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InCommon R&S Program Boosts Federation for Research

posted Jan 18, 2012, 7:45 AM by Jim Basney
The InCommon Federation's new Research and Scholarship program provides a more scalable approach to federated access from campuses to services that support research and scholarly activities. The new program will be launched via a webinar on Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 2pm ET. CILogon staff helped to develop the program, and CILogon was the first service to apply for the program.

Today, services like CILogon, that want to serve researchers from many InCommon member campuses, must negotiate individually with each InCommon campus to enable federated access to the service (i.e., to enable SAML attribute release). The Roadmap for Using NSF Cyberinfrastructure with InCommon describes this as "unfortunately a time-consuming manual process."

InCommon's new R&S program provides a federation-scale alternative. Services apply to InCommon for inclusion in the R&S program, and InCommon "tags" accepted R&S services in SAML metadata. Then, participating InCommon campus identity providers allow access (i.e., release attributes) to the "tagged" services. For services like CILogon, this eliminates the need for bilateral negotiation with each campus identity provider.

For example, one year ago the DataONE project (a CILogon partner) identified 105 InCommon campuses that are home to anticipated DataONE users. At that time, only 17 of those campuses were federated with (i.e., releasing attributes to) CILogon. Over the past year, that number has increased one-by-one to 35 of the 105 campuses, via CILogon's Add Identity Provider process. Overall, CILogon currently works with 46 out of 200+ InCommon identity providers (plus 3 OpenID providers).

Our hope is that this new InCommon R&S program will enable CILogon (and services like it) to federate easily with hundreds of campus identity providers and thereby serve the wider US research community using federated authentication.
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