Crowd 1.0, our single sign-on authentication software, was launched today. The full press release is here. For this release, I decided to do a short interview with Justen Stepka, the lead developer of Crowd.
(I had wanted to publish the interview as an MP3 audio file, but my first podcast contained way too much background static, so I’ve transcribed the interview here)
What is Crowd and how will people use it?
Crowd is all about making single sign-on and identity management easy. What we did is we looked at our own products here at Atlassian and what we thought was ‘if we’re having single sign-on issues in our own development environment, our clients must have single sign-on issues in their IT environments.’ What we did is we set out to solve our own problem and while we’re doing that we also thought let’s build something our customers can take advantage of and see if we can help them.
So how is Crowd different than some of the other single sign-on tools out there?
Yeah, that’s a great question. What we decided to do was look at the other single sign-on out there and when we did what we saw was that they all seem like a black hole a little bit in terms that they seemed difficult to implement. And so we wanted to make our own product as simple as possible for everyone to use. When we designed the product we approached if from what is difficult about integrating a product into a single sign-on architecture. That includes identity management information and we said these are things we find difficult normally centered around administration and integration, whether that’s centered around a console or programmatically. And we came up with a set of requirements in order to make that easy for people to use.
How do other applications connect with Crowd?
Well from the back end store we call them directory connectors, that’s something that connects to, let’s say an Active Directory server or a Sun ONE server, or your proprietary database. We’ve implemented a standard and easy approach in order to connect to your back end datastore. And then on the front end we’ve developed a set of libraries so that if you have a Java application you can use these Java APIs in order to plugin into your applications so you can have delegated authentication and authorization. In addition we’ve provided some out-of-the-box connectors so that it can hook up to your existing applications.
What other applications besides Jira and Confluence will connect with Crowd?
The biggest one that I think that developers might enjoy is the Subversion plugin. That works by connecting to Apache using the PHP Auth module and that goes over SOAP using web services and consumes Crowd services and makes it so your Subversion server can authenticate against Crowd. Crowd can be hooked up against your Active Directory server or your legacy data system or whatever you happen to have.
Cenqua Fisheye is a really popular tool with developers and we’ve provided a connector for that. And another really good one is the Jive Forums, so that if you have an online support community that you want to integrate into your public website sign on that’s another connector we provide.
Yesterday, you had mentioned OpenID as well. So what’s happening with that?
Yeah, OpenID is something that’s popping up everywhere. What I kind of see is everyone having two OpenID profiles minimum. You might have more or less for your pseudo identities online but your going to have a primary personal one you’re going to use. Maybe that’s for your favorite portal site out there. And I also see companies providing OpenID servers and so that I can act as an agent, in this case Atlassian. I can go out to our partners and vendors and login to those systems and those systems can be assured I am who I say I am. And because of this the ease to implement OpenID — I think Open ID is going to be huge — so what we’ve done is started mapping out the requirements and talking with people who would be using this (and if anyone is interested in doing this, please contact us, we would love to hear from you) by what we can do to provide an OpenID server and client consummables for the next major release for Crowd.
Last thing I’ll ask you is about the different competing standards like SAML and where we stand?
We get that question a lot from customers and it’s something we’re constantly exploring. At this point it’s not something that’s on our immediate roadmap. It’s not something that we’re going to rule out and it’s certainly not something that we’ll never do, but at this time. I think that SAML or Liberty Alliance or one of those technologies that’s great, but I’m not sure that they’re going to get the widespread adoption that is necessary in order to make a difference. Which is why we’re going to stand behind OpenID. It’s just simply too complex to integrate with and use, and it’s for that reason that it’s preventing the type of adoption that its creators are looking for. I’m sure that a couple people can come up with a great set of arguments that would say otherwise, but from our perspective we’re going to take the OpenID route. We think that’s going to be a winner over the next 24 to 36 months.
Atlassian Crowd Connects Active Directory, Web Applications
San Francisco, CA (Business Wire) March 5, 2007 — Atlassian Software Systems today announced the general availability of Crowd, a single sign-on application for helping businesses manage authentication and authorisation for multiple web-based applications. Pricing for Crowd starts at US$600 per license, making the software affordable for small businesses as well as the world’s largest enterprises. A fully functional 30-day evaluation of Crowd is available at www.atlassian.com/software/crowd.
Crowd enables IT administrators and application developers to quickly integrate and deploy single sign-on using popular directories such as Microsoft Active Directory and Apple OS X Open Directory. As well as giving IT administrators a single consolidated point of user management, Crowd gives end-users the convenience of single sign-on across Atlassian Jira, Confluence, or any other non-Atlassian, web-based applications in their business.
“Other single sign-on solutions tend to be quite complex and expensive,” said Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and CEO at Atlassian. “By contrast, we’ve applied the same philosophy to Crowd as we take with our other products: it’s a flexible, fully customisable enterprise application available at a fraction of the cost of most enterprise software.”
By eliminating the complexity of developing and integrating single sign-on applications into a unified security architecture, Crowd makes single sign-on simple. Crowd includes a powerful administration console for managing directories, users and their security rights.
- simple to use administration console for managing users and their various security rights;
- support for custom user stores;
- support for unlimited users (with the Unlimited User license) and user stores;
- pre-built Java libraries;
- support for Microsoft Active Directory and Apple OS X Open Directory;
- database support including DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and MySQL;
- chained authentication and authorisation rules to support multiple directories views to a single application client;
- integrates with Atlassian’s other products: Jira (a professional issue tracker), Confluence (an enterprise wiki), and Atlassian’s newest product, Bamboo (a continuous integration build server).
Designed for use in any IT environment, Crowd runs on the most popular J2EE application servers and supports nearly all JDBC-compliant databases.
In September 2006, Atlassian acquired Authentisoft, a Minnesota-based software company that had developed IDX, a single sign-on solution. Since that time, IDX was rebranded to its current name, Crowd, and new features have been added to improve the ease of use and extensibility of the application.
Atlassian develops affordable, lightweight software that helps enterprises collaborate better. Its products include Confluence, widely recognized as the most advanced enterprise wiki, and Jira, one of the world’s most popular issue trackers for IT project management. The company has more than 5,500 customers worldwide, including 30 of the world’s top 50 corporations. For more information, visit: http://www.atlassian.com.