InCommon Catalysts Bring Energy and Expertise to Community Conversations 

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By Apryl Motley - Technical Writer & Communications Lead, Internet2 Trust and Identity/NET+ Service

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Just as the name implies, the InCommon Catalyst Program, now completing its second year, was launched to bring added energy and expertise to the community’s identity and access management (IAM) efforts. Nine industry providers currently participate in the program:

The Catalysts’ continued commitment to the InCommon community shines through in their service on InCommon advisory committees and working groups, development of resources, and ongoing collaboration with each other and community members to develop strategic solutions.

With the end of 2022 upon us, we wanted to share some highlights of Catalysts’ work on the behalf of the community this year. Read on to learn more about their valuable contributions to helping research and education (R&E) organizations get IAM done better and faster – together.

Contributing to Key Discussions (And Starting a Few)

InCommon Catalysts are among our most dedicated volunteers. Through their service on advisory committees and working groups, they work side by side with community members and gain important insights into both the obstacles and the opportunities they face. Here’s a quick overview of their participation during this year. 

Volunteer GroupCatalyst Participation
Community Architecture Committee for Trust and Identity (CACTI)Unicon
Community Trust and Assurance Board (CTAB)Research Data and Communication Technologies (RCDT), Unicon
Component Architecture Advisory GroupCirrus, Evolveum, Spherical Cow Group, Unicon
Grouper Working GroupUnicon
InCommon Steering CommitteeSpherical Cow Group
InCommon Technical Advisory CommitteeCirrus, Spherical Cow Group
Identity Provider as a Service  Pilot Program Task ForceCirrus, Unicon, Moran Technology
SP Middlethings Working GroupCirrus, Unicon
midPoint Working GroupEvolveum, Unicon
Sirtfi Exercise Working Group CILogon, RCDT
Software Integration Working GroupEvolveum, Unicon
Trust and Identity Program Advisory GroupSpherical Cow Group

Note: Provision IAM joined the InCommon Catalyst Program after the nominations process for 2022 was already completed. 

Evolveum’s identity engineer leads the biweekly meetings of the midPoint Working Group, facilitating a discussion of challenges, lessons learned, and successes.

While not a formal working group, the COmanage community is another forum for discussion about IAM. As the Open Source Project steward for the COmanage Project set of tools (Registry and Match), Spherical Cow Group coordinates the community and this year introduced a new program of monthly open office hours, featuring a short topic as a conversation starter followed by open discussion to address any questions participants may have. More than 100 attendees have participated in these monthly sessions.

Similarly, the Cirrus Identity Team coordinates IAM-HER, a community dedicated to supporting women in the research and education sector of identity and access management.

In addition, from leading workshops and presenting webinars on timely topics to serving on program planning committees, Catalyst contributions enhance our training and other educational offerings. For example, the Catalyst presence was strong at BaseCAMP 2022 with the entire group presenting a lightning talk and Cirrus, Unicon, and West Arete serving as event sponsors. 

Further, it’s not unusual to find InCommon Catalysts engaged in more informal exchanges with the community via dedicated Slack channels and discussion lists. They help keep the conversation going. 

Creating Valuable Resources

Donated code as well as publications and programs took center stage in 2022 as InCommon Catalysts continued to create valuable resources for the community.

Contributions of code for the Shibboleth identity provider (IdP) user interface (UI) were provided to the community on behalf of Unicon. Unicon is collaborating with Internet2 in an ongoing effort to create an easy-to-use management dashboard to work with the latest releases of the Shibboleth IdP.

To facilitate ongoing collaboration, the COmanage Project increased its communication with the community through a monthly newsletter (thanks to Spherical Cow Group). Since the launch of this newsletter, subscribers to the COmanage mailing lists have increased significantly.

Evolveum also manages mailing lists, which facilitate community exchanges about midPoint. In addition, Evolveum created and maintains a midPoint operations manual. In addition, thanks to community members, midPoint users can access a number of connectors with open source code. For real life examples from midPoint users, members of the community can reference the collection of case studies that Evolveum and its partner network created. 

These resources notwithstanding, the InCommon Team is committed to providing you with additional opportunities to benefit from the insights and expertise of InCommon Catalysts. To that end, this spring we began featuring them in InCommon News on a quarterly basis through a Q&A column, Catalyst to Catalyst, a virtual advice panel providing multiple perspectives on a key IAM topic for the InCommon community. Catalysts provide responses to questions the group identifies based on current trends observed in the field.

In a similar vein, the Federated Identity Management Cookbook released in July aggregates the most current information on this topic and illustrates the collaborative nature of Catalysts’ work with the community. As Jim Basney, director of Trusted CI, one of the sponsors of the cookbook, and a team member at CILogon, a collaboration between the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Spherical Cow Group, observed: “As a living document, this cookbook represents the output of the IdM WG on an ongoing basis, with participation by CI Compass, Trusted CI, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Facilities, and the broader community, including members and representatives of the InCommon federation.”

Even the best resources are only as useful as the people who employ them. Where is the next generation of IAM professionals? In an effort to build the pool of talent available to the community of identity providers, federation operators, and service providers who comprise the federated identity ecosystem, RDCT invites students attending historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to apply to participate in its annual internship program. Interns will develop software to support federated identity management (FIM), a system crucial to fostering and supporting sustainable, global scientific research. This opportunity spans up to two semesters beginning in Fall 2022.

InCommon Catalysts create resources that help community members get IAM done better and faster – together.

Collaborating on Strategic Solutions

InCommon Catalysts are at their very best when working with the community to solve problems while developing and/or testing new tools and techniques.  

RDCT chaired the InCommon Sirtfi Exercise Planning Working Group starting in January of this year, which led a group of volunteers in planning and executing InCommon’s inaugural federation cybersecurity cooperation exercise. On November 14-18, nine participating organizations from the InCommon Federation came together to practice cybersecurity cooperation in incident response using the REFEDS Sirtfi framework.

The COmanage Project marked the release of Match 1.0,  and organizations like University of California San Diego (UCSD) are exploring its use.

West Arete developed and customized an accessible social tool for the I2 Leadership Exchange in April.

Provision IAM contributed open source code and workflow/best-practice to midPoint and developed a suite of open source midPoint resource connectors.

These are just some of the countless ways that Catalysts contribute to community efforts, establishing themselves as trusted advisors and partners to R&E organizations who are committed to ensuring that they get IAM done better and faster – together.

InCommon Catalysts Want to Help

If you’re interested in leveraging the experience and expertise of an InCommon Catalyst to solve a particular challenge or devise a roadmap for a full IAM reboot, feel free to reach out directly. Not sure who to go to? Let us know by sharing a bit about what you’d like to do.

If you’re interested in having your company join the InCommon Catalyst Program, contact help@incommon.org.

About the InCommon Catalyst Program

Catalysts are industry leaders and Internet2 members that actively contribute to identity and access management (IAM) within the research and education (R&E) community. These corporations and non-profit organizations offer a wide range of IAM support services – combining their knowledge of InCommon’s integrated service and software solutions and familiarity with the challenges and requirements specific to the R&E ecosystem. 

To hone that insight, all Catalysts have been active in the InCommon community for more than one year; some have been with us for more than a decade. They participate in events, upskilling programs, and working groups. They also give back to the community in the form of documented resources, contributed code, and other services.