Your Guide to Open-Source Single Sign-On (SSO)

Written by Brenna Lee on September 27, 2021

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Updated on January 29, 2024

Single sign-on (SSO) solutions are a popular category within the identity and access management (IAM) sector. 

With that, interest in two categories of SSO is rising above the rest: cloud-based single sign-on and open-source single sign-on

Up to 93% of CIOs in the SaaS industry report that they are planning to adopt cloud SaaS.  On top of that, average small and medium businesses use 102 and 137 different apps, respectively, and spending growth is outpacing the number of unique apps in use.

These stats lead to two conclusions:

1. Whether they know it or not, IT admins need cloud-based SSO solutions to help securely manage user access to all of these applications.

2. Single sign-on solutions can get extremely pricey, so it’s no wonder IT organizations are searching for open-source single sign-on alternatives.

man deep in thought working at his desk

Is Open-Source Single Sign-On (SSO) Worth It? 

The overall concept of SSO has been extremely valuable to IT admins over the years. Many single sign-on solutions have hit the market and evolved to fit in with today’s modern IT environment. 

Single sign-on provides organizations with improved security, increased room for productivity among end-users, and less login friction and frustration. 

One popular SSO solution on the market is web application SSO. While it does its job well, web app SSO only helps IT centralize user access to one pocket of resources: web applications. Single sign-on platforms out there have been built around this notion of web app SSO, meaning that standalone or open-source SSO solutions might not be the best for an IT environment that houses networks, file servers, systems, legacy apps, or anything else that’s not a web app. 

After all, IT admins want to connect their users to everything that they need with one set of credentials, not just web apps. To understand this further, we need to step back and take a look at the problem the web-app SSO was created to solve. 

The Emergence of Web App SSO

Before web-based applications surfaced, IT organizations were able to centralize user management solely using Microsoft Active Directory (AD). This was possible because their networks were largely Windows-based and on-prem. But IT lost some of this capability when web-based applications exploded onto the market. 

Users needed to access them, but AD didn’t let you connect to them with the same credentials. Due to this, security at many organizations took a hit, admins had less control over the IT ecosystem, and end-users experienced more login friction than necessary.

Because of this, a generation of web app SSO providers – often called IDaaS solutions – emerged to fill this unwanted gap. As they gained popularity, friction emerged in terms of cost, capability, and integration, and thus, the interest in opensource single sign-on solutions developed.

Issues with Creating an OpenSource SSO Solution

Unfortunately, web-app SSO doesn’t lend itself well to open source. OpenLDAP, FreeIPA, Samba, and other solutions in the IAM world are popular open source alternatives to Microsoft Active Directory as an identity provider, but these are not web-app SSO alternatives. 

The challenge with SSO is that there are ‘connectors’ or plug-ins for each web application and somebody needs to write and manage those connectors. With some SSO providers having over 10,000 of them, you can see why the open source category isn’t easily solving this need. 

Even if there is minimal development with an open source implementation, testing of the integration is required. And, what that ultimately translates to is a significant amount of work that can prove detrimental in your efforts to build a viable open source SSO implementation.

Plus, there is another issue with the more traditional web app SSO category that needs to be considered. Web-based applications aren’t the only “new”, modern resource to cause trouble for Active Directory. Between the rise of Mac and Linux and cloud infrastructure, most IT admins are looking beyond the typical AD and SSO setup altogether. 

Instead, they want a solution that can provide their users with a central identity that they can use to access far more IT resources than just Windows-based resources and web apps — including systems, legacy apps, file servers, and networks. 

This approach is much broader than traditional IDaaS/SSO platforms and the solution turns into a core cloud identity management platform.


Pricing Options for Every Organization

Packages and A La Carte Pricing

Open Source SSO Options

If you do only want SSO across your organization’s web apps and you want to add another one-off solution to your IT environment, there are now some open source single sign-on point solutions available on the market. A few of these options are: IdentityServer, KeyCloak, CAS, Authelia, and WSO2. 

Generally, these open source SSO platforms utilize protocols such as SAML, OAuth, OpenID, or similar.

The issues with these solutions are:

  • The limited functionality they offer
  • The level of knowledge needed to set up, configure, and manage them; and,
  • The fact that they often need to be added into an IT ecosystem on top of all of the other existing tools. 

There is still a lack of viable options in the single sign-on open source space, and over time, as things continue to change across tech and the overall IT landscape, admins will keep searching for comprehensive tools to implement that solve multiple problems all in one place while also providing room for scaling. 

Point solutions and open source single sign-on solutions can be tough to manage, especially as the list of tools your organization uses grows exponentially. 

This is where the JumpCloud Directory Platform comes into play — not only can it function as your cloud-based core identity provider, but it also comes with built-in SSO capabilities with pre-configured connectors for virtually all of the business applications that you use.

A Better Approach Than Open Source SSO

This cloud IdP solution is not only cost-effective, but it’s also extensive. JumpCloud® provides end-users with one identity that can be used to access virtually all of their IT resources. 

Rather than adopting an single sign-on open source point solution, with JumpCloud, a user can use a single set of credentials to access their system (Mac, Linux, or Windows), legacy applications like JIRA, web-based applications such as Salesforce, physical and virtual file storage (NAS devices, Dropbox), as well as wired and WiFi networks. We call this solution True Single Sign-On™.

Users get to enjoy frictionless access to virtually all of their IT resources, and IT admins gain some peace of mind because their environment is securely managed. Further, JumpCloud’s modern approach to a cloud identity management solution is broad enough to cover not only IAM and SSO, but also:

Try JumpCloud Single Sign-On for Free

Quickly accessing apps at work shouldn’t feel like a chore for employees. Set up users to access all their business-critical web apps from their JumpCloud User Portal. Making sign-up or login easier with SSO increases the chance that customers will adopt your technology, use your app, and keep returning for more.

Test out the JumpCloud Directory Platform and its full functionality, including single sign-on, for free by signing up for a trial of JumpCloud.

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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