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 four 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, Mac or Citrix, SAML authentication can be configured to authenticate users to the ID vault. With this configuration, when users launch the Notes client, they are presented with a login page from the IdP to authenticate and download their IDs from the ID Vault. This configuration is referred to as Notes Federated Login (NFL).
  • For Notes® client users on Windows or Citrix whose operating systems are joined to a Microsoft Active Directory domain, SAML authentication can facilitate a single-sign on solution, with Active Directory Federated Services (ADFS) configured for Integrated Windows™ authentication (IWA). SAML authentication at Notes® client startup is referred to as Notes® federated login with Integrated Windows Authentication (IWA). 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 or HCL Verse 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 authentication is referred to as Web federated login, and allows iNotes or Verse 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.

Domino includes support for SAML 2.0 AuthNRequest-capable IdPs. Most IdPs with this capability have been known to work with Domino. Additionally, Domino has been tested with Microsoft Active Directory Federated Services (ADFS). ADFS versions 3, 4 and 5 are supported with Domino.


The following table lists client configurations with which SAML is not compatible or only partially compatible.
Table 1. 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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