Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is SOA Security?

This question has come up in a few contexts lately. One interesting example was the recent creation of the soa-security sub category on . There is no multiple inheritance on the site, so it has to either go into security or soa. This begs the question "Is SOA security anything more than just regular security?" Regular security in this context means web-services security - authentication, authorization, audit etc for web-services. Admittedly, on this blog, we spend a lot of time discussing the mechanics of applying these types of controls to web-services in various products and architectures, but is that all that SOA security is?

Part of the success of this blog has been that its pretty much "manifesto-free", so I'll try to stay focused - the often overlooked area of SOA security is design time governance. Most services are not exposed on the public network. The security for the services at runtime is provided by simply being on the intranet, behind the firewall. We've discussed this before around the use of SAML Bearer confirmation method. The bigger issue is how to ensure that people are selecting the right services to use from the UDDI registry, and only those which they (either the developer of the application) is authorized to use. I think the notion of design time SOA security (often called SOA governance) is nicely discussed here, by Bob Rhubart.

There are some things about services and how they are composed and reused in SOA that need to be managed. How much design time governance (i.e. restrictions) obviously varies from environment to environment. I worked with one customer - that I saw again at OOW a few days ago - who pointed me to the the trustcom project. This is a project being looked at by European government agencies, and "frictionless commerce" with SOA. It is pretty dense stuff, but basically consider the concept of creating a virtual organization to go a perform a business (BPEL) process. A BPEL process has roles, so essentially you want to do is select a service provider for each role and then very easily swap providers in and out if for example, the provider is not meeting their SLAs. So when composing this process, you want to make sure that you're always using the "right" provider. So to do this, you need to look them up in the repository of which contains many, many service providers. So, the UDDI registry or repository needs to restrict access to only the members of the Virtual Organization and their services. There are obviously runtime implications to this model as well, but it does illustrate some of the interesting design time decisions around SOA Security (Governance)

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