Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control Service 2.0 Supports New Identity Providers
At the recent MIX 2011 conference, Microsoft announced updates to its existing cloud-based Access Control Service (ACS) that supports new web-friendly and enterprise-grade identity providers, while beefing up its support for standard communication protocols, improving the developer experience and enhancing the online management portal.
Microsoft includes ACS with Windows Azure AppFabric to provide authentication and authorization capabilities for web applications and services. It promotes two core scenarios where architects and developers can use ACS in their solutions: web applications and web services. They differ only in the respect that web applications typically have login pages and web services do not. Both web applications and web services can leverage pre-existing identity providers to authenticate the users. ACS now supports Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Windows Live ID and any identity provider that supports WS-Federation, such as Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).
For web applications, the user is presented with the chosen identity provider's login page. Once a token is retrieved from the identity provider, it can be converted by ACS into the SAML 1.1, SAML 2.0 or SWT token that the target web resource expects. The new version of ACS supports WS-Federation, WS-Trust, OAuth 2.0, and OAuth WRAP 0.9 protocols for both inbound token requests and issuing outbound tokens.
The management portal for Windows Azure AppFabric has undergone noteworthy changes as well. In addition to the aesthetic updates brought on by the Silverlight-based user interface, the ACS management portal now allows users to directly configure their ACS identity providers, claim transformation rules and more. In addition, ACS components can now be controlled using a new OData-based management service.
Vittorio Bertocci of Microsoft revealed that customers and partners will be able to use ACS free of charge until at least January 2012. Bertocci also pointed to a new batch of ACS learning resources including updated documentation, a new Identity Developer Training Kit, a new PHP plugin for Wordpress that utilizes ACS and an update to the eBook entitled Guide to Claims based Identity.
Also at the MIX 2011 conference, Microsoft announced the first release of Windows Azure AppFabric Caching which stores structured or binary data in a distributed, in-memory cache. Users can provision up to 4GB of cache space in the Microsoft cloud but will not yet find feature parity with Microsoft’s on-premise caching solution in Windows Server AppFabric.
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