Advantages and disadvantages of Keycloak

Keycloak has established itself as a powerful tool to meet many requirements for a robust identity and access management solution. In this blog post, we will take a close look at the advantages and disadvantages of Keycloak and show in which cases it makes sense to use it.

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Keycloak – What can it do and where does it reach its limits?

After we explained in the last blog post what Keycloak actually is, today we would like to take a closer look at the possibilities, but also the limitations of this helpful open-source software. Because only by weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of Keycloak is it possible to make an informed decision about its use.


Advantages – Keycloak can do all that

We have already explained in the previous blog post that Keycloak is a powerful solution for the secure, centralised administration of identities and access rights. Keycloak offers many advantages that make its use worthwhile. The most important of these advantages are:


  1. Security according to industry standards: Keycloak convinces by complying with industry standards for authentication and authorisation. It supports two main protocols – SAML2 and Open ID Connect (OIDC). These protocols ensure secure and standardised communication between different services, making integration into existing infrastructures seamless.


  1. Functions for Single Sign-On (SSO): A key feature of Keycloak is its single sign-on capability. With SSO, users can access multiple applications with a single set of credentials. This significantly improves the user experience by reducing the need to remember multiple passwords.


  1. Flexible identity provider integration: Keycloak enables easy integration with multiple identity providers (IDPs), allowing organisations to leverage their existing identity infrastructure. This simplifies user authentication and makes it easier to manage user identities across different services.


  1. Robust security features: Security is at the heart of Keycloak. It supports two-factor authentication (2FA), including methods such as one-time passwords (OTP), FIDO2 passkeys with biometric authentication and smart card integration. This helps businesses strengthen their data security by requiring multiple forms of verification.


  1. Extensible thanks to open source: As an open source solution, Keycloak promotes collaboration and collaborative innovation. It also offers the possibility of customisation via plugins. Thus, developers can customise and extend the platform to meet specific needs as well.


Disadvantages – Where does Keycloak reach its limits?

Like any technology, however, Keycloak has its own limitations and challenges. Being aware of these is key to using Keycloak effectively. Common limitations are:


  1. Complexity of the initial setup: The initial setup of Keycloak is a complex two-step process. First, Keycloak itself must be set up to ensure stable production operation. This includes the configuration of realms, clients, IDPs and other elements. Secondly, one’s own applications and IDPs must be integrated into the Keycloak ecosystem and configured accordingly. Both steps are complex and require a high level of expertise, as misconfigurations can have serious effects on security and operations.


  1. High load scalability: While Keycloak is well-suited for medium-sized deployments, it can be challenging to operate at high loads. In such scenarios, a comprehensive analysis is required to ensure resource-optimised operation.


  1. Customisation complexity: While Keycloak offers the possibility of extension through plugins, highly customised adaptations may require significant development work. In addition, custom developments can have unintended or late-discovered effects on performance and security.


  1. Required maintenance and support: As an open-source solution, Keycloak requires organisations to perform their own deployment, maintenance and updates. If an organisation does not have the necessary resources or technical expertise, maintenance tasks can quickly become overwhelming.


  1. Integration limitations: Although Keycloak offers easy integration with standard protocols such as SAML2 and OIDC, some specialised use cases or proprietary systems might not integrate seamlessly with the platform. In such cases, additional customisation might be required.


Conclusion: Finding the right balance

Now that we have looked at the advantages and disadvantages of Keycloak, the first step has already been taken to make an informed decision about its use.

One thing is certain: Keycloak offers a compelling option for companies looking for a robust identity and access management solution. Its compliance with industry standards, support for SSO and flexible integration options make it a strong option. However, as with any technology, there are challenges, foremost among them the steep learning curve and complexity of onboarding.

In order to be able to overcome most of these hurdles comfortably and efficiently, it often makes sense to seek individual advice on Keycloak as a first step. Furthermore, in cases with a strong need for personalisation, it can be helpful to directly book a service or even a Keycloak complete package. For all these purposes and more, we are always at your disposal! Simply write to us via our contact form below and together we will find a solution that is as individual as your requirements.

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