Using Consumer Identities for Business Interactions

Mike Jones writes about an “identity mashup” that drives home a really important lesson:  the organizational and technical walls that used to stand in the way of Internet business are dissolving before our very eyes.  The change agent is the power of claims.  The mashup Mike describes crosses boundaries in many dimensions at once:

  • between industries (medical, financial, technical)
  • between organizations (Medtronic, PayPal, Southworks, Microsoft)
  • between protocols (OpenID and SAML)
  • between computing platforms (Windows and Linux)
  • between software products (Windows Identity Foundation, DotNetOpenAuth, SimpleSAMLphp)
  • between identity requirements (ranging from strong identity verification to anonymous comment)

This is a super-concrete demonstration of the progress being made on the “Identity Metasystem” so many of us in the industry have been working on.   My favorite word in Mike&#39s piece is “quickly”, to which I have taken the liberty of adding my own emphasis:

Medtronic, PayPal, Southworks, and Microsoft recently worked together to demonstrate the ability for people to use their PayPal identities for participating in a Medtronic medical device trial, rather than having to create yet another username and password. Furthermore, the demo showed the use of verified claims, where the name, address, birth date, and gender claims provided by PayPal are relied upon by Medtronic and its partners as being sufficiently authoritative to sign people up for the trial and ship them the equipment. I showed this to many of you at the most recent Internet Identity Workshop.

From a technology point of view, this was a multi-protocol federation using OpenID and WS-Federation – OpenID for the PayPal identities and WS-Federation between Medtronic and two relying parties (one for ordering the equipment and one for anonymously recording opinions about the trial). It was also multi-platform, with the Medtronic STS running on Windows and using the Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) and DotNetOpenAuth, the equipment ordering site running on Linux and using simpleSAMLphp, and the opinions site running on Windows and also using WIF. A diagram of the scenario flows is as follows:

Identity Mash-Up Diagram

We called the demo an “identity mash-up” because Medtronic constructed a identity for the user containing both claims that came from the original PayPal identity and claims it added (“mashed-up”) to form a new, composite identity. And yet, access to this new identity was always through the PayPal identity. You can read more about the demo on the Interoperability @ Microsoft blog, including viewing a video of the demo. Southworks also made the documentation and code for the multi-protocol STS available.

I’ll close by thanking the teams at PayPal, Medtronic, and Southworks for coming together to produce this demo. They were all enthusiastic about using consumer identities for Medtronic’s business scenario and pitched in together to quickly make it happen.

 

John Fontana on SAML Interoperability

John Fontana writes about the SAML interoperability test in ComputerWorld, turning quite a bit of his attention to Microsoft:

“Microsoft completed its first SAML interoperability test and the results are in: Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 software received a passing grade.

“Microsoft&#39s federated identity platform passed its first SAML 2.0 interoperability test with favorable marks, signaling the end to the vendor&#39s standoff against the protocol.

“The eight-week, multivendor interoperability workout conducted by the Liberty Alliance and the Kantara Initiative also resulted in passing marks for two other first-time entrants – SAP and Siemens. Return testers Entrust, IBM, Novell and Ping Identity also passed. Results were announced Wednesday.

“The Liberty Interoperable testing was a great opportunity to verify that Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) 2.0 is interoperable with others’ SAML 2.0 implementations. This should give our customers confidence that their federation deployments using ADFS will ‘just work,'” says Conrad Bayer, product unit manager for federated identity at Microsoft.

“In the past, Microsoft has been dismissive of the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), a standard protocol for exchanging authentication and authorization data between and among security checkpoints, preferring the WS-Federation and other protocols it helped develop. The company previously supported the SAML token, but never the transport profiles of the protocol…

As much as I love John, I don&#39t think “dismissive” really describes our attitude – at least I hope it doesn&#39t.  It is true that our initial thinking was that the world would be a “tidier place” if people used one single protocol that worked both for “Active Clients” (e.g. applications that run on your PC or phone) and “Passive Clients” (web pages served up in a browser).  We saw WS-Federation as a way to achieve that technical symmetry.  But I and others have also said for several years that we saw much of what people were doing with SAML as being innovative and positive.  And we have made it very clear that an Identity Metasystem means “no silos”.  

Today you can see the results of this thinking in our new product.  ADFS V2 does everything it can to conform with the Identity Metasystem idea.  That means supporting SAML as well as the other Federation and Claims Transformation protocols (e.g. WS-Trust and WS-Federation). I think the synergy will be great for our customers and the industry.

John goes on to say: 

“Full matrix” testing means all participants must test against each other. The test was conducted over the Internet from points around the globe using real-world scenarios between service providers and identity providers as defined by the SAML 2.0 specification.

Microsoft participated in the testing with Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 (formerly code-named Geneva), which is slated to ship later this year. ADFS 2.0 is part of a larger identity platform that includes Windows Identity Foundation and Windows Cardspace.

Microsoft said earlier this year it would have SAML 2.0 certification before it released Geneva. The SAML profiles ADFS 2.0 supports cover the core features of federation.

ADFS 2.0 provides identity information and serves as a Security Token Service (STS), a transformation engine that is key to Microsoft&#39s identity architecture. ADFS lets companies extend Active Directory to create single sign-on between local network resources and cloud services.

[Read more here]