NCSBN

ncsbnheader

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) is a nonprofit whose purpose is to provide an organization through which boards of nursing act and counsel together on matters of common interest affecting public health, safety and welfare. This includes the development of licensing examinations in nursing. NCSBN provides education, service and research through collaborative leadership to promote evidence-based regulatory excellence for patient safety and public protection.

Technology

Tools and technology used:
Software:

  • C# development
  • .Net Framework
  • PHP development
  • MindTouch API and REST based web services
  • Linux and the Mono platform for .Net
  • SOAP Web Services
  • RSS and Basic Authentication over SSL
  • InstantForum.NET

Challenge

Seamlessly integrate NCSBN’s existing portal with the MindTouch platform while preventing any user disruption.
NCSBN had purchased licenses for MindTouch, a web-based platform that enables enterprise collaboration. The vast majority of NCSBN users are healthcare professionals with novice computer skills. With an existing user-base and an established Portal application, NCSBN needed to provide users with access to the newly acquired MindTouch platform without causing any major change issues.

To best meet user needs, the ideal scenario for integration was to enable users to sign-in to the existing portal and immediately have access to the MindTouch system. Additionally, NCSBN wanted users to provide credentials only once with single sign-on (SSO), and have access pre-set based on users portal permissions.

This scenario posed significant technical challenges, including user migration/synchronization, permissions setup, and MindTouch-Portal UI integration. Following this initial engagement, NCSBN then needed to integrate a new discussion forum application and have it work with the existing SSO pieces already in place. The integration had to be ready in a 2-3 month period.

Solution

As a trusted MindTouch integration partner, Fairway was called upon to provide the integration with NCSBN’s exiting portal.
Fairway’s intimate knowledge of the MindTouch platform and its API, combined with their demonstrated experience successfully writing software plugins and extensions that integrate with the platform, made them the perfect partner to lead this project.

In order to allow for a Single Sign-On capability that integrated MindTouch into the portal, Fairway developed a custom extension within MindTouch. Developed in C#, this extension complements the built-in MindTouch authentication by using the SSO token provided by the portal (acting as the user authority), validating the token against Web Services located on the portal, and granting access to MindTouch as the appropriate user. From within the portal application, NCSBN administrators needed the ability to manage user and group access to MindTouch. A Membership Web Service was created in C# and hosted on the MindTouch Linux server under Apache/Mono. This allowed the portal to control the membership within MindTouch and be the central user authority.

Once the SSO functionality was integrated into MindTouch, some UI enhancements and security changes were needed in order to remove any membership/profile management. All user management functionality was hidden or removed, while the profile links were directed to the profile pages within the portal application.

After the successful MindTouch SSO integrations, a new business need for a discussion forum arose. Fairway researched various third party solutions and analyzed the features against the business needs. After this analysis, InstantForum.NET was selected.

Fairway created a custom HttpModule in C#, to analyze incoming traffic and if needed, validate the SSO token provided against the portal validation Web Services. The same basic UI enhancements, security changes and Membership Web Services that were made within MindTouch were incorporated into InstantForum.NET as well.

To allow the most recent discussion topics from InstantForum.NET to be displayed within the MindTouch wiki, mixed authentication modes were needed. InstantForum.NET uses forms authentication (the form token being set via the SSO integration), but we needed to also allow basic authentication over SSL for the RSS feeds which would be used to pull the data to display within the MindTouch RSS Reader plugin. Microsoft’s Mixed Authentication Disposition ASP.NET Module (MADAM) was leveraged to provide this functionality.

Benefits

By working with Fairway, NCSBN accomplished the following:

  • 3 MindTouch applications integrated into Portal Application via SSO (all with multiple environments including production and development)
  • 2 InstantForum.NET applications integrated into Portal Application via SSO (both
    with multiple environments including production and development)
  • 5 years of collaboration with Fairway including continued and active follow-up work

Client Endorsement

“Fairway has become our key technology partner. During the MindTouch integration, Fairway enabled us to continue to provide high quality services to our users. We continue to look to Fairway to partner with us for various tech needs.”

-Tammy Spangler, Director, Interactive Services, NCSBN