Why is there a need for Gatekeeper?

December 4, 2020
By Lukas Reschke

I wrote down some of the reasons for the creation of the Gatekeeper project. Gatekeeper aims to be an open-source Identity Access Management solution, done in a way that anyone can run it.

Self-hosting requires IT knowledge.

In 2016 a friend of mine started a startup. They asked me for advice on what internal systems they should use for their company to keep their data away from the cloud.

As co-founder of Nextcloud, my initial advice was to give that a try for document management.

Shortly after, they asked me: "What if we want to create email accounts, chat accounts, and more?"

What should I have recommended them at this point? Nextcloud doesn't support all of these features, and they wanted a single login for all those features. And indeed, you can't teach everyone how to administrate an LDAP and SAML server.

So instead, they ended up using Google Apps for Business and Slack. From an end-user perspective, this is all great. Everything works with a few clicks.

It's December 2020, and instead of more open-source projects popping up to solve these problems, the opposite happened. SaaS ate the world.

Open-Source Projects lack IAM support.

We ended up in a world where open-source projects often lack support for Identity Management systems. At the same time, proprietary and hosted software like Slack, Dropbox, or Facebook Workplace supports these.

There are just a few open-source projects with official support for Identity Access Management (IAM) Systems. How did we end up with this state?

I believe the main reason boils down that there is no simple-to-use, easy-to-install open-source access management solution. There are many expensive Enterprise systems but barely do open-source maintainers have access to these.

The lack of such software leads to many downstream issues, such as the lack of high-quality open-source libraries for IAM support.

How does Gatekeeper fix this?

We can try to get to a state where more open-source projects will support IAM standards by creating an open-source Identity Access Management solution.

Gatekeeper aims to:

  • Be easy to install and maintain.
  • Be secure by default.
  • Be easy to use.
  • Offer toolings and guidance for other software to implement IAM standards.

Hopefully, that will lead to a world in which a button press will create users on all the software you desire to use. Be it on-premise or SaaS.

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