Today is a big day for us! Brock and I started working on the next generation of IdentityServer over 14 months ago. In fact – I remember exactly how I created the very first file (constants.cs) somewhere in the Swiss Alps and was hunting for internet connection to do a check-in (much to the dislike of my family).
1690 commits later it is time to recap what we did, why we did it – and where we are now.
Having spent a considerable amount of time in the WS*/SAML world, it became more and more apparent that these technologies are not a good match for the modern types of applications that we (and our customers) like to build. These types of applications are pretty much a combination of web and native UIs combined with web APIs. Security protocols need to be API, HTTP and mobile friendly, and we need authentication, API access and identity delegation as first class citizens.
We had two options – either try to retrofit the new protocols into the old WS* architecture (like so many commercial products do) or start from scratch. Since we also had a number of other high priority design goals for the new version we decided to start from scratch.
Some of the highlights of IdentityServer3 (at least in our opinion) are:
Support for the modern security stack
OpenID Connect and OAuth2 that is. These two protocols in combination are the perfect match to build the modern applications we had in mind. OAuth2 is used to manage access (and access control) from clients to APIs for both trusted subsystem and identity delegation systems. OpenID Connect is the extension to OAuth2 for implementing rich authentication and single sign-on scenarios for any application type.
We wanted to be much more flexible in our hosting scenarios – IIS vs self-hosting, Windows vs Linux, ASP.NET vCurrent vs vNext, Embedded into the application vs separate standalone vs separate web farm vs cloud – you name it. Regardless which hosting environment you choose – IdentityServer is always the same.
Flexibility and Extensibility
IdentityServer2 always had a dependency on a database. The past years taught us that there are many situations where this is not appropriate. In the new version everything is code first and abstracted behind interfaces. Everything can be done in memory and no persistence store is required. We have an optional extension that uses Entity Framework for persistence – but this is up to you.
Another issue we had in the past was that there were too many situations where one had to change the core source code to implement some custom workflow. In IdentityServer3 we think we did a good job in anticipating the typical (and not so typical) modifications and baked them right into the core runtime as extensibility points. So far this has worked out really well.
Framework vs Server
As mentioned above – IdentityServer3 is all about customization and extensibility. The developer is in the centre and we give him lots of freedom in changing almost any aspect of the workflow. This is the big difference to many commercial off the shelf products.
Right from the start we used the term “STS Framework” rather than a “Server” and up to today we don’t even have an admin UI for managing the server configuration. We (and most people we spoke to) were absolutely fine doing all of that in code and in their custom configuration system. That said – we have an admin service and UI in the works that will be released soon – but again this is totally optional.
Brock and I just recently spoke to Carl and Richard about these design goals on .NET Rocks.
Where to go?
To accommodate the new versioning scheme (we switched to semver) and the componentized architecture we changed both the GitHub organization and repo names as well as the Nuget package names. The new organization can be found here and the main repo is here along with instructions on how to contribute and an issue tracker for filing bugs or giving feedback.
If you need consulting about modern (or not so modern) security architectures in general and IdentityServer in particular – you can contact us via email at email@example.com or via twitter: @leastprivilege & @brocklallen.
We have a couple of “side projects” that complement the core IdentityServer3 – there’s IdentityManager, which we neglected a bit for the last months, and there‘s the admin service and UI (good people are working on that right now)…And there are of course new features to implement for IdentityServer – check this label and take part in the discussion.
Last but not least
The last 14 months were astounding – we got more feedback, questions, bug reports, PRs and help on IdentityServer3 than all other OSS projects we did before combined. You guys were fantastic! Thanks for your help – we hope you enjoy the result (..and keep it coming)!
Dominick & Brock