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Considerations for exposing a SAML Service Provider to users and institutions registered with other Identity Federations via Interfederation arrangements (such as eduGAIN).

Access control

No assumptions should be made about the provenance or quality of identities from federated or interfederated IDPs based purely on successful authentication at a SAML IDP. If your service should only be available to certain user groups (e.g. students, faculty or staff at academic institutions) be sure to enforce this via explicit access control configuration based on attributes sent by the SAML IDP.

Do not assume that anyone/anything that can authenticate at an institutional SAML IDP is necessarily a member in good standing of that institution.

That avoids any surprises with regard to account issuing practices at other institutions or IDPs.


Load SAML Metadata that also (i..e, in addition to member SPs) includes entities known via Interfederation agreements, such as eduGAIN: Metadata for Interfederation

As always, use the provided Metadata Verification Key to make sure the metadata is authentic and hasn't been tampered with.

For the Shibboleth SP check out the complete configuration examples provided.

IDP Discovery

Manually managing lists of Identity Providers users my chose to log in from does not scale well and may also not provide a proper user experience. In most cases it's best to implement IDP discovery using additional software components which allow subjects to easily choose their interfederated IDPs from all available ones. You can see the following Free/Libre software projects in action at the Demo SP:

In the future there may be other options, including

Contact ACOnet for help with integrating one of these implementations into your website.

Fallback discovery services

If all else fails you can make use of one of the central "fallback" discovery interfaces provided by ACOnet.

Using the fallback discovery service is not recommended as it sends users away from the service (which may be seen as disrupting the access process) and may confuse users due to different designs at the Service Provider, the central IDP Discovery Service and again at the Identity Provider.

There are currently two central "fallback" IDP Discovery Service avalable within which are Interfederation-enabled:

This instance of the SWITCHwayf software may be more familiar to subjects from ACOnet institutions since an older version had been in use at since 2007. This software still works (without its dynamic features) when JavaScript is disabled in the web browser (though not much else on the web will work in such a setup).


The DiscoJuice software has a more unusual look and feel but also provides additional features such as grouping (and limiting) IDPs by country or sorting suggested IDPs based on their distance from the web browser (via the HTML5 Geolocation API). This DiscoJuice instance does not currently work when JavaScript is disabled.

Prepare for missing attributes from IDPs

Consider handling any access errors due to missing attributes as gracefully as possible. That includes giving precise instructions to the subject on what failed, why and what to do about it. Using information from SAML metadata support or technical contact data for the IDP should be offered.

TODO: More technical information to come.

Notify ACOnet

To make your Service Provider available to subjects from other interfederated institutions contact ACOnet in order for your entity to become visible to eduGAIN (and from there to other eduGAIN-participating federations and institutions).

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