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Trust and Identity in Education and Research

Internet2’s Trust and Identity in Education and Research (TIER) program was a three-year initiative (2016-2018) to provide enhancements and sustainability for community-driven identity and access management software and services. Forty-nine campuses provided $1.25 million per year for three years to support the this effort to simplify campus processes and advance inter-institutional collaboration and research.

TIER was established to

  • Sustain the investment the community has made in developing a set of critically important identity-related software components (many initially funded with National Science Foundation grants);
  • Integrate them together with common APIs, data structures, development and release practices and schedules, and facilitative and flexible deployment packaging;
  • Extend their features to support the common functionality in the set of the campus contributed use cases.

The TIER software is now the InCommon Trusted Access Platform.

Additional Resources

TIER Final Report (August 2019)
TIER Accomplishments 2017
Trust and Identity Accomplishments 2017
Trust and Identity Accomplishments 2016

The TIER software forms the basis for the InCommon Trusted Access Platform, which will continue the development and assure sustainability. During the TIER effort, the software components were packaged into Docker containers, with simplified installation and pre-configred to work well with the InCommon Federation.

TIER funding also supported the Campus Success Program (2018), in which 10 colleges and universities worked together to adopt one or more components and creating case studies and other artifacts to ease the process for others.


TIER is a response to the need for a comprehensive suite of identity services tools and software, and consistent campus identity practices. 

Since 1999, the Internet2 community has collaborated to develop open-source software packages supporting identity and access management (Shibboleth, Grouper, and COmanage) and deployed the InCommon Federation. These components were built largely on the basis of multiple, one-time grants which provided little consistency of development and support over time. The community realized that more needed to be done. 

TIER grew out of campus discussions, begun in 2014, to align these and other efforts as the basis for an open-source, community-developed identity and access management suite, with coordinated campus practices to ensure interoperability. While many campuses have existing pieces in place, the individual open-source software solutions were not consistently organized or readily interoperable; nor was there evidence of sustainable development and regular upgrades.

In 2015, 49 colleges and universities made a three-year financial commitment for the TIER start-up and formed the TIER Community Investor Council (TCIC) to guide the planning and development. Internet2 provides the day-to-day management and staffing of TIER software development, support for community working groups, and development of community practices. The TCIC will also set the stage for the long-term sustainability of TIER, addressing both funding and governance.

At the same time, Internet2 conducted a series of workshops intended to capture community input on what TIER should look like. Those workshops gathered 200 campus stories which were distilled into more than 60 community requirements. The community reviewed and accepted these requirements and included work from the InCommon Federation and the MACE-Directories Working Group, providing profiles and partnerships for improved interoperability and support for research. A bootstrapping group of community members and Internet2 staff began putting into place the building blocks for a national development effort.

April 2016 marked the first TIER software release.