Monday, November 14, 2011

WebSEAL and WebSphere Portal - An Integration Pattern

Thanks to Niall, I've been encouraged to provide my thoughts on how Single Sign On from WebSEAL to WebSphere Portal can be achieved.

In reality, the integration pattern is one of the simpler patterns to adopt. I say simple, but as Niall alluded to when asking me to provide my thoughts on the issue he quite rightly stated that there are at least two approaches to the problem - the LTPA approach and the TAI approach.

Which way is the right way? It's rather like asking why do some airplanes have wings over the fuselage and others have wings under. Surely one of them is better than the other and I really don't want to find myself in a plane that has its wings in a sub-optimal position, right? (Thanks to Mr. Gunning for the analogy!)

To re-use a well-worn phrase... it's more a matter of "horses for courses"... but here is my view.

WebSphere Portal cries out for its own WebSphere instance. I wouldn't host other applications alongside Portal. Not, mind you, because you can't! But because future upgrades paths may make it more prudent to ensure that off-the-shelf applications are isolated from one another.

Given this isolation, the decision as to whether you adopt LTPA or TAI becomes a lot more simplified. Here, the path of least resistance would suggest that LTPA is the way forward. It is a well-trodden path that is well documented and requires virtually no effort on the part of the system administrators.

To give an example, a recent engagement with a client on a separate issue was enlightened when they declared an interest in SSO to their Portal. "Have you got a test environment with TAM and Portal in it?" was met with a "Yes". "Walk this way my dear friends!"

In just under 10 minutes, SSO from WebSEAL to Portal had been achieved. Jaws thumped tables! The approach? LTPA.

So, the approach:

Firstly, ensure that the Realm Name in the Federated Repositories section of the WebSphere Application Server console uses the same value as the LDAP name (including port number).

Step 1: Generate the LTPA key on the Application Server. Navigate to Security/Secure Administration/Applications & Infrastructure/Authentication Mechanisms & Expiration/Cross Cell Single Sign On!

Step 2: Enable "Use Available Authentication Data When An Unprotected URI Is Accessed" after navigating to Security/Secure Administration/Applications & Infrastructure/Web Security/General Settings. (Copy the resulting file as you need it on the WebSEAL server!)

Step 3: Copy the file generated in Step 2 to the WebSEAL server and generate some WebSEAL junctions:
   /wps
   /searchfeed
   /ibmjsfres
   /wps_semanticTag

The command for generating the junctions should include the following directives:
   -A -2 -F (file generated above) -Z (password used in Step 2)
   -x
   -j

Gotchas
When integrating WebSEAL and IBM Portal, it is necessary to understand the implications of the individual session caches that each component uses.

Portal, by default, has a 30-minute idle time-out and 2-hour session time-out on its user sessions. These values must be changed to accommodate the session times configured for WebSEAL (in that they should be slightly longer than the WebSEAL session). This recommendation helps to ensure that a consistent user experience is provided for a user. If a back-end HTTP application timed-out session data before the WebSEAL session for example, the user might experience errors from the back-end application.

In addition, a timeout.resume.session parameter can be added to automatically resume a session.

Login to the WebSphere admin console Select Resources -> Resources Environment providers -> WP ConfigService -> Custom properties. Add a new parameter as "timeout.resume.session" with value "true" as type "Boolean". Restart WebSphere Application Server.

Determine how you want the system to behave when users log out of portal. By default, when users click the Log out button in the SSO environment, they are not fully logged out of portal. Similarly, clicking the Log out button in the Portal environment does not mean that their SSO session has ended.

To accommodate a clean logout of Portal followed by a clean logout from the SSO environment, the IBM HTTP Server can be configured to perform a redirect to the WebSEAL logout page after the Portal Logout function has been requested. To achieve this, you need to edit the IBM HTTP Server configuration file to implement the post-log out behaviour. The IBM HTTP Server configuration file is called httpd.conf.

To capture requests to /ibm_security_logout and redirect them to /pkmslogout, add the following rewrite rules to the httpd.conf file:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /(.*)/ibm_security_logout(.*)
RewriteRule ^/(.*) /pkmslogout [noescape,L,R]

Note: You must add these rules to both the HTTP and HTTPS entries.

Ensure that the line that enables mod_rewrite is not commented out by removing the preceding # symbol. For example:

LoadModule rewrite_module modules/mod_rewrite.so

After all of that, you should have a perfectly operational WebSEAL/Portal integration.
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