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FreeIPA vs Keycloak: What are the differences?

FreeIPA and Keycloak are both open-source identity and access management (IAM) solutions that provide a range of features for authentication, authorization, and single sign-on. Let's explore the key differences between them.

  1. User Base and Purpose: FreeIPA is primarily focused on providing integrated identity and access management for Linux environments. It is commonly used in enterprise setups where strong user authentication and authorization are required, often leveraging the Kerberos authentication protocol. Keycloak, on the other hand, is more versatile and can be used across different platforms and systems, making it a popular choice for web applications and microservices architectures.

  2. Ease of Use and Configuration: FreeIPA is designed to integrate seamlessly with Linux systems and offers a comprehensive set of tools for managing users, groups, and security policies. It provides a centralized administration interface and CLI tools for easy configuration and management. Keycloak, while still offering similar management capabilities, provides a more user-friendly interface and a well-documented REST API, making it easier to integrate with various applications and infrastructure components.

  3. Supported Authentication Protocols: FreeIPA primarily relies on Kerberos for authentication, with support for other protocols like LDAP and PKI. This makes it a suitable choice for environments where Kerberos is already in use or desired. Keycloak, on the other hand, supports a wide range of authentication protocols out of the box, including OpenID Connect, OAuth 2.0, SAML, and LDAP. This flexibility allows Keycloak to integrate with a larger ecosystem of applications and services.

  4. Integration with External Identity Providers: Keycloak offers extensive support for integrating with external identity providers, allowing for federated identity management. This means that users can authenticate with external identity providers (such as Google or Microsoft Azure AD) and then use those credentials to access applications secured by Keycloak. FreeIPA, while it does offer some limited support for integration with external authentication sources, doesn't provide the same level of flexibility and ease of integration as Keycloak.

  5. Social Login and User Self-Registration: Keycloak provides built-in support for social login options, enabling users to authenticate using their social media accounts such as Google, Facebook, or GitHub. Additionally, Keycloak allows user self-registration, allowing new users to create accounts without administrative intervention. FreeIPA, on the other hand, lacks these features, primarily focusing on enterprise-grade identity management rather than public-facing authentication.

  6. Community and Ecosystem: Keycloak benefits from a large and active community, with regular releases and extensive documentation. It is widely adopted and has good integration support with many popular frameworks and platforms. FreeIPA, while it has a dedicated community, may have a narrower scope and focus, with a more limited ecosystem of plugins and integrations available.

In summary, FreeIPA and Keycloak are both capable IAM solutions, but they have key differences in terms of their user base, platform support, ease of use, authentication protocols, integration capabilities, social login/self-registration features, and community support.

Advice on FreeIPA and Keycloak
Needs advice
Spring SecuritySpring Security

I am working on building a platform in my company that will provide a single sign on to all of the internal products to the customer. To do that we need to build an Authorisation server to comply with the OIDC protocol. Earlier we had built the Auth server using the Spring Security OAuth project but since in Spring Security 5.x it is no longer supported we are planning to get over with it as well. Below are the 2 options that I was considering to replace the Spring Auth Server. 1. Keycloak 2. Okta 3. Auth0 Please advise which one to use.

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Replies (3)
Luca Ferrari
Solution Architect at Red Hat, Inc. · | 5 upvotes · 211.5K views

It isn't clear if beside the AuthZ requirement you had others, but given the scenario you described my suggestion would for you to go with Keycloak. First of all because you have already an onpremise IdP and with Keycloak you could maintain that setup (if privacy is a concern). Another important point is configuration and customization: I would assume with Spring OAuth you might have had some custom logic around authentication, this can be easily reconfigured in Keycloak by leveraging SPI ( Finally AuthZ as a functionality is well developed, based on standard protocols and extensible on Keycloak (

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Sandor Racz

We have good experience using Keycloak for SSO with OIDC with our Spring Boot based applications. It's free, easy to install and configure, extensible - so I recommend it.

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You can also use Keycloak as an Identity Broker, which enables you to handle authentication on many different identity providers of your customers. With this setup, you are able to perform authorization tasks centralized.

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Pros of FreeIPA
Pros of Keycloak
  • 2
    Manages sudo command groups and sudo commands
  • 1
    Manages host and host groups
  • 33
    It's a open source solution
  • 24
    Supports multiple identity provider
  • 17
    OpenID and SAML support
  • 12
    Easy customisation
  • 10
    JSON web token
  • 6
    Maintained by devs at Redhat

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Cons of FreeIPA
Cons of Keycloak
    Be the first to leave a con
    • 7
    • 6
      Poor client side documentation
    • 5
      Lack of Code examples for client side

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    - No public GitHub repository available -

    What is FreeIPA?

    FreeIPA is an integrated Identity and Authentication solution for Linux/UNIX networked environments. A FreeIPA server provides centralized authentication, authorization and account information by storing data about user, groups, hosts and other objects necessary to manage the security aspects of a network of computers.

    What is Keycloak?

    It is an Open Source Identity and Access Management For Modern Applications and Services. It adds authentication to applications and secure services with minimum fuss. No need to deal with storing users or authenticating users. It's all available out of the box.

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    What companies use FreeIPA?
    What companies use Keycloak?
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    What tools integrate with FreeIPA?
    What tools integrate with Keycloak?

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