Welcome!

Blog Feed Post

Selecting a token format for your Web APIs, RESTful web services

The most important token format that you need to support for your web apis and RESTful web services these days is: anything. So many platforms define their own authentication/authorization mechanism with what seems to be little concern for standardized formats: API keys here, HMAC signatures there, various OAuth interpretation, etc. Simple does trump standards. For the integration-focused enterprise architect, this reality creates a need for flexible infrastructure supporting arbitrary token formats.

About a year ago, I was proposing a simple approach for enabling RESTful web service requesters with SAML-based tokens for authentication/authorization. The pattern enabling a REST client to access a service using a SAML token is illustrated below.

SAML for REST

The fact that there are still no definitive SAML bindings targeting RESTful web services today does not seem to deter developers from leveraging SAML to control access to their RESTful web services. We encountered this again recently in the field in the form of a proof of technology project in which the main objective was to demonstrate the Layer 7 Gateway acting both as the token issuer for a REST client as well as an API proxy which controls access based on those very tokens. Two token formats were requested: SAML and OAuth.

For our gateway to authenticate RESTful requesters and issue tokens is a very common and straightforward process. In order for the REST client to be able to use this token however, it must be able to insert it in an Authorization header (the RESTful location for this token). In the case where the token is a SAML assertion, it can exceed in size the practical limit of what can be used as an HTTP header value (a rich SAML assertion with an XML digital signature can be quite verbose). This is where the Layer 7 Gateway policy language flexibility shines. By simply declaring the compression (gzip assertion) of the resulting SAML before sending it back to the client, the token has now been shrunk to a manageable size for the client. The reverse decompression at reception is just as straightforward using the reverse operation in our policy language.

SAML idp for REST with token compression

Note that although we could just as well create a session on the Gateway and return a cookie back to the requester, we are interacting with a REST client here; this is not a browser-driven interaction. Besides, server side sessions are not RESTful. If the client re-sends the token at each call, the authorization of the requester is validated each time through the evaluation of the SAML statements and this does not require any server-side session.

When implementing the same use case, but with a token format based on OAuth instead of SAML, this compression/decompression step is no longer needed. The rest of the configuration using our Gateway policy language is very similar. This compression is one of the technical tradeoffs when choosing between such token formats and relates to the so-called “open” vs “enterprise” identity camps. On one hand, you have a rich and standardized token format (SAML), which can be used to express a variety of statements about an identity. On the other hand you have a simple and lean token format but less standardized. On that last point, what constitutes an OAuth token format in this particular context is a bit of a moving target and various interpretations are not necessarily compatible.

In the end, choosing a token format should consider the requirements around authorization and the technical capabilites of the parties involved. Better yet, don’t narrow your support on a single format. Support and enable different token formats instead if that is what is needed.

When selecting supporting infrastructure to manage APIs and broker with cloud or partners, keep in mind this need to accommodate arbitrary authentication approaches. Although rich standard support provides value, the essential ingredient of an agile service gateway is its flexibility and its extensibility.


Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Francois Lascelles

As Layer 7’s Chief Architect, Francois Lascelles guides the solutions architecture team and aligns product evolution with field trends. Francois joined Layer 7 in the company’s infancy – contributing as the first developer and designing the foundation of Layer 7’s Gateway technology. Now in a field-facing role, Francois helps enterprise architects apply the latest standards and patterns. Francois is a regular blogger and speaker and is also co-author of Service-Oriented Infrastructure: On-Premise and in the Cloud, published by Prentice Hall. Francois holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal and a black belt in OAuth. Follow Francois on Twitter: @flascelles

Latest Stories
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Containers and Kubernetes allow for code portability across on-premise VMs, bare metal, or multiple cloud provider environments. Yet, despite this portability promise, developers may include configuration and application definitions that constrain or even eliminate application portability. In this session we'll describe best practices for "configuration as code" in a Kubernetes environment. We will demonstrate how a properly constructed containerized app can be deployed to both Amazon and Azure ...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Behera Rasananda is a technologist, a leader, a key note speaker has more than 20 years experience in across Government, Financial, Heath Care and Insurance Verticals. Mr. Behera has vast experience in Enterprise Cloud and Big Data solutions and Enterprise Architecture. Currently he works closely for Government Solutions on Enterprise Cloud for Federal Government Agency. Scientist Behera managed and partner with clients to make complete end to end solution and Migration to cloud both private sec...
All zSystem customers have a significant new business opportunity to extend their reach to new customers and markets with new applications and services, and to improve the experience of existing customers. This can be achieved by exposing existing z assets (which have been developed over time) as APIs for accessing Systems of Record, while leveraging mobile and cloud capabilities with new Systems of Engagement applications. In this session, we will explore business drivers with new Node.js apps ...
In this presentation, you will learn first hand what works and what doesn't while architecting and deploying OpenStack. Some of the topics will include:- best practices for creating repeatable deployments of OpenStack- multi-site considerations- how to customize OpenStack to integrate with your existing systems and security best practices.
Cloud applications are seeing a deluge of requests to support the exploding advanced analytics market. “Open analytics” is the emerging strategy to deliver that data through an open data access layer, in the cloud, to be directly consumed by external analytics tools and popular programming languages. An increasing number of data engineers and data scientists use a variety of platforms and advanced analytics languages such as SAS, R, Python and Java, as well as frameworks such as Hadoop and Spark...
The now mainstream platform changes stemming from the first Internet boom brought many changes but didn’t really change the basic relationship between servers and the applications running on them. In fact, that was sort of the point. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Gordon Haff, senior cloud strategy marketing and evangelism manager at Red Hat, will discuss how today’s workloads require a new model and a new platform for development and execution. The platform must handle a wide range of rec...
The technologies behind big data and cloud computing are converging quickly, offering businesses new capabilities for fast, easy, wide-ranging access to data. However, to capitalize on the cost-efficiencies and time-to-value opportunities of analytics in the cloud, big data and cloud technologies must be integrated and managed properly. Pythian's Director of Big Data and Data Science, Danil Zburivsky will explore: The main technology components and best practices being deployed to take advantage...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of ...
DXWorldEXPO LLC, the producer of the world's most influential technology conferences and trade shows has announced the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO "Early Bird Registration" is now open. Register for Full Conference "Gold Pass" ▸ Here (Expo Hall ▸ Here)
Enterprises are universally struggling to understand where the new tools and methodologies of DevOps fit into their organizations, and are universally making the same mistakes. These mistakes are not unavoidable, and in fact, avoiding them gifts an organization with sustained competitive advantage, just like it did for Japanese Manufacturing Post WWII.