Defer to Identity Provider Role in vCloud Director

Besides traditional roles (Org Administrator, vApp Author, …) there is already for some time (as of vCloud Director 8.0) the possibility to assign to vCloud Director organization users a role called ‘Defer to Identity Provider’.

I am going to show how this role can be used to manage assignments of organization roles centrally from within the Identity Provider (IdP) and not from vCloud Director at the Organization level. Central management might be beneficial in cases where there are many Organizations (and vCloud Director instances) associated with single IdP and one user might have access to multiple Organizations. With the traditional approach the user (or his group) would have to be imported into each Organization where he/she should have access and assigned a role.

By deferring to identity provider we rely on the IdP to provide the user’s role just in time when the user is logging in. The feature works both with SAML and OAuth identity providers. In my example I am going to be using the SAML IdP provided by Active Director Federation Services federated with vCloud Director as described in my older blog post.

The set up:

  • Active Directory is used to manage all the users (with exception of local user for onboarding or troubleshooting purposes). The AD can be owned by the Service Provider or the tenant, it depends on the use case.
  • AD FS has been deployed and integrated with vCloud Director Organizations. Note that each Organization must be federated with AD FS specifically. And the federation must be refreshed every year by regeneration of new certificate. In SP use case some level of automation is essential. For details refer to the blog article linked above.
  • AD users who should have access to vCloud Director organization will be part of AD group <Tenant_X>.
  • Role association will be achieved by assigning the AD users to specific AD groups: Organization Administrator, vApp Author, …
  • For each role we will need to add new Transform Claim Rule in AD FS.
    1. On the existing relaying party trust click Edit Claim Rules
    2. Click Add Rule
    3. Select Send Group Membership as a Claim template
    4. Name the rule (e.g. vApp Author)
    5. Browse to the User’s group that represents the role membership (vApp Author group)
    6. In Outgoing claim type select Role.
    7. In Outgoing claim value type the vCloud Director role name (vApp Author).
  • In vCloud Director Organization we need to do following:
    1. As already mentioned each Org needs to be federated with AD FS
    2. In Members > Groups import the <Tenant X> group from Source: SAML with Role: Defer to Identity Provider.
    3. With vCloud API specify RoleAttributeName in OrgFederationSettings. The name for AD FS should be:

Now the users can start logging in with their AD accounts and they will be automatically imported as users with Defer to IdP role. If needed, you can still directly import SAML users and specifically give them role which will take precedence over the IdP role.


Configure Active Directory Federation for vCloud Director Organization

Configure Active Directory Federation for vCloud Director Organization

vCloud Director tenants can federate their on-premises identity source with vCloud Director to simplify user management in their vCloud organization. I have already wrote blog post about this topic in the past; this time I will provide step by step instructions how to federate Active Directory with Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS).

Installation and configuration of AD FS is out of scope for this article as there are already very good and detailed guides on the internet.

  1. Download AD FS SAML2 metadata from your AD FS server (
  2. As Org Administrator log into vCloud Director and in Administration > Settings > Federation check Use SAML Identity Provider checkbox and upload FederationMetadata file from #1.
  3. Still on the same page fill in Entity ID (must be unique for given IdP) and regenerate certificate. It will be valid for 1 year after which it must be regenerated again.
    Note: Entity ID is available only in vCloud Director 8.10 and newer.
  4. Click Apply.
  5. Download SAML metadata file from https://<vcd_url>/cloud/org/<org-name>/saml/medatadata/alias/vcd.
    Note: vCloud Director 8.10 provides link to the file just above the Certificate Expiration button.
  6. In Administration > Memebers > Users import SSO users from the SAML source. As user name use email address. Assign a vCloud role.
  7. It is also possible to import SSO groups from the SAML source. However, Groups menu might be missing under Users until you refresh the page (Groups menu got enabled by the step #2). For group import simply use AD group name (without domain).
    Note: If you get log out before setting up AD FS you can always go back to native authentication dialog by entering the following URL: https://<vcd_url>/cloud/org/<org-name>/login.jsp
  8. That’s all for vCloud Director configuration. The rest must be done in AD FS. Open AD FS Management Console and in Actions menu cling on Add Relying Party Trust. Go through the wizzard and import the SAML metadata file from step #5.
  9. Next we need to Edit claim rules. Under Issuance Transform Rules, using Send LDAP Atributes as Claims template create LDAP claim rule that uses Active Directory as Attribute Store and maps E-Mail-Addresses to E-Mail Address and Token-Groups – Unqualified Names to Groups.
  10. Add another transform rule from Transform an Incoming Claim template that transforms E-Mail Address to Name ID.claim2
  11. Last thing that needs to be done is changing Relying Party Trust hashing algorithm from SHA-256 to SHA-1 (can be found in Properties > Advanced).

That’s all, now depending how your browser is configured, when you enter vCloud Director Organization URL you will be redirected to authentication dialog (either native browser or at the AD FS website). Enter AD credentials and if the user had been properly imported into vCloud Director (as individual user or member of a group) you should be logged into vCloud Director UI.


Edit 11/24/2016: My faithful readers (thank you Julius) have provided additional links for federations with other IdP solutions:

SafeNet Authentication Service: Integration Guide

RSA SecureID: blog post