There are many web UIs--think Ambari, Ranger, etc.--in the HDP platform that require user authentication and traditionally every UI required a separate login. With the federation capabilities provided by Apache Knox, the HDP platform can support federated identity and a single sign-on experience for users.
In particular, the flexibility of the Knox authentication and federation providers allows KnoxSSO to support generalized authentication events, via exchange of a common JWT-based token. Without the token exchange capabilities offered by KnoxSSO, each UI would need to integrate with each desired IAM solution on its own.
KnoxSSO comes with its own Form-based IdP. This allows for easily integrating a form-based login with the enterprise AD/LDAP server. We will cover that in a future article, as we'll focus at present on the integration with Okta using SAML 2.0. You can find more information regarding SAML on Okta's website: https://developer.okta.com/standards/SAML/
This architecture is an example of federated identity. When a user navigates to the Ambari UI, they will be redirected to Okta to authenticate. After authenticating with their Okta credentials (and possibly an MFA mechanism), or if they've already authenticated to Okta and their session is still valid (usually within the day, as session expiration is usually 12 - 18 hours), they will be redirected back to Ambari and transparently logged in to the application.
You will create a new application in Okta which will contain the required endpoints and metadata for verifying login requests and redirecting users back to the KnoxSSO endpoint after successful authentication. You will need the Single Sign-On URL, which will be of the form
It's very important that you specify the URL parameter of pac4jCallback=true, otherwise the browser would get stuck in an infinite redirect loop. In Okta, you can also use this URL for Recipient URL, Destination URL, and Audience Restriction.
Another thing to note on the Okta side, is that users will log in with an email address and Okta, by default, will pass the full address to KnoxSSO. We will map this to a username in the Knox configuration (alternatively, we could also have configured Okta to just send the Email Prefix).
After creating the application in Okta, we are ready to configure the HDP side in Ambari.
NOTE: LDAP Authentication for Ambari must have already been enabled for KnoxSSO. Please see the Ambari docs to complete this within your environment.
We will pick up with Knox configuration in part two.