Configure Jenkins to use Cornell Shibboleth Authentication

by Brett Haranin


At RAIS, Jenkins has become integral to our development workflow.  Developers use it throughout the day to view the output of CI build/test jobs and to deploy application changes.  The basic Jenkins user management tools worked great when only one or two developers were using it, however, as we grow our team and usage of Jenkins, we wondered if there might be a way to integrate with Cornell central authentication.  We’re happy to report that there is a SAML plugin for Jenkins that works well with the Cornell Shibboleth service.

This post will focus on the “how” of setting up Shibboleth with Jenkins.  For a deeper look at Shibboleth and how it works, see Shawn’s post here:

Getting Started – Basic Test IdP Setup

Add and configure plugin

The first step is to install the Jenkins SAML plugin under Manage Jenkins -> Manage Plugins. The plugin information page is available here: Note, v0.6 or higher is required for compatibility with Cornell Shibboleth.


Next, let’s configure the plugin. Go to Manage Jenkins -> Configure Global Security. Scroll to “Access Control” as shown here:


For this step, the IdP metadata field should be filled with the Cornell IdP test metadata available here:  Just copy it and paste it in the text box.

Fill in the Cornell Shibboleth attributes that best map to the Display Name, Group and Username attributes — the attributes we used are:

displayName: urn:oid:2.16.840.1.113730.3.1.241
edupersonprimaryaffiliation (for group): urn:oid:
uid (netid): urn:oid:0.9.2342.19200300.100.1.1

Finally, if you are using matrix/project based authorization (we recommend it!) ensure that usernames are lowercase netids.  Also, make sure that you have at least one user (presumably yours, if you are doing administration) with administrative rights to Jenkins.  After saving these settings, you will no longer be able to login with Jenkins usernames/passwords.

Save and Test

To save these settings, click “Apply”.  Then, navigate to your Jenkins instance in a fresh browser (perhaps Incognito/Private Browsing).  You should be redirected to a CUWebAuth screen for the test shibboleth instance.


After logging in, you should be redirected back to Jenkins and your session should be mapped to the user in Jenkins that matches your netid.  There are some notable limitations to the Shibboleth test system: newer employees (hired in the last several months) will not yet be synced to the TEST directory (i.e., they won’t be able to login), and the login screen will show “TEST INSTANCE” as pictured above.  In the next section, we’ll move to the PROD system for full functionality.

Next Steps – Move to Production IdP

Now that you’ve implemented and tested against the TEST instance of Shibboleth, the next step is to register your application with Cornell Identity Management so that you can use the PROD login systems.

Generate Metadata

First, you’ll need to output the metadata for your Jenkins SAML service provider.  To do that, go back to Manage Jenkins -> Configure Global Security.  Then click “Service Provider Metadata” (highlighted below).

2016-08-04_06-02-56 2

This will output a block of XML that looks like this, which is the metadata for your Jenkins SAML service provider:


Register metadata with Cornell Identity Management

Next, we need to register this metadata with Identity Management (IDM).

Go to:

Fill out the initial page of contact information and choose the scope of netid roles (Staff, Faculty, etc) that should be allowed to use the tool.  Note – ultimately Jenkins will authorize users based on their netid — the settings here are simply another gate to prevent folks that aren’t in specified roles or groups from logging in at all (i.e., their assertion will never even be sent to Jenkins).  You can safely leave this blank if you don’t have specific restrictions you want to apply at the CUWebAuth level.

On the second page, specify that the metadata has not been published to InCommon, then paste your metadata into the provided box:


Click Next and submit your request.  Submitting the request will open a ticket with Identity Management and you should receive confirmation of this via email.  Once your application is fully registered with Cornell Shibboleth, you will receive confirmation from IDM staff (normally a quick process ~1 day).

Tell Jenkins to use PROD IdP

Finally, once you receive confirmation from IDM that your application is registered, you’ll need to update Jenkins to use the production IDP metadata.

Go here to get the PROD Shibboleth metadata:

Then, in Jenkins, return to Manage Jenkins -> Configure Global Security.  Paste the metadata in the IdP metadata block (everything else can stay the same):


Save, then test that you are able to login.  This time you should see the regular CUWebAuth screen, rather than the “TEST INSTANCE” version.

Advanced Setup Options/Notes

  • It is possible to configure your endpoint metadata to request additional attributes from the Cornell directory.  If you would like to map a different value for group and then use Jenkins group permissions, you can work with IDM to get the desired attribute included in SAML assertions sent to your Jenkins endpoint, then specify those attributes on the Configure Global Security screen.
  • The underlying SAML library can be very sensitive (with good reason) about any mismatch between the stated URL in a user’s browser, and the URL that the webserver believes it is running at.  For example, if you terminate SSL at an ELB, a user may be visiting https://yourjenkins/jenkins/, but the webserver will be listening on port 80 and using the http scheme (i.e., http://yourjenkins/jenkins/).  This manifests with an error like “SAML message intended destination endpoint did not match recipient endpoint”.  Generally, the fix for this is to tell the Tomcat connector that it is being proxied (proxyPort and scheme attributes).  More here:

That’s It

Now your team should be able to login to Jenkins with their Cornell NetID and Password.  Additionally, if using DUO, access will be two-factor, which is a great improvement.

For more information about Cornell Shibboleth, see the Confluence page here:

DevOps: Failure Will Occur

by Shawn Bower

The term DevOps is thrown around so much that it is hard to pin down it’s meaning.  In my mind DevOps is about culture shift in the IT industry.  It is about breaking down silos, enhancing collaboration, and challenging fundamental design principles.  One principal that has been turned on its head because of the DevOps revolution is the no single point of failure design principle. This principle asserts simply that no single part of a system can stop the entire system from working. For example, in the Financial system the database server is a single point of failure. If it crashes we cannot continue to serve clients in any fashion.  In DevOps we accept that failure is the norm and we build our automation with that in mind.  In AWS we have many tools at our disposal like auto scaling groups, elastic load balances, multi-az RDS, dynamodb, s3, etc.  When architecting for the cloud keeping these tools in mind is paramount to your success.

When architecting a software system there are a lot of factors to balance. We want to make sure our software is working and performant as well as cost effective.  Let’s look at a simple example of building a self healing website that requires very little infrastructure and can be done for low cost.

The first piece of infrastructure we will need is something to run our site.  If its a small site we could easy run it on a t2.nano in AWS which would cost less than 5 dollars a month.  We will want to launch this instance with an IAM profile with the policy AmazonEC2RoleforSSM.  This will allow us to send commands to the ec2 instance.  We will also want to install the SSM agent, for full details please see:  Once we have our site up, we will want to monitor its health. At Cornell you can get free access to the Pingdom monitoring tool.  Using Pingdom you can monitor your sites endpoint from multiple locations around the world and get alerted if your site is unreachable.  If you don’t already have a Pingdom account please send an email to  So now that we have our site running and a Pingdom account lets set up an uptime monitor.

We are doing great!  We have a site, we are monitoring, and we will be alerted to any downtime.   We can now take this one step further and programmatically react to Pingdom alert using their custom webhook notifier.  We will have to build an endpoint for Pingdom to send the alert to.  We could use Lambda and API gateway, which is a good choice for many reasons.  If we want we could start even simpler by creating a simple Sinatra app in Ruby.


This is a very simple bit of code that could be expanded on.  It creates an endpoint called “/webhook” which first looks for an api-key query parameter.  This application should be run using SSL/TLS as it sends the key in clear text.  That key is compared against and environment variable that should be set before the application is launched.  This shared key is a simple mechanism for security only in place to stop the random person from hitting the endpoint.  For this example it is good enough but could be vastly improved upon.  Next we look at the data that Pingdom has sent, for this example we will only react to DOWN alerts.  If we have an alert in the DOWN state then we will query a table in DynamDB that will tell us how to react to this alert.  The schema looks like:


  • check_id – This is the check id generated by Pingdom
  • type – is the plugin type to use to respond to the Pingom alert.  The only implemented plugin is SSM which uses Amazon’s SSM to send a command to the ec2 host.
  • instance_id – This is the instance id of the ec2 machine running our website
  • command – This is the command we want to send to the machine

We will use the the type from our Dynamo table to respond to the down alert.  The sample code I have provided only has one type which uses Amazon’s SSM service to send commands to the running ec2 instance.  The plugin code looks like:

This function takes the data passed in and send the command from our Dynamo table to the instance.  The full sample code can be found at  Please feel free to use and improve this code.  Now that we have a simple webhook app we will need to deploy it to an instance in AWS.  That instance will have to use an IAM profile that will allow it to read from our Dynamo table as well as send SSM commands.  Again we can use a t2.nano so our cost at this point is approximately 10 dollars a month.

We need to make Pingdom aware of out new web hook endpoint.  To do that navigate to “Integrations” and click “Add integration.”

pingdom-integration-step-1 The next form will ask for information about your endpoint.  You will have to provide the DNS name for this service.  While you could just use the IP of the machine its highly encourage to use a real host name with SSL.


Once you have added the integration it can be used by any of the uptime checks.  Find the check you wish to use and click the edit button


Then scroll to the bottom of the settings page and you will see a custom hooks section.  Select your hook and you are all done!


This is a simple and cost effective solution to provide self-healing to web applications.  We should always expect failure will occur and look for opportunities to mitigate it’s effects.  DevOps is about taking a wholistic approach to your application.  Looking at the infrastructure side as we did in this blog post but also looking at the application it-self.  For example move to application architectures which are stateless.  Most importantly automate everything!