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Adam Crockett
Adam Crockett

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๐Ÿ›‚ Access Management (AM) is an international Airport ๐Ÿ›‚

Ive worked at ForgeRock for 3 years in various roles, and have never wrote a post about it, I think that has to change now im training for accreditation, so here is a super high level explanation of AM from my perspective and I hope its well received by all :)

please note that I am only human and this may contain inaccuracies, i'm always learning!
Im going to be writing about AM 6, this is not the latest version and much has changed, but this is the version I am training against, I will write an updated version soon.

AM (Access Management) uses authentication to verify the identity of users and non-human entities (such as IoT devices, browsers, cars, fridges). It acts like border control at an airport, where all users are directed to AM for identity verification.

I will discuss only Stateful server-side scenario for the purpose of the analogy, please be aware that a stateless option is also available where the token SSOTokenID is provided on request bypassing the need for a CTS.

A successful authentication results in an AM session (SSOToken), which represents the user to all AM-enabled devices. The SSOToken is not given directly to the user or device, but a reference to it (SSOTokenID) is provided. AM can retrieve the related session using the SSOTokenID and respond to the request accordingly.

AM has a flexible and modular architecture with multiple plugin points. Itโ€™s 100% Java-based and has three main sections: protected resources, API layer, and core services. The API layer, consisting of REST APIs and ForgeRock Common REST API, is exposed to the outside world and used by edge devices to communicate with AM. The core services include the authentication management service.

๐Ÿ’ก An edge device is a term used in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT). It refers to a device located at the edge of a network, closest to the end-user. Edge devices are responsible for collecting and sending data to the central network, and also for carrying out local processing and decision-making. Examples of edge devices include smart thermostats, security cameras, and wearable devices.

AM has a configurable behaviour, controlled by its properties. The code that implements this behaviour is found in the AM Service Provider Interfaces (SPIs). AM has an admin console, a command-line interface (CLI), and an embedded configuration store. The embedded configuration store is an instance of ForgeRock Directory Services (DS), which is installed automatically when AM is installed although embedded DS which is not used anymore in 7.x is not recommended for production in 6.x either.

๐Ÿ’ก The Service Provider Interfaces (SPIs) in AM are the building blocks that implement its functionality. They contain the code that makes AM work and determine how it behaves. Simply put, the SPIs are the underlying code that provides the services and features of AM. The SPIs are modular and flexible, which allows for customisation and integration with other systems.

When accessing a website, application, or service protected by AM, itโ€™s like arriving at an international airport and needing to go through border control. Just like the airport, the end user needs to authenticate themselves to AM in order to gain access to the protected resource or service.

Imagine the AM login page as the airportโ€™s border control checkpoint, and the end user accessing it as a traveler trying to enter the country. The AM user interface (the login page) acts like a REST client and accesses AMโ€™s authentication service, much like the traveler presenting their passport to the border control officer.

Just like how the border control officer checks the travelerโ€™s passport against a database of authorised individuals, AM checks the userโ€™s credentials against a store to verify their identity. Credentials can be a combination of username and password, a smartcard reading, or a certificate.

Once the authentication process is complete, AM will grant the user access to the protected resource or service, much like the border control officer stamping the travelerโ€™s passport and allowing them to enter the country.

The stamped passport lets you in and creates a session that holds information about your identity and the authentication process, and it allows you to access other protected resources without having to re-authenticate. This is similar to the stamp in your passport allowing you to travel to other destinations without having to go through border control again. The session reference is called an SSOTokenID and itโ€™s like the passport stamp, it identifies you and your session to AM.

In summary, AMโ€™s authentication process is similar to the border control process at an airport, where you must present your credentials and have them verified before being granted access to protected resources.

If you like this and want more Id love to keep sharing what I have learned

Top comments (2)

vietphamh profile image
Viet Pham

Good job, Adam!
I'm looking forward to next articles from you :D

adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

Thank you, there where a few problems with my post so I made some edits, but I will try to do better next time :)