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Near Term and Possible Longer Term Candidate Services

The working group recommends working with the non-profit UnitedId ( to roll out an initial version of the defined IdPoLR service. We see no other ready candidates in the non-commercial space. Could the R&S needs be met by an existing external IdP offered by a commercial company? Such a solution would fall short of meeting several of the mandatory requirements: 1) Most obviously it would not be able to truthfully proclaim that it has no commercial interest in the use of user data; 2) Unless it becomes a member of an existing identity federation, it would not be able to qualify as an R&S-supporting IdP or be certified at federation-defined levels of assurance such as InCommon bronze; 3) It would not support ECP; and 4) With one possible exception it could not provide a suitable identifier: None of the known providers guarantee non-reassignability of usernames for supplying an ePPN and only one offers a directed identifier (like ePTID) as an alternative. A social-to-SAML gateway could be designed to mitigate many of these deficiencies, but it would not be a straight-forward or issue-free effort to come up with such a design.

Alternatives to recommended solution

We also investigated the extent to which existing or planned identity provider services within InCommon could meet the mandatory requirements. The certificate manager application and the federation manager application use an Multifactor IdP Proxy combined with a social-to-SAML gateway to serve administrators who do not (yet) have a home IdP. There are plans to supplement this with a native IdP service to address cases where users don't want to use commercial identity providers and have no home IdP. This "embedded IdP" could theoretically be enhanced to act as an IdP for R&S SPs, but that is several technical steps and a few major service portfolio decisions away from realization.

Looking longer term, the TIER initiative is committed to address a number of gaps in identity and access management and an IdPoLR service might be considered one of those gaps, but the TIER effort is at the requirements gathering stage, and development priorities are yet to be defined.

Assessment of recommended solution with respect to defined requirements

The near-term solution should initially offer a basic set of identity provider services. The suite of services could grow over time as needs evolve and resources permit. Here is an assessment of UnitedId against the requirements defined above:


  • Support for user consent
  • Accepts non-ASCII characters in user-entered data
  • Supports multi-factor authN
  • No cost for users*      *if they have a smart phone, or SP subsidizes other 2nd factor
Steps Entailed if Recommendation is Accepted

If InCommon endorses the primary recommendation and chooses to move ahead toward a UnitedId-based IdP of Last Resort, the next steps would include the following: