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Best Practices from Oracle Development's A‑Team

Oracle Service Bus: Pass-Through vs. Active Security

I was talking to a customer about inserting the Oracle Service Bus (OSB) into their SOA infrastructure. The customer was prepared for a lengthy effort to get OSB to forward the SAML assertion sent from the client on to the service.

However, the fact is, the security functionality in OSB supports this use case exactly and with minimal effort.

The processing of message level security headers can be handled in two distinct ways in OSB: Pass-Through and Active Intermediary modes.

As an active intermediary, OSB processes the security headers in the SOAP request and enforces security policies on the messages. Additionally, in this mode, OSB can add new security headers (including new authentication tokens) to the request that is forwarded on to the service. I’ll leave further discussion for other posts.

In pass-through mode, OSB leaves the SOAP message untouched and simply routes the request on to its destination service. This means that all security headers in the original request are preserved in the request sent on to the destination service. So if a SAML assertion is sent in the original request through OSB, it will be part of the request being sent on to the service.

Pass-through mode is great when OSB is being inserted into a working infrastructure (maybe for the purpose of SLA management) where the web services already have security in place and no identity transformation is required as requests move from the clients through OSB and on to the services themselves.

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