An overview of SSO products

  • Mark - Software Architect
    Mark van der Linden
    Software Architect
  • Daan - Senior Software Developer
    Daan Beulen
    Senior Software Developer

After a technical introduction to Single Sign-On, we're going to take a look at some of the SSO products available in the space in the second part of the series. Comparing them on a couple of key functionalities that are important when choosing a product to work with. Our aim is to provide pointers that can be used when making your choice for a SSO solution, regardless of the product you're currently looking at. We'll be taking a look at the following products:

  • Ping Identity
  • Auth0
  • Keycloak
  • Amazon Cognito
  • Okta

We'll be comparing these products on the following functionalities

  • Compliancy
  • Extensibility
  • Protocol support
  • Pricing
  • Federation support
  • Integration support
  • MFA support

PingIdentity logo

Ping Identity

Ping Identity is a modular platform consisting of various products that each offer parts of the typical functionality expected from an identity and access management platform. This gives you the option to only run the parts that you need, as opposed to having to run a full platform when you're only really interested in using a small part of it. If you're running multiple products of the platform you're guaranteed to have compatibility and seamless integration through pre-build connectors. The table below contains an overview of the most important products and what they do.

Product name

Functionality

PingFederate

Compliant SAML / OAuth2 / OpenID Connect server. Offers user federation and sign on capabilities. FAPI compliant

PingDirectory

LDAP compliant storage intended for storing enterprise scale user bases

PingAccess

Functions as an API Gateway. Can also handle authentication and transform authentication information in order to provide SSO capabilities to legacy systems

PingOne

Cloud SSO and directory platform

Ping Identity generally targets the bigger global enterprises for their customer base and offers both on premise and cloud options.

Auth0-logo

Auth0

Auth0 is a cloud native solution that offers authentication-as-a-service functionality and offers a complete identity and access management platform. Generally speaking Auth0 runs in their public cloud, however they also offer options to host it in a private cloud. This means that you get an isolated instance of Auth0 where none of your software and infrastructure is shared with other tenants. 

Keycloak logo

Keycloak

Keycloak is an open source project that aims to provide a full identity and access management platform. It has a large community backing it and is constantly being developed upon by the community. Keycloak has been picked up by Red Hat and an enterprise version of Keycloak, Red Hat SSO, is available through them. The enterprise variant offers long term support for it's versions being released, where Keycloak does not. This means that you will receive security patches for older versions of Red Hat SSO, and you don't have to upgrade to newer versions as often. Currently Keycloak is mostly used as an on premise solution, however the Keycloak project is currently working towards cloud native support as well.

Amazon Cognito

Amazon Cognito

Amazon Cognito is a complete identity and access management platform available on AWS. As such it's a cloud native solution that integrates well with other AWS services. For example you can use Amazon SNS to send out one-time password codes and Amazon Lambda to trigger custom code during login flows. Amazon Cognito also offers advanced security features such as risk-based adaptive authentication and compromised credentials protection. Amazon Cognito can also keep metrics and data in Amazon CloudWatch for important events such as sign-ups, sign-ins, risk scores and the results of sign-in attempts and second-factor challenges.

Okta

Okta

Okta is a cloud native solution that focuses on easy integration with more then 6500 different integrations from cloud to on-premise products. Integrations range from identity providers and directories like Google, Azure Active Directory and LDAP to applications like Slack, Zoom, Salesforce and Atlassian. Its a complete identity and access management platform with features like multi-factor authentication, API management, universal directory and extensive audit logging capabilities. Every feature can be subscribed to separately which means you only pay for the features your organization needs.

Compliancy

Depending on the field you're working in and the customer data that you will be storing in your identity and access management solution, you may have to be compliant with certain regulations. Often of the shelf SSO products are compliant with some of these regulations, lowering the burden on your development team since they'll no longer have to deal with it. This can be an important driver for deciding on a solution. We've created an overview for the subset of products we've selected.

Note that in this overview we're comparing compliancy with regulations when the solution is hosted in a managed environment. Keycloak is exclusively a self-hosted solution so it cannot guarantee compliancy. For that reason Keycloak has been excluded from the overview.

Ping Identity

Auth0

Amazon Cognito

Okta

ISO27001

SOC 2

CSA STAR

ISO27001

ISO27018

HIPAA BAA

EU - US Privacy Shield Framework

Gold CSA STAR

PCI-DSS

ISO27001

ISO27017

ISO27018

ISO9001

HIPAA

PCI-DSS

SOC

ISO27001

ISO27017

ISO27018

SOC 2 Type II

CSA STAR

PCI-DSS

SOX

HIPAA

A few things immediately jump out here. Keycloak does not offer any support for compliancy with regulations and instead leave it up the user of their platform. The next one that jumps out is that the cloud native platforms, Auth0, Amazon Congnito and Okta, offer the most with regards to compliancy, including PCI-DSS which is a big one if you're in finances or handling card data and HIPAA which is important for the medical and insurance fields. The reason that the cloud platforms can do this is that the data is stored in environments that are controlled by the suppliers, so they can take all the required actions with regards to the data at rest and in transit through the system. The last thing that's important to note is that Ping Identity offers FAPI compliance, which is important when dealing with PSD2.

Extensibility

While of the shelf solutions try to offer a wide variety of functionality and connections to external systems for datasources, federation, etc. It's impossible for them to be able to catch all use cases. In order to resolve this, most platforms offer some way to create custom extensions. These custom extensions can hook into the solution to deal with use cases that cannot be dealt with the build in functionality. See the table below for an overview of the ways that the products we've selected can be extended.

 

PingIdentity

Auth0

Keycloak

Amazon Cognito

Okta

Language

Java

JavaScript / NodeJS

Java

JavaScript / NodeJS

-

Hooks

Authentication

Themes

OTP

Datasource connections

& more

Pre and post authentication

hooks in login flows

Authentication

Themes

OTP

Role mappers

Toke claim mappers

& more

Pre and post authentication

hooks in login flows

Pre and post authentication

hooks in login flows

What stands out here is that the cloud native options have limited extensibilty. They only offer some predefined hooks in flows where scripts can be executed or allow you to create limited custom integrations. The on premise options offer more extensibility, generally speaking in the form of SDKs that offer interfaces for certain functionality. Developers are then free to implement those and can load their code into the runtime of the server through dynamic class loading. The end result is that your own implementations show up as configurable options in administration screens.

Protocol Support

In the first post of the series we've already gone over the most prominent protocols that are used for SSO in todays landscape. Here we provide an overview of what protocols are supported by each product.

Protocol

Ping Identity

Auth0

Keycloak

Amazon Cognito

Okta

OAuth

error

check

error

error

error

OAuth2.0

check

check

check

check

check

OIDC

check

check

check

check

check

SAML

check

check

check

check

check

As expected, all platforms support all major protocols. One thing to note here is that only Auth0 still supports OAuth, however it's not really relevant because OAuth has been replaced by OAuth2.0 for a while now and shouldn't be used anymore.

Pricing

Ping Identity

Ping Identity requires you to buy licenses per product in their catalog. The prices per license are not publicly defined on their website. In order to know the costs you'll have to request a quote. Generally speaking the costs are based on the amount of expected users managed by the solution.

Auth0

Auth0 uses a freemium model. It's possible to use Auth0 for free if you have a relatively small user base (up to 7000 users) and don't need any of the advanced features like role management, customized emails and log retention. Next to the free plan there are two premium plans that do offer the advanced features. Here the pricing is defined based on the amount of active users. A user is considered active if they've logged in at least once for the month. The pricing for the pro plans is clearly defined on Auth0's website. Finally there's an enterprise variant. The enterprise variant offers a high SLA environment with enterprise grade support, compliancy with various standards and more extensive log retention. In order to know the pricing of the enterprise version you have to request a quote.

Keycloak

Keycloak is an open source solution and as such is free to use. The enterprise variant of Keycloak, Red Hat SSO, has it's pricing based on the amount of CPU cores that are running the software. This is a common pricing model for Red Hat products.

Amazon Cognito

Amazon Cognito charges per monthly active user, similar to Auth0 a user is only considered active if they've logged in at least once that month. The first 50K monthly active users are free, and the first 50 monthly active users federated through federation are free. After these amounts there's a cost per monthly active user that scales down the more monthly active users you have. A similar scaling pricing model is used for the additional security features that Amazon Cognito offers. For the advanced security features there is no pricing difference between federated and regular users.

Okta

Okta has seperate pricing for workforce identity and customer identity. In the case of workforce identity you pay a fixed price per user per month. Each feature is priced seperately, and you can pick and chose the features that you need for your specific use case. Volume discounts become available at 5000+ users. Here the pricing is per user, regardless of if they're active or not. There is a trial option available for the workforce identity solution.

The Customer identity product have three editions: developer, one app and enterprise. The developer edition is free up to 1000 montly active users, with the price slowly going up as you need more users. The developer edition only offers basic SSO functionality and doesn't have the option of installing addons. The developer edition also has a cap of 50000 monthly active users and only offers support through email. The one app solution and the enterprise solution offer options that allow for unlimited monthly active users and have the option of installing addons. Next to that they both have more extensive support options like the ability to call someone. The only difference between one app and enterprise is that the one app edition has a limit of 5 OIDC clients, and the enterprise edition has no cap on the allowed clients. Pricing of the one app and enterprise editions is based on a quote, but a ballpark figure is given on Okta's website.

Addons for the customer identity product are things like multi-factor authentication, API access management, B2B integration, SSO integrations and more.

Conclusion

As we can see each product has its own unique way of pricing, but generally based on the same principles. The cloud variants, Auth0, Okta and Amazon Cognito, allow you to start for free and start charging per user after a certain threshold has been reached, after that the pricing per additional user is well defined. Ping Identity and Auth0 offer enterprise variants that require you to request a quote. Generally speaking though the costs are then again based on the amount of users. Keycloak stands out here since it's an open source product and can be used for free. The enterprise version of Keycloak, Red Hat SSO, also stands out because it's the only enterprise option that doesn't charge per monthly active user, but by CPU core instead. Okta is unique because it allows you to pick and chose the components that you need ensuring that you only pay for what you need.

Federation Support

In today's landscape it's common to allow consumers to log in using one of their already existing accounts like their Google, Facebook or Active Directory account. This is called user federation. With federation support we're taking a look at to which extend the products support logging in with already existing accounts.

Feature

Ping Identity

Auth0

Keycloak

Amazon Cognito

Okta

Out of the box connections

check

check

check

check

check

Custom connections via portals

check

check

check

check

check

Custom connections via SDK implementations

check

error

check

error

error

Marketplace with additional out of the box connections

error

error

error

error

error

All products offer support for federation through out of the box connections. These are available for all the major players in the industry, like Google, Facebook, Twitter and LDAP. They also all offer support for configuring custom connections to identity providers that implement the OAuth2.0, OIDC or SAML protocols. The on-premise solutions, Ping Identity and Keycloak, also offer the option to build custom connections to other systems you want to federate with even if these systems don't implement one of the SSO protocols through SDKs. Finally, Ping Identity and Okta also offer a marketplace with connections to various identity providers allowing you to offer the option to log in with for example AWS, Sharepoint, Slack and more.

Integration Support

Setting up the SSO platform is only half of the journey. The next step is integrating your own applications with the SSO platform. We see integration support as "how easy is it to integrate the platform into my own application". We think this is an important indicator when selecting a SSO product since good integration support can save you loads of time and will keep your developers happy. We've taken a look at SDKs provided by each product.

 

Ping Identity

Auth0

Keycloak

Amazon Cognito

Okta

Vendor supported SDKs

Java

.NET

PHP

JavaScript

iOS

Android

PHP

.NET

NodeJS

Python

Java

JavaScript

JavaScript

React Native

iOS

JavaScript

Android

iOS

Python

Java

.NET

NodeJS

PHP

GO

React Native

Vue.JS

Angular

While the language support of SDKs may seem limited, it's important to note that all products implement the SSO protocols mentioned and there are loads of generic libraries for OAuth2.0/OIDC and SAML out there for each language. All of these should also work with these products. All products are also documented reasonably well and provide enough support to integrate easily.

MFA Support

The final indicator we'll be looking at is multi-factor authentication support offered by the products. People expect to have the option to use multi-factor authentication nowadays and regulations require it to be in place. Because of that it's important to know what options are available when selecting a product.

Ping Identity

Auth0

Keycloak

Amazon Cognito

Okta

OTP

Marketplace

Extendable with custom implementations

OTP via Google Authenticator or similar

SMS verification

Email verification

Push notifications

DUO Security

OTP via Google Authenticator or similar

Extendable with custom implementations

OTP via Google Authenticator or similar

SMS verification

OTP via Google Authenticator or similar

SMS verification

Email verification

Push notifications

FIDO2 (WebAuthn)

All products support MFA through one time passwords via google authenticator or similar apps. Things to note here are that Keycloak and Ping Identity allow you to write custom MFA implementations. Ping Identity also offers a marketplace with many MFA implementations. This includes features like SMS, push notifications, passwordless logins and more. Okta offers all of these features out of the box which makes them more easily accessible.

In this blog we've looked at five SSO solutions and we've compared them on some key functionalities that are relevant when selecting a product to integrate with. With this we also hope that we've given you some criteria that you can use to determine if a product is a good fit for you even if you're not looking at SSO solutions in our list.

In the next part of our series, we'll show the products in action as we make a deep dive into some live SSO use cases that we've tackled using these products.