One of the emerging themes at the UW (and in higher ed in general) is increased interaction across the boundaries of the institution. You can see that in action in the thrust to virtual organizations in research initiatives (see NSF’s program in Engineering Virtual Organizations for example), in the establishment of the Global Health department, in the growing cross-institutional software development projects like Kuali and Sakai and in many other spaces.
I’m increasingly hearing (and experiencing) needs to work collaboratively with folks from other places. Unfortunately, most of our systems require a local identity (in our case a UW NetID) for access control. This is where the concept of federated identity systems like Shibboleth should help – and by golly, it does!
Here in C&C we use a Confluence wiki, which recently was Shibboleth-enabled (notes on how to do that are here), enabling users of our wiki to permit access to people with credentials from any of the members of the InCommon federation. One of the InCommon members is ProtectNetwork, an independent identity provider.
So yesterday, when a question came in about collaborating with people who are not UW folks (nor affiliated with any of the other InCommon higher ed institutions) I thought “they should be able to get ProtectNetwork IDs and then we could grant them wiki access in Confluence”.
So I went out and got myself an ID and tested it out – and it worked! Here’s a screenshot of the Confluence permissions-setting screen with my ProtectNetwork ID circled. How cool is that?