Federated Identity Manager

Written by Brenna Lee on July 27, 2021

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Technology is at the heart of most organizations – even ones that are producing and selling nontechnical goods and services. There are devices and applications for virtually all uses, and users are being connected to more IT resources than ever. IT has progressed from a cost center to a strategic advantage, and organizations that can leverage their IT platforms effectively will out-innovate their competition, no matter their industry.

DevOps methodologies are enhancing that focus and giving organizations the tools that they need to succeed, and one tool that should be in every organization’s IT environment is a federated identity management (FIM) solution.

The goal of federated identity management is to enable users of one domain to efficiently and seamlessly access the IT resources of another domain while avoiding identity verification redundancies and improving the overall end-user experience. The processes behind the scenes that make this possible are often done through Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) authorization transactions. This essentially allows users to log into many different applications with one set of credentials via single sign-on (SSO) capabilities.

Identity Management in a Tech-Centric World

The use of FIM solutions is noteworthy because with technology being so prevalent in most organizations and the popularity of remote and hybrid work, securely and efficiently controlling access to IT resources is more vital than ever. No matter what kind of IT resource a user needs to access, such as email or a complex application, resource security should be top priority, and employing a solution that verifies the user identity and/or device trying to access the specified resource before providing access is essential.

IT needs to be able to efficiently and appropriately view, grant, revoke, and modify access across all user profiles and devices in the environment to mitigate risk. This central control is imperative for security, compliance, and visibility. The mechanism by which many IT organizations manage this activity is through a comprehensive identity and access management (IAM) solution that encompasses a federated identity manager (also known as an identity federation system or federated SSO).

Shifting From On-Prem to the Cloud

Identity management systems are at the center of user and device management and therefore access control. Historically, those identity provider (IDP) solutions have lived on-premises and were either Microsoft’s Active Directory or the open source OpenLDAP solution. These directory services enabled IT to store user credentials in a database and then allowed various IT resources to validate credentials when end-users requested access. The process worked well for a pre-cloud world, since most devices and applications were Microsoft Windows-based and behind the firewall. An on-prem directory service could easily and appropriately connect users to their IT resources when everyone was in the office.

As the world shifted to cloud-based server infrastructure and web applications hosted off-prem, the legacy on-prem user directory couldn’t keep up. As a result, different solutions were created to bolt-on to the directory. Web application single sign-on solutions would grant users access to SaaS-based applications. Directory extension technology would help to connect with Mac and Linux devices. Additionally, cloud servers hosted at AWS or Google Compute Engine might be managed with a cloud-hosted LDAP or Chef / Puppet / Salt / Ansible. All of these solutions started to create more challenges and moving parts for IT, resulting in user identities not easily federating to the various IT resources that they needed to access.

Now that organizations are quickly realizing that managing numerous platforms and applications to solve one overarching problem is a waste of time and company resources, there has been a considerable transition to holistic cloud-based IAM solutions that have built-in federated identity managers. By consolidating the number of solutions being used to tackle the single underlying problem of identity management, organizations can take an unnecessary weight off of IT admins’ shoulders and stop sinking time and money into cumbersome point solutions.

The Future of Federated Identity Management

JumpCloud® recognized this disconnect early on and created the JumpCloud Directory Platform that puts user identities and device management at the center of everything. With single sign-on capabilities, identities are federated to web applications, cloud servers, legacy applications, file servers, and a wide variety of other IT resources.

The platform easily and seamlessly handles a broad cross-section of IT environments, and LDAP-based applications can be authenticated as simply as any other resource. On top of that, the platform includes Cloud RADIUS which supports secure access to your network for on-prem (via WiFi) and remote (via VPN) employees without the excessive overhead of managing backend RADIUS infrastructure.

Instead of managing multiple identity and access management solutions, a cloud-based, federated identity manager can address all of the key needs across your modern organization. To see how JumpCloud’s Directory Platform can work as your federated identity manager, try JumpCloud Free today for ten users and ten devices.

Brenna Lee

Brenna is a Content Writer at JumpCloud that loves learning about and immersing herself in new technologies. Outside of the [remote] office, she loves traveling and exploring the outdoors!

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