[Educause06] InCommon Federation Panel


I finished off my time in Dallas with an appearance on a panel titled Leveraging Your Existing Campus Systems to Access Partner Resources: Federated Identity Management and Tales of Campus Participation (whew – now there’s a mouthful). The topic of the panel is how the InCommon federation is making it easier for universities and vendors of web-based services to work together to get to single-sign-on types of authentication and to arrange for the exchange of information in those contexts.

The panel was chaired by the always delightful Tracy Mitrano and panelists included representatives from Penn State, University of Maryland Baltimore County, and me.

I haven’t been involved directly with our work in leveraging Shibboleth authentication software or our participation in InCommon, but I was well coached by Bob Morgan and Nathan Dors, who have been doing a lot of heavy lifting on these efforts.

We’ve used InCommon to ease the deployment of Cdigix’s CTrax music download service (replacing Napster at the UW this year); to authenticate UW users to Washington State’s Combined Fund Drive (a charitable giving program that uses a web service called CreateHope to power its online presence) and to hook the Chemistry Department up with WebAssign, a service they use for managing homework for some courses.

Other universities have used InCommon for other vendors, and one of the lessons here is that when dealing with vendors the work that’s done by an initial institution working with a vendor can make it much easier for other universities to work with that vendor if they’re all working within the federation.

I was surprised to see that all the examples we saw were about universities working with vendors, and that none of them were about universities working with each other on collaborative efforts. Maybe we’ll see more of that in the future.

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