37.3 Understanding How Identity Federation Works

A federation can comprise any number of identity providers and service providers. An instance of Identity Federation in a federated network can serve as either an identity provider, a service provider, or both.

One common federated network topology is referred to as the hub-and-spoke model. In this topology, there is either a single service provider accepting authentication from multiple identity providers, or a single identity provider authenticating users for multiple service providers.

  • A service provider (SP) is a commercial or not-for-profit organization that offers a web-based service such as a news portal, a financial repository, or retail outlet. When configured as the SP in a federated network and a user wants to access a resource protected by an authentication engine such as Oracle Access Manager, Identity Federation redirects the user to an IdP for global authentication. The IdP will obtain credentials, authenticate the user, and redirect the user back to the Identity Federation server instance - which retrieves the asserted identity from the IdP and redirects the authenticated user to the authentication engine which provides access to the protected resource.

  • An identity provider (IdP) is a service provider that stores identity profiles. (Identity providers might also offer services above and beyond those related to identity profile storage.) When configured as the IdP in a federated network and a user wants to access a protected resource, the resource's SP directs the user to the Identity Federation server instance - which uses the Access Manager authentication engine to obtain credentials and authenticate the user. Following successful authentication, the Identity Federation instance can assert the user's identity to the resource's SP - which then authenticates the user itself and provides access to the requested resource.

The integrated Identity Federation server can operate as an IdP or an SP. See Managing Identity Federation Partners for information on configuring Identity Federation to operate in one of these provider modes and communicate with remote partners in the federation.