eduGAIN and EduGATE – Supporting R&E across Ireland

Although Ireland’s higher education sector is vibrant and dynamic its relatively small size (220,000 students from a population of 4,000,000) gives it some challenges when compared to much larger countries. The global reach of eduGAIN helps level this playing field – allowing Ireland to benefit from access to international resources.

With a total population the size of a moderate size European city, it can be hard for Irish education establishments to get access to educational resources such as library and research databases. HEAnet operates a highly successful Identity Federation service – Edugate - which covers all 45 large undergraduate institutions in Ireland and this federation is Interfederated via eduGAIN to the wider R&E community. This provides HEAnet (and the institutions and students) with significant advantages.

In order to access cloud services, international publishers and library services without eduGAIN, HEAnet would need to negotiate access between each Institution and the publisher on an individual basis. This would have involved complex three-way legal agreements which are time consuming and expensive. Using eduGAIN makes these agreements much simpler as all parties have pre-agreed most of the access rules and procedures. This saves huge amounts of time for all parties and makes the negotiating position of smaller NRENs such as HEAnet much stronger.

“Whilst larger Institutions and NRENs can compel providers to invest in providing access, institutions in smaller countries are in a weaker position. If a Service Provider has to do extra work to provide access to small numbers of users then this becomes either uneconomic or a very low priority. Therefore anything that reduces the costs and speeds up the process is beneficial.”

Edugate – serving Irelands Students and Researchers

HEAnet’s Edugate federation service is a key element in this approach by enabling all institutions in Ireland to have federated access to academic and commercial Service Providers.

HEAnet’s Identity & Access Management (IAM) services supplement campus IAM through services such as the Edugate federation and our hosted & managed Shibboleth Identity Providers. HEAnet also develops the JAGGER federation management tool to manage a Shibboleth Identity Provider or SAML federation. By engaging with service providers to join edugate it assists institutions availing of such member services at no charge to the institution.

Where service providers do not wish to join Edugate and support SAML, HEAnet can configure a bilateral trust between the institutions identity provider service and the service provider. HEAnet has configured bilateral configurations for a range of cloud services including;

  • ​​Google Apps for Education
  • Office 365 (incl. Yammer & Azure)
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Ezproxy
  • Sharepoint
  • TCS iON
  • Athens

“Edugate is becoming central to a lot of our services. It’s vital for UCC student email and VLE log-in. The last thing we want are multiple sets of credentials. Federated access is the way forward, and allows us to leverage credentials across all our services. We will be looking at providing more and more student services via Edugate in the future.” Barry O’Sullivan IT Services, University College Cork

Together Edugate and eduGAIN provide an essential link between students, researchers, institutions and Service Providers.

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Words: Glenn Wearen HEAnet​