So long Athens, hello Shibboleth and EZProxy!

From 31st July 2008 JISC will cease funding for the Athens Access Management System currently used to provide authenticated access to many of the Library’s web based subscription resources such as online journals, abstract databases, and e-books.


ShibbolethTo replace Athens , Information Services are implementing two new Access Management systems: Shibboleth and EZProxy. Both new systems will be integrated with the University Portal, so there won’t be any new usernames or passwords to remember.


Shibboleth is what is known as a Federated Access Management solution: when a Stirling user wants to access a resource, the resource they are trying to access contacts the University’s Shibboleth system. The system ensures the user is logged on via the University Portal and then passes information about the user directly to the resource. The resource then uses this information to decide whether or not to allow the user access.


JISC has committed to Shibboleth as the next generation Access Management solution and has set up the UK Access Management Federation to support the adoption of Shibboleth by the UK HE and FE communities.


Not all Athens resources will be available via Shibboleth by the end of July, however, so EZProxy will be used to maintain access to the remaining resources until such time as they become Shibboleth compliant. 


EZProxyEZProxy is a system which enables off campus users to access IP protected library resources. IP authentication relies on the location of the computer accessing the resource and so, traditionally, only provides access for on campus users. The EZProxy server, which is on campus, authenticates the off campus user via the Portal and then requests the required resource on their behalf. This will allow off campus users to gain access to IP protected resources via the Library’s A-Z list of online resources.


What will this mean for users? The best way to access Library resources will still be to start by logging on to the University Portal, then going to the Library’s A-Z List (which is linked to from the Portal), and then accessing the required resource from there. These links will be configured to use the appropriate authentication mechanism, so you shouldn’t need to worry about what is going on behind the scenes. Detailed guides on how to access particular resources following the change over will also be made available from the A-Z list when the time comes.


One consequence of the switch from Athens to Shibboleth and EZProxy may be the loss of any personalisation settings (e.g. saved searches, alerts etc). This is because users arriving at a resource will be carrying a different kind of authentication identifier, so the resource will not recognise a user authenticating via Shibboleth or EZProxy as the same user who previously authenticated using Athens . In some cases Service Providers are providing a means for transferring personalisation settings from an old Athens account to a new Shibboleth based account, but in many cases it will be necessary to recreate personalisation settings.


The grand switch over from Athens to Shibboleth/EZProxy will take place at the end of July. There is more information available on the IS web site. Updates on the move to Shibboleth will be added to our web site as appropriate and announcements will be made via the IS homepage and via emails. In the meantime if you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact your Senior Subject Librarian.


Michael White
Shibboleth Project Manager
Centre for e-Learning Development