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This paper discusses the technical background and advantages of deploying a centralized user database as a general repository for network and management applications. Central focus will be the fact that the user data need to be highly available. The paper shows how the principles of distributed systems can be used to provide a database, which is common to all applications needing user data and whose distribution is transparent for these applications. The author then proves that databases built according to the principles described by ITU-T's Recommendations for Directory Services allow for a non proprietary implementation of the centralized user database described above.