Software as a disservice
I note from the UK Federation home page that the:
federation uses the standards-based Shibboleth software, developed by the Internet2 community in the United States. Shibboleth defines a common framework for access management that is being adopted by education and commercial sectors across the world.
A point echoed on their How it works page:
The UK federation uses the standards based Shibboleth software, developed by the Internet 2 community in the United States to facilitate the sharing of web resources that are subject to access control.
How odd... I've always understood the Federation to be based on an open standard, SAML to be precise, not on a particular piece of software, open-source or otherwise, and indeed this point is confirmed in the Federation's technical recommendations:
The UK federation uses the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) standards for the communication of authentication, entitlement and attribute information. The core of the federation is implemented using the Shibboleth software from Internet2. It is recognised, however, that any particular software implementation may not be suitable for all participants, and federation members may deploy any software that meets their specific service goals.
A perfectly reasonable statement.
Interestingly, I am often guilty of confusing the two (and I see the same thing happening with colleagues here at Eduserv), using the word Shibboleth effectively as shorthand for 'a profile of SAML'. This confusion is a mistake and does significant harm to the community IMHO.
Open-source is fine and dandy but open standards are much more important and the effective positioning of a particular open source package into a psuedo-monopolistic position does nobody any favours. That's the position we were trying to move away from as a community! Shibboleth is to federated access management in the UK what Hoover used to be to vacuum cleaners. This is great if you are trying to promote a single product but very poor if you are trying to build an open community.