3.10.2 Using the Role Object

The person and role objects are often said to be interchangeable:

  • They share the same name space in the RIPE Database, but names can be duplicated.
  • The NIC Handles are only unique across the two object types combined, so both object types can't exist with the same NIC Handle.
  • Either a role or person object can be used everywhere that requires a reference to a contact, with only a couple of exceptions where it must be one type or the other.

However, these two objects have very different functions. A person object holds personal details about an individual. A role object should describe a business function or operational unit and may reference the individual people responsible for this activity. References to person objects are optional in the role object.

Using role objects makes large-scale changes easier. The principle is the same if you have ten objects or 10,000 objects in the database. However, problems most commonly occur when dealing with a very large number of objects.

Many organisations create a large number of objects that directly reference a person object, and experience difficulties if this person leaves the company. The organisation may be responsible for many objects of different types, possibly with several different mntner objects protecting them, and finding them and getting all the authorisations right to change the references can easily become a problem.

Working within certain guidelines can help avoid this situation:

  • Only use a person object as a holder of personal information
  • Only reference a person object in role objects
  • Reference the role objects in all the other places where contact data is required

If the person responsible for a business role or function changes, then it is only necessary to modify a few role objects to reference a different person object. All references to the role objects remain valid. The scale of the changes you need to make is very much reduced.

Even if you have only a handful of objects in the database, it is good practice to do this. Your business may grow, and time restraints mean that you may not go back and change things until you absolutely have to do so. This is how these objects were designed for use, but as this practice was never enforced by software business rules, much of the database still makes direct references to person objects.