Using Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) to configure federated-identity authentication

Federated identity is a means of achieving single sign-on, providing user convenience and helping to reduce administrative cost. In Domino® and Notes®, federated identity for user authentication uses the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) standard from OASIS.

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SAML authentication allows a user to authenticate once with a designated identity provider (IdP), after which the user can access any server that is partnered with the IdP. Both Notes® client and web client users can make use of SAML-based authentication. Authentication depends upon signed XML identity assertions. The result for the user is transparent authentication and single-sign on with one-time authentication for multiple Domino® web servers and applications, as well as any third-party applications that are also partnered with the IdP. The IdP determines the method of the one-time authentication; it might prompt the user for a password, or use a non-password authentication methods such as Integrated Windows authentication (SPNEGO/Kerberos) for users within an intranet.

There are three cases in which an organization may use SAML authentication. Your organization may need any or all of the configurations.
  • For Notes® client users on Windows or Citrix, SAML authentication can facilitate a single-sign on solution, usually with the IdP configured for Integrated Windows authentication (IWA). SAML authentication at Notes® client startup is referred to as Notes® federated login. As a bonus, the HTTP server task does not need to be run on the Domino® vault server, because the HTTP portion of SAML is handled within the Notes® client.
  • For web client users such as HCL iNotes® users, SAML authentication also facilitates a single-sign on solution in which the user’s ID file is downloaded from the Notes® ID vault. This type of SAML authenticationis referred to as Web federated login, and allows iNotes users to use secure mail operations.
  • For users of other applications on Web servers, SAML-based single sign-on is an alternative to another method of single sign-on (SSO) already available in Domino®: multi-session server authentication. SAML is most useful when your Domino® environment includes third-party Web applications whose services your users access, or if multi-session server authentication is too limiting for your organization -- for example if the target environment requires SSO across DNS domains.

The administrator can set up a Domino® server to use SAML authentication by making it a partner with an on-premises federated-identity server such as Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). The ADFS server becomes the identity provider (IdP), and the Domino® server is registered with it as a provider of the SAML authentication service.

Domino® supports both SAML 1.1 and SAML 2.0. The SAML version you use depends partially on your choice of identity provider. SAML 2.0 is recommended unless your organization has a specific reason to use SAML 1.1. SAML 1.1 may be required to support single sign-on with specific applications.

Depending on the level of SAML required for participating applications, the following identity providers that support SAML could serve as the federation for which Domino® is the partner:
Table 1. SAML versions supported by identity providers
Identity Provider (IdP) SAML Version
IBM® Tivoli® Access Manager/Tivoli Federated Identity Manager (TAM/TFIM) SAML 1.1 or SAML 2.0
Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).
The following versions are supported:
  • 2.0 (Provided with Windows Server 2008 R2)
  • 3.0 (Provided with Windows Server 2012 R2)
  • 4.0 (Provided with Windows Server 2016)
SAML 2.0 required

Enabling SAML authentication may have unexpected results with RSS feeds if your organization uses them.


The following table lists client configurations with which SAML is not compatible or only partially compatible.
Table 2. Client configurations incompatible with SAML federated login
If your organization uses... SAML is not recommended because...
Smartcard protected ID Federated login user IDs cannot be Smartcard protected IDs, because the ID vault required for Notes® federated login cannot be used with a Smartcard protected ID.
Notes® roaming user whose ID file is stored on the server in a roaming personal address book. Federated login users cannot be Notes® roaming users whose IDs are stored in a roaming personal address book, because the ID vault required for Notes® federated login cannot be used with Notes® IDs stored in a roaming personal address book.
Notes® on a USB device Federated login cannot be used with Notes® on a USB device, because the ID vault required for Notes® federated login cannot be used with Notes® on a USB device.
Notes® user IDs with multiple passwords Federated login user IDs cannot be Notes® user IDs with multiple passwords, because the ID vault required for Notes® federated login and cannot be used with IDs that have multiple passwords.
Server-based password checking for Notes® users Disable this feature on server platforms when configuring all Notes® users for Notes® federated login. Password checking can be enforced for non-federated login users, but cannot be enforced for federated login users.
Notes Single Login component installed with the Notes client This configuration is not supported with Notes federated login.
Notes basic client, Domino administrator client These clients are not supported with Notes federated login. The Notes standard client is required.


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