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Deploy A Test SAML Identity Provider

If you are developing a web service, and you want to make it capable of integrating with a SAML SSO, then you are going to need to deploy a SAML identity provider to test against. Deploying a production-ready identity provider service is time consuming. Luckily, we don't need to do this.

This tutorial will help you deploy an example identity provider with the help of SimpleSAML and Docker.


Deploy a VM with docker-compose installed.

Create Apache Configuration

Unfortunately, we need to create an Apache configuration, so that we can tell the service about our custom SSL certificates.

editor apache.conf
<VirtualHost *:8080>
    DocumentRoot /var/www/simplesamlphp
    Alias /simplesaml /var/www/simplesamlphp/www
    <Directory /var/www/simplesamlphp/www>
        <IfModule !mod_authz_core.c>
        Require all granted
<VirtualHost *:8443>
    DocumentRoot /var/www/simplesamlphp
    SSLEngine on
    SSLCertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/site.crt
    SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/apache2/ssl/private.pem
    SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/apache2/ssl/ca.crt
    Alias /simplesaml /var/www/simplesamlphp/www
    <Directory /var/www/simplesamlphp/www>
        <IfModule !mod_authz_core.c>
        Require all granted

SSL certificates

Now create your SSL certificates in whatever manner works for you. I like to generate genuine certificates through Let's Encrypt with the help of AcmePHP, but you may wish to create your own self signed certificates.

Create a folder called ssl and put the the certificates in there with the following names:

  • site.crt - your site's public certificate.
  • ca.crt - the public certificate of your certificate authority (e.g. Let's Encrypt).
  • private.pem - your site's private certificate file.

If you created just a self-signed pair (with no ca.crt file), then just put those in the ssl folder, and remove the SSLCertificateChainFile line in the apache.conf file.

Create Docker Compose File

Now we can put it all together. Create a docker-compose.yml file with the following (swapping out with the FQDN you assing to the server).

editor docker-compose.yml
version: "3.9"
    image: kristophjunge/test-saml-idp
    - 8080:8080
    - 8443:8443
    container_name: idp-server
    - type: bind
      target: /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/simplesamlphp.conf
      source: ./apache.conf
      read_only: true
    - type: bind
      target: /etc/apache2/ssl
      source: ./ssl
      read_only: true

Unfortunately, ports 8443 and 8080 are hardcoded in the codebase with redirects etc, so switching to ports 80 and 443 are too problematic.

Environment Variables

The SIMPLESAMLPHP_SP_ASSERTION_CONSUMER_SERVICE and SIMPLESAMLPHP_SP_SINGLE_LOGOUT_SERVICE define the endpoints of your website that is acting as a service provider. These endpoints should be handling the responses from the IDP for authentication and logging out respectively.


Run docker-compose up to spin up the service.


If you go to in your browser (swapping out for your server's domain), then you should see the following screen showing you that the service is up.


You can now start developing your service to act as a service provider against this identity provider. When doing so, be aware that there are two static users configured with the following data:

| UID | Username |  Password | Group  |      Email        |
| ----| -------- | ----------| ------ | ----------------- |
| 1   |  user1   | user1pass | group1 | |
| 2   |  user2   | user2pass | group2 | |

Admin User

If you need to login as the admin user, the password is: secret.


You now have an test identity provider set up. You may wish to look at my example code on GitHub which demonstrates setting up a service provider in PHP-based site with the help of the programster/saml package.


Last updated: 19th August 2021
First published: 14th August 2021