Sun OpenSSO Enterprise 8.0 Technical Overview

Federated Single Sign-On

Let's assume that a principal has separate user accounts with a service provider and an identity provider in the same circle of trust. In order to gain access to these individual accounts, the principal would authenticate with each provider separately. If federating with the Liberty ID-FF though, after authenticating with the service provider, the principal may be given the option to federate the service provider account with the identity provider account. Consenting to the federation of these accounts links them for SSO, the means of passing a user's credentials between applications without the user having to reauthenticate. SSO and federated SSO have different processes. With OpenSSO Enterprise, you can achieve SSO in the following ways:

To set up federated SSO, you must first establish SSO. Following that, enable federation in the metadata for the service provider entity and the identity provider entity using OpenSSO Enterprise. Liberty ID-FF providers differentiate between federated users by defining a unique identifier for each account. (They are not required to use the principal's actual provider account identifier.) Providers can also choose to create multiple identifiers for a particular principal. However, identity providers must create one handle per user for service providers that have multiple web sites so that the handle can be resolved across all of them.

Note –

Because both the identity provider entity and the service provider entity in a federation need to remember the principal's identifier, they create entries that note the value in their respective user repositories. In most scenarios, the identity provider's identifier is conveyed to a service provider and not visa versa. For example, if a service provider does not maintain its own user repository, the identity provider's identifier is used.

OpenSSO Enterprise can accommodate the following SSO and federation-related functions:

Additionally, OpenSSO Enterprise can accommodate the federation features explained in the following sections.


Auto federation will automatically federate a user's disparate provider accounts based on a common attribute. During SSO, if it is deemed a user at provider A and a user at provider B have the same value for the defined common attribute (for example, an email address), the two accounts will be federated without consent or interaction from the principal. For more information, see Part II, Federation, Web Services, and SAML Administration, in Sun OpenSSO Enterprise 8.0 Administration Guide.

Bulk Federation

Federating one user's service provider account with their identity provider account generally requires the principal to visit both providers and link them. An organization though needs the ability to federate user accounts behind the scenes. OpenSSO Enterprise provides a script for federating user accounts in bulk. The script allows the administrator to federate many (or all) of a principal's provider accounts based on metadata passed to the script. Bulk federation is useful when adding a new service provider to an enterprise so you can federate a group of existing employees to the new service. For more information, see Part II, Federation, Web Services, and SAML Administration, in Sun OpenSSO Enterprise 8.0 Administration Guide.