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OpenAthens or Shibboleth?

04 May 2021 | Jane Charlton, international marketing manager

Do OpenAthens and Shibboleth work together?

This is a repeatedly asked question. Fortunately there is a simple answer: Yes

There are often complexities behind the integration. But the OpenAthens team are determined to eradicate complexity and replace it with simplicity wherever possible.

The common factor is that both OpenAthens and Shibboleth are based on SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language). This open-standards framework is designed to ensure that single sign-on is easy to implement and maintain across different applications! SAML establishes a trust relationship between Identity Providers (IdPs) and Service Providers (SP).

  • IdPs refer to institutions and organizations that manage the list of individuals and their log-in details.
  • SPs refer to the platforms and applications that protect premium content or services and control access.

As long as they are installed skillfully and with the latest standards – Shibboleth and OpenAthens work together. In fact they both work with any SAML compliant software. Our expert team ensures our services comply with the latest standards for our customers. Our ongoing challenge is to ensure that all other software it works with are also up-to-date. It's a constantly evolving process! Our specialists are happy to provide a low-cost health check to identify whether your systems meet the required standards.

So, the simple answer is yes! OpenAthens and Shibboleth are compatible.

So where do they differ?

One key difference is that Shibboleth is open source. Organizations choosing this option need the skills and knowledge of a SAML expert or developer to install and maintain software upgrades. With our managed cloud-based service, all the tricky technical work is taken care of by our team of SAML experts.

Another difference is that open source solutions rely on community-driven development, documentation and advice. With OpenAthens, all your service needs and technical support is built into your service level agreement (SLA).

When it comes to data-driving insights and decisions, we offer a comprehensive reporting tool for institutions and organizations. Shibboleth user data and transfer stats are a little more difficult to analyze as the data comes in the form of a log. Getting access to user data is increasingly important for libraries who need to make decisions around where to spend library budget. Library usage is also crucial for helping to identify when a student may be at risk of dropping out.

Whichever option you choose, both open source and managed options will work with our global identity federation.  

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