Digital Certificate Operation in a Complex Environment
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PKI Primer and Project Background

3. Project partners and participants

The project is based within the Research Technologies Service at Oxford University Computing Services in collaboration with the following partners:

  • Manchester Information and Associated Services (MIMAS)
  • the Athens Devolved Authentication Service (at EduServ)
  • the Systems and Electronic Resources Service at Oxford University Library Services (SERS, OULS)
  • the Oxford e-Science Centre (OeSC)

3.1. Manchester Information and Associated Services (MIMAS)

Mimas logo

www.mimas.ac.uk

MIMAS hosts Zetoc - the gateway for British Library table of contents. (Zetoc actually stands for Z39.50-compliant access to the British Library's Electronic Table of Contents but is far better known by its acronym, for obvious reasons). At the time of the project, obtaining a password for Zetoc depended on authentication from the user's institution. The project aimed to examine the use of digital certificates to mediate access to the table of contents.

3.2. The Athens Devolved Authentication Service, at EduServ (Athens)

Athens logo

www.athensams.net

Athens is an Access Management System for controlling access to web- based subscription services. Developed by EduServ, Athens developed the technology to accept X.509 certificates as an alternative (to using passwords) means of authentication. Athens is, fundamentally, a central repository of organisations, user names and passwords with associated rights and generally gives users in the higher education sector access to a variety of data source facilities.

3.3. The Systems and Electronic Resources Service at Oxford University Library Services (SERS)

University logo

www.sers.ox.ac.uk

SERS had an interest in access to external resources and sources of information for users at or via Oxford. In the University of Oxford's IT Strategic Framework (2000), one of the elements within the Libraries Curators' Strategy was to address the issues of user authentication and database access and licensing with a view to optimising provision (perhaps through a single log-on). This shows how authentication plays a role in licensing of access to resources through the libraries, but it is also true that simplicity and ease of access is also a factor. These and other disparate issues, including the use of the virtual private network (VPN) made SERS input to the project invaluable.
SERS had a strategic role in the project and provided evaluation resources for the project. Staff from SERS also acted as stakeholders in the project and contributed to the Project Board.

3.4. Oxford e-Science Centre (OeSC)

OeSC logo

e-science.ox.ac.uk

Oxford was a key player in the UK National Grid and had a particular responsibility within the national e-Science programme. It was endeavouring, through Oxford University Computing Services, to create a bridge between the e-Science middleware developers and the university computing services across the country. At the time of the DCOCE project, it was leading the way towards the creation of a production Grid to provide users with the rich resources available, without their needing to be experts in Grid software.

3.5. Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS)

OUCS logo

www.oucs.ox.ac.uk

OUCS operates, develops and supports the University's primary computing infrastructure and services including facilities such as the network backbone and its external connections; central email, web, news, and backup servers; and other core university-wide support services including security and anti-virus support. The department was therefore in an optimum position to develop a digital certificate service on behalf of the University. OUCS has explicit responsibilities for actively supporting the work of IT Support Staff within the University; developing centres of expertise in relevant areas relating to the application of IT; and by promoting and demonstrating good practice.

The Research Technologies Service (RTS) is a group within OUCS which housed most of the project team for the DCOCE project. The RTS brings together staff with a remit to promote and support the very latest research tools and techniques. Working in close collaboration to serve the entire University, the projects and services within the RTS offer advice upon new research technologies and ensure the effective dissemination of best practice.

At the time of the DCOCE project, the RTS included the following initiatives:

OUCS and the RTS also provided the source of much of the technical expertise for the project.

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Oxford University Computing Services Mimas Athens access management services Oxfore e-Science Centre Systems and Electronic Resources Service Joint Information Systems Committee