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InCommon’s 20-Year Milestone: Maturity of Identity Federations & Elevating the Global Community with Klaas Wierenga



Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

By Kevin Morooney, vice president of Trust and Identity and NET+, Internet2

As InCommon celebrates its 20th birthday, it’s an ideal time to reflect on the progress we’ve made and look forward to exciting developments in the future. To gain perspective on this milestone, I recently spoke with Klaas Wierenga, chief information and technology officer at GÉANT.

With his extensive background in innovation management, identity, mobility, and security, Klaas has played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of federated identity systems. His impressive contributions to the research and education community include the groundbreaking invention of eduroam, and he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2019.

InCommon 20th Anniversary logo

Kevin: Klaas, you have quite a portfolio of responsibilities at GÉANT. Can you talk a little about the importance of eduGAIN and the trust and identity services above the network?

Klaas: Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen a significant shift where the identity layer on top of the network has become increasingly critical. This change is driven by the global nature of research, requiring seamless identification of users across national and institutional boundaries. eduGAIN has been pivotal in facilitating this, providing a reliable means of identity verification and resource access for researchers worldwide.

Kevin: GÉANT, Internet2, and InCommon have been involved in trust federation for a couple of decades now. Given your experience, what are some present-day challenges you see in operating eduGAIN to continue providing value for international research and education?

Klaas: Two main issues stand out. Firstly, we envisioned institutions releasing a broad range of attributes for authorization decisions, but this has not materialized due to practical and legal reasons. Institutions remain hesitant to release attributes, and this continues to be a significant hurdle.

Secondly, the maturity of identity federations varies globally. While InCommon is a mature federation, many others are still developing. Balancing the advancement of federated identity globally while supporting latecomers is an ongoing challenge.

Kevin: Long-term projects can sometimes lose their excitement. Are there aspects of the future of trust federation that you’re particularly excited about?

Klaas: Absolutely. While it’s easy to become complacent, new developments continually emerge to reignite our passion. A significant change on the horizon is the new European identity regulation, eIDAS2, and the use of digital wallets for attribute conveyance. This promises to revolutionize our role, potentially transforming us into attribute authorities rather than traditional identity providers.

The interplay between government-issued credentials and global access to technology presents both technical challenges and societal shifts, which I find incredibly exciting.

Kevin: GÉANT’s relationship with Internet2 and InCommon is unique. What expectations do you have for InCommon’s role in the global identity federation ecosystem?

Klaas: InCommon is the largest and one of the most mature identity federations globally, making it a key player in the ecosystem. Your first-move advantage and the dual challenges of managing a large, mature federation provide valuable insights.

I expect InCommon to continue setting high standards and helping elevate the global community. Collaborating with Internet2 to bring the rest of the world up to these standards is crucial, and I look forward to working together on this.

As we celebrate InCommon’s 20th birthday, it’s clear that our journey is far from over. The challenges and opportunities ahead will require continued collaboration, innovation, and a steadfast commitment to trust and identity. With the collective efforts of the global community, the future of federated identity systems looks promising and full of potential.