The AAF commenced this project in October 2012 the AAF Virtual Home (VH) initiative was completed in 2013 with the release of the new Virtual Home software to AAF’s subscribers. On 28 January 2014, CAUDIT granted AAF the right to open-source the software developed under this grant for the broader federation community (the VHR software has been open-sourced via the AAF’s code management tool GitHub see: https://github.com/ausaccessfed/virtualhome). Since its release, the New Zealand Federation has also commenced using the software. VHR was also renamed to Virtual Home (VH) upon release.
The Virtual Home software has become an important and integral part of AAF’s infrastructure. It enables researchers and other users to access services connected to the AAF that do not have an account with a known Identity Provider.
Prior to VH, collaborators in the research community who required access to research infrastructure were unable to access services because they were not members or associated with a subscriber of the AAF. Since implementing VH, small organisations, including collaborative research facilities have been able to use VH as their identity provider to manage user identities for internal, government and industry based researchers. For example the Australian Antarctic Division provides access to its researchers via the VH. In addition, NRCIRS capabilities such as the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN) use VH to provide access to collaboration partners.
“Many organisations have natural sensitivities and concerns about their data and require advanced security solutions to be in place. AURIN (Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network) leverages the AAF to provide all academics across Australia with authenticated access to these data resources and tools, with transparent extensions to provide finer-grained authorisation. Furthermore, through the AAF Virtual Home Organisation the project is able to provide access to resources to non-academics since increasingly those from government and industry are interested in AURIN”
Professor Richard Sinnott, Director eResearch, The University of Melbourne
Since go-live in April 2013, there has been 3 956 accounts created in Virtual Home. These accounts grant access to the growing number of AAF connected teaching, learning and research services across 93 different organisations registered in the VH. Since it began operation there has been a total of 41 124 sessions where users have logged in and accessed services from VH. This highlights the important role that VH now plays within the eResearch infrastructure landscape for access to federated services.