of a large corporate Internet system as well as a single user coupled to a large interconnected computer network such as the Internet. It should be noted, however, that the inventive mail server is well suited to any application requiring highly reliable, scalable, and efficient information transport over a large number of computers.
Referring now to FIG. 2, an Internet email system 300 in accordance with an embodiment of the invention includes an Internet mail server 301 coupled to a user mailbox 303. In the described embodiment, the mail server 301 is a generalpurpose, "store-and-forward" system for distributing computer-based mail. It should be noted that the term "store-and-forward" means that the mail server 301 automatically handles the receiving of mail messages necessitated when network links (such as those links 306 to the Internet) or other services are temporarily unavailable. In contrast to mail user agents (MUAs) that are used to create and read electronic mail messages, a transfer unit 302 included in the mail server 301 is responsible for directing messages to the appropriate network transport and ensuring reliable delivery over that transport. In a preferred embodiment, the mail server 301 includes a message store unit 304 coupled to the transfer unit 302 that is used to store messages for later transmission to the user mailbox 303.
As shown in FIG. 3, in one implementation, the message store 304 in the mail server 301 is a dedicated data store for the delivery, retrieval, and manipulation of Internet mail messages. In a preferred embodiment, the message store works with the IMAP4 and POP3 to provide flexible and easy access to messaging. It saves any message that conforms to RFC 822 specifications, and recognizes the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) content format.
In the described embodiment, the message store 304 is organized as a set of folders and user mailboxes. The mailbox 401 is a container for messages where each user has an inbox 402 where new mail arrives, and can have one or more folders 404 where mail can be stored. Folders 404 may contain other folders or mailboxes and may be arranged in a hierarchical tree. Mailboxes owned by an individual user are private folders 406. In addition to a user owning a folder or a mailbox, a common user or group can share the ownership of a folder or mailbox as a shared folder 408. A shared folder is similar to an email group, but instead of messages going into each member of the email group's inbox, messages addressed to the shared folder 408 go into a private folder associated with each user. It should be noted that in a preferred embodiment, the message store 304 maintains only one copy of each message. However, in those