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Introduction

This page is for service providers who want to offer their services to users and institutions worldwide. Joining a single eduGAIN member federation enables you to manage access to users from all other eduGAIN member federations in more than 60 countries around the world. This minimizes the technical and contractual work considerably. If you are interested in a very brief introduction to eduGAIN, please have a look at the About eduGAIN web page.

Typical examples of organizations and communities that are interested in operating a service in eduGAIN are:

  • research communities (i.e. international research projects)
  • e-journal content providers (i.e. publishers)
  • cloud service providers (i.e. suppliers of research projects)

So, if you provide resources to the academic and research community, and are looking for a way to allow higher education users to authenticate to your service via federated access, read on. You will find how a service can be integrated with eduGAIN as a SAML Service Provider. 

This page’s target audience is IT service administrators of organizations or communities.

Once you have read this page and followed the instructions, you will have deployed a SAML 2.0 compliant Service Provider and published it in eduGAIN. This means that millions of higher education users (students, university staff and faculty, researchers) will be able to access your services using the account at their home institution, depending on the access control rules you have defined.

Prerequisites

Before attempting to follow the steps below, you should be familiar with some key concepts of federated identity management, the basis of eduGAIN and all SAML identity federations.

Authentication is the process of confirming a user’s identity, usually by verifying the knowledge of a set of credentials (username, password). It is always handled at the user's home Identity Provider (IdP). The IdP then issues an identity assertion with attributes about that user.

Authorization is the process of determining the access rights an authenticated user is eligible for. The identity assertions are consumed by a Service Provider (SP), which uses the attributes of that assertion to control access and to provide the user attributes to the web applications it protects.

An identity federation is a group of organisations that agree on a set of common standards, policies and practices to issue and accept identity assertions. Therefore, the publication in an identity member federation, for a Service Provider, allows you to reach students, researchers and staff of higher education institutions without the technical and administrative work of maintaining and protecting repositories of user credentials.

A comprehensive overview of material is available at the AARC Federations 101 page.

If you have little time and prefer audio/visual documentation, watch the 4 minute movie “How to benefit from interfederating through eduGAIN”.

If you want to see and try federated login in action, have a look at SWITCH’s AAI Demo.

What is eduGAIN?

eduGAIN is an interfederation service developed within the GÉANT Project - a major collaboration between European national research and education network (NREN) organisations and the European Union.

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eduGAIN as interfederation service interconnects academic identity federations around the world, simplifying access to content, services and resources for the global research and education community. eduGAIN thus enables the trustworthy exchange of information related to identity, authentication and authorisation (AAI) by coordinating the federations’ technical infrastructures and providing a policy framework that controls this information exchange.

Over 60 national federations currently take part in eduGAIN. This amounts to over 3600 Identity Providers worldwide, allowing their users federated access to 3000 Service Providers offering their services in eduGAIN.

Some key features of eduGAIN:

  • Enables trustworthy exchange of identity information between federations without many bilateral agreements
  • Reduces the costs of developing and operating services
  • Improves the security and end-user experience of services
  • Enables service providers to greatly expand their user base
  • Enables identity providers to increase the number of services available to their users

How to join eduGAIN

Enabling a service for eduGAIN login is accomplished by joining an existing eduGAIN member federation and registering a Service Provider with this federation. The member federation then, following its own procedures, exposes the Service Provider to the rest of the eduGAIN federations and their entities.

Is your Service Provider already in eduGAIN?

In some cases a service is already available via eduGAIN without you knowing it. This is sometime the case for publisher services that in pre-eduGAIN times were often registered with many national federations. When one of those national federations joined eduGAIN and exported their services, they become available through eduGAIN as well. To verify if your service is already exported to eduGAIN look it up in the eduGAIN Entity Database:

Are the Identity Providers you wish to interoperate with in eduGAIN?

You should check if the Identity Providers (IdP) of your target user’s organisation are also in eduGAIN, so as for the service provider you can look it up in the eduGAIN Entity Database:

If you are unsure about the exact name of the entity, you can also look up the domain name of the organisation through the eduGAIN isFederated Check

Some federations operate an opt-in policy for interoperating through eduGAIN, so if the IdP does not appear to be in eduGAIN, please contact eduGAIN Support at support@edugain.org.

Which eduGAIN member federation to join

Joining eduGAIN means joining an eduGAIN member federation. But which one to join? There is no strict rule which federation to join. But one reasonable option should be to contact the national federation of the country where the Service Provider’s organisation is located or where the service is geographically operated (i.e. where its operators are located). This offers multiple benefits, such as ease of collaboration and access to documentation because of common shared native language, shared groups of interested prospective users, etc.

Please find a list of eduGAIN member federations with contacts and joining policies on the eduGAIN Technical site:

If your service is located in a country that has an identity federation that is already an eduGAIN member, please follow their guide or get in touch with them though the contact addresses. As explained above, a service can join eduGAIN via any eduGAIN member federation. To become available as an eduGAIN service, a service only has to join one eduGAIN member federation.

If your service is located in a country without an identity federation, or where the federation is not already an eduGAIN member, please contact eduGAIN Support at support@edugain.org.

Installation and Configuration

Guides

Most eduGAIN member federations publish guides on how to install and configure a Service Provider, please refer to the respective national identity federation documentation sites for more details (https://technical.edugain.org/status).

Attribute Availability

IdPs release a set of attributes about an authenticated user. These can be personal data (for example, the user's given name) or can be a category to which that user belongs (for example, a student at a specific institution), or can be an identifier that can be used to identify a returning user. Attributes are also generally not released by default. Typically, Identity Providers only release those attributes that are requested (as in the SP’s metadata) by a Service Provider. The requested attributes should be those defined in a formal standard like eduPerson or SCHAC. However, eduGAIN does not recommend any particular set of attributes that an IdP will release about a user.

Please think carefully which attributes you might need in your application. Then set the Requested Attributes for your SP’s metadata accordingly. It might be helpful to read the recommendations which attributes to request as Service Provider.

Discovery Service

Discovery is the process where the user chooses their home organization. In order to provide the best experience possible for your users, following the best practices described in https://discovery.refeds.org/ is highly recommended.

Support for Code of Conduct and R&S Entity Categories

Entity categories allow to categorize entities (Service Providers and Identity Providers) in metadata. If an entity in metadata contains the value representing an entity category, this means that the entity meets this category's requirements.

Entity categories can be defined by any federation, or by the wider community. In the context of eduGAIN, only the following two entity categories have an effect on a global level because the eduGAIN community has agreed to support them. Both affect the attribute release at Identity Providers:  

  • Data Protection Code of Conduct (CoCo)
    The Data Protection Code of Conduct (CoCo) is a promise by the Service Provider to follow EU data protection law. It gives Identity Providers the sometimes necessary confidence to safely release release attributes to Service Providers that are operated in the EU. Detailed instructions on how your Service Provider can support the Code of Conduct can be found here. Basically, it means writing a data privacy statement (examples are references on the wiki page) and then adding a special entity category value to the metadata of your SP.
  • REFEDS Research and Scholarship (R&S)
    In the same manner, the REFEDS Research and Scholarship (R&S) Entity Category is used to support the release of attributes to Service Providers meeting a set of predefined requirements. Basically, if you are registering a Service Provider for a research community, then you are likely to get the R&S entity category if you request it. Details about supporting REFEDS Research and Scholarship can be found here.

If possible it is highly recommended for your SP to support both, the GÉANT Data Protection Code of Conduct and REFEDS Research & Scholarship entity categories, as they are a trust establishing factor that will maximize the chance that Identity Providers release all the attributes requested by your Service Provider.

SP Metadata

To register the Service Provider (SP) with a federation, one typically has to provide its SAML 2 metadata to the federation operator. If you don’t have metadata about your SP yet, you must generate or compose it first. Shibboleth can generate SAML2 metadata about itself, just try accessing https://your.host.org/Shibboleth.sso/Metadata

SimpleSAML PHP has a similar feature. Just open the URL https://your.host.org/simplesaml/module.php/saml/sp/metadata.php/default-sp

In both cases, metadata only contains technical information. You should enrich metadata with the non-technical information (e.g. technical contact, name, description) following this example.