Danish WAYF helps South African NREN develop federated identity solution

By Torben B. Sørensen , 24/06/16
South African NREN TENET went halfway round the globe to get help developing an identity federation for universities.
Guy Halse, TENET, SAFIRE project
Guy Halse of TENET is SAFIRE Project Director

Eight universities from TENET, one of the collaborating partners in the South African NREN, have joined forces to establish a federated identity service for their users. They have signed a contract with Danish WAYF (Where Are You From) for consultancy services.

"WAYF has been running a successful federated identity service for several years, so we look forward to learning from their experiences," said Guy Halse, SAFIRE (South African Identity Federation) Project Director at TENET (Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa).

Avoid duplicate information

In South African research and education institutions, there is a trend towards collaborative research across institutions. Furthermore, researchers need to share large, expensive research infrastructure items.

Whenever a user outside an institution wants to access resources on that institution, identity needs to be managed. The fast and simple solution is to create a user account for the user.

"That leads to duplication of information: The same user is created multiple times in different systems. It makes it hard to ensure that the information is accurate and up to date – and that the account is removed when the user is assigned a new role and no longer needs access," said Guy Halse.

These are the same challenges that WAYF was created to solve. WAYF is a federated identity service from DeiC (Danish e-Infrastructure Cooperation), the Danish NREN.

Years in the making

People from South Africa first heard David Simonsen from WAYF present the solution at the TNC conference in 2011. Two years later, he was invited to speak at a meeting in South Africa where the possibility of creating an identity federation was discussed.

"I then met David at TNC-15 in Porto last year when I was working at a university. A couple of months later the eight universities hired me to make the process move forward. My role is to figure out how to make the solution work. The first goal is to get a pilot project up and running," Guy Halse said.

He has spent a week in June in Copenhagen gathering information with the people at WAYF. After that, he went on to Prague to attend TNC-16 for even more knowledge gathering.

WAYF software may be used

The contract covers around 400 hours of consulting. In addition, TENET may also end up using some of the software that WAYF has developed.

"We consider starting by using the WAYF software, but then later diverging as our requirements are different. The WAYF software may serve as a useful starting point for us," he said.

The SAFIRE project has a scope of two years.

"In five years, I hope that we have solution that is in widespread use in South Africa, not just among the funding universities," said Guy Halse.

Further information



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