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What are Federated Identity Providers?

Federated identity management is a configuration that can be made between two or more trusted domains to allow consumers of those domains to access applications and services using the same digital identity. Such identity is known as federated identity, and the use of such a solution pattern is known as identity federation.

A Beginner's Guide to Federated Identity Providers

Federated identity defines linking and using the electronic identities that a consumer has across several identity management systems. In simpler words, an application doesn't have to get and store clients' certifications to confirm them. Alternatively, the application can use the identity management system that already holds the consumer's electronic identity to authenticate the consumer. However, note that the application must trust that identity management system.

This methodology permits the decoupling of the confirmation and approval capacities. It also makes it simpler to bring together these two capacities to evade a circumstance where each application needs to deal with a bunch of certifications for each client. It is also advantageous for clients since they don't need to keep many usernames and passwords for each application.

What is Federated Identity Management

Federated identity management is a configuration that can be made between two or more trusted domains to allow consumers of those domains to access applications and services using the same digital identity. Such identity is known as federated identity, and the use of such a solution pattern is known as identity federation.

Identity and access management (IAM) is an essential feature of every digital enterprise today, assigned to a service provider known as the identity broker. A service provider specialized in brokering access control between different service providers is an identity broker (also referred to as relying parties).

There are three protocols for federated identity:

  • SAML
  • OpenID
  • OAuth

Benefits of Federated Identity

Federated identity management offers numerous advantages for both businesses and users. Some of the key benefits include:

  1. Streamlined User Experience: With federated identity, users can access multiple applications and services using a single set of credentials. This eliminates the need to remember and manage multiple usernames and passwords, resulting in a more seamless and user-friendly experience.
  2. Enhanced Security: Federated identity leverages trusted identity providers, which enhances security by centralizing authentication and authorization processes. This reduces the risk of unauthorized access and strengthens overall security posture.
  3. Reduced Administrative Overhead: By centralizing identity management, federated identity reduces administrative overhead for businesses. There's no need to manage user credentials separately for each application, leading to lower costs and improved efficiency.
  4. Interoperability: Federated identity allows for interoperability between different systems and domains. This enables organizations to collaborate more effectively and share resources while maintaining control over access permissions.
  5. Scalability: Federated identity solutions are highly scalable, making them suitable for businesses of all sizes. Whether it's a small startup or a large enterprise, federated identity can accommodate growing user bases and evolving business needs.

Protocols for Federated Identity


Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is an open-source framework for exchanging authentication and authorization data between an identity provider and a service provider, where:

  • An identity provider (IdP) authenticates a consumer and provides a SAML Assertion to service providers.
  • A service provider (SP) verifies the assertion and allows access to the consumer.

SAML is an XML-based markup language for creating, requesting, and exchanging security assertions between applications. SAML enables web-based, cross-domain single sign-on (SSO), which reduces the administrative overhead of distributing multiple authentication tokens to the consumer.


OpenID Connect 1.0 is an essential character layer on top of the OAuth 2.0 convention. It empowers clients to check the end user's identity, dependent on the verification performed by an Authorization Server, to acquire essential profile data about the end-user. OpenID permits clients to be verified utilizing outsider administrations called character suppliers. Clients can decide to use their favored OpenID suppliers to sign in to sites that acknowledge the OpenID validation plot.

There are three roles that define OpenID specification:

  • The end-user that is looking to verify its identity.
  • The relying party (RP) is the entity looking to verify the identity of the end-user.
  • The OpenID provider (OP) is the entity that registers the OpenID URL and can confirm the end user's identity.


OAuth 2.0 is a protocol that facilitates token-based authentication and authorization; thus, allowing consumers to gain limited access to their resources on one application, to another application, without having to expose their credentials. You can let your application's consumers log in to an OAuth-enabled application without creating an account. OAuth is slightly different from OpenID and SAML in being exclusively for authorization purposes and not for authentication purposes.

The OAuth specifications define the following roles:

  • The end-user or the entity that owns the resource.
  • The resource server (OAuth Provider) is the entity hosting the resource.
  • The client (OAuth Consumer) is the entity looking to consume the resource after getting authorization from the client.


Federated identity management streamlines user experience and enhances security by allowing consumers to access multiple applications and services using a single digital identity across trusted domains. By centralizing authentication and authorization processes, federated identity reduces administrative overhead, improves interoperability, and supports scalability. With protocols like SAML, OpenID, and OAuth, federated identity management provides a robust framework for secure and efficient identity and access management in today's digital enterprises.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is SSO vs federated identity?

SSO (Single Sign-On) allows users to log in once to access multiple applications, while federated identity links a user's identity across multiple trusted domains, enabling SSO across different organizations.

2. What are the 3 most important components of federated identity?

The three most important components are the identity provider (IdP), the service provider (SP), and the trust relationship between them.

3. What is a federated IAM?

Federated Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a system that enables users to use a single digital identity to access various applications and services across multiple trusted domains.

4. What does federated mean in cyber security?

In cyber security, "federated" refers to a system where different organizations or domains trust each other to authenticate and authorize users, allowing seamless access to resources across these domains.


Rajeev Sharma

Written by Rajeev Sharma

11+ years of overall experience in technical/application support including 7+ years in leading/managing the technical support team. Rajeev is a customer-focused performer who is committed to quality in every task from personal interaction with coworkers and users to the high level of services provided to the company/customer.True food lover, enjoys playing cricket and volleyball, and a Leisure traveler!!!

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