News / Projects

January 2021

Atlassian apps ready for Data Center

Using Confluence Data Center or Jira Data Center? Great! The most popular apps developed by TNG are now available for you.

Atlassian discontinued all server products last year. Because of this, the data center products will become even more important in the future. We are following this trend and have revised some of our apps for use on data center products.  Maybe you can find something of interest for you?

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December 2020

Modern identity and access management: Configuration as code for Keycloak with Terraform @TNG

Consider a company that grows steadily in employee numbers and the amount of web services it uses. Additionally, consider the time spent (wasted) logging in to many of those web services separately each and every day – for each employee. The advantages of a company-wide identity and access management (IAM) including a single sign-on solution (SSO) become quite apparent. Keycloak uses open standards to authenticate users of a company's internal applications, and also supports external services, such as Slack or Zoom. Unfortunately, it lags behind on what has become the standard for maintaining IT systems: Configuration as Code (CaC). That's where the Terraform Keycloak Provider comes into play. Here at TNG, we have adopted and contributed to this quite mature open source project.

tl;dr: We contribute to and use a Keycloak provider for Terraform to manage our authentication server. Quick and reliable iterations on this very critical infrastructure component are now possible using our usual software development methods and high standards.

We compared several candidates with respect to the required additional development effort and our stability goals. The Kubernetes Keycloak Operator is a relatively young project and thus not battle-proven enough for our purposes. Another way to abstract the Keycloak API is the Keycloak Ansible provider. However, here we had non-optimal experiences from previous projects, including a challenging state of the tool's documentation. The third candidate we looked at and finally chose to use, was the Terraform Keycloak Provider. Importantly, it supports LDAP user federations as well as an adequate number of Keycloak's role mappers and it enables automated provisioning alongside manual configuration.

At some stages we had to patch the provider. The maintainer, Michael Parker, reacted quickly and we collaborated on our pull requests. By now we gathered quite some experience extending and maintaining Keycloak via Terraform. To us, it seems as straightforward as manual configuration in the UI. Terraform modules hold our client configuration and allow us to tune and test different parameters quickly. Any misconfiguration can be quickly fixed by rolling forward or rolling back to a working version. Furthermore, we mitigate missing features in the provider by completing the configuration manually. This hybrid approach also allows lightweight experiments by falling back to the UI. 

After transforming our Keycloak configuration into code, the migration of our Keycloak instances to Kubernetes was a non-event. As it should be.

What do think? Feel free to reach out in case you have questions or need some support!

November 2020

Surveys and polls directly in Confluence

It's finally here!  Our completely renewed and extended survey and voting app for Confluence, "Multivote & Enterprise Survey", is now available. Still included is our Multivote Macro (whose previous version was the most popular polling app for Confluence), alongside a new Survey macro for complex and dynamic surveys, where later questions can be configured to display or not depending on earlier answers.  We at TNG use these types of surveys for tasks such as organising company retreats, where, for example, we display selections of Saturday's retreat activities only to those that indicated participation on Saturday.  Other use cases include employee surveys and feedback-gathering on company-wide issues.  Please visit us at Atlassian Marketplace, where for a limited time we offer 50% discount on the new version of the app.

September 2020

Security&Safety Things AppChallenge

The year 2020:  a year of change, but also of new beginnings and innovations. Many things have changed already, and many more will likely change in the future. For us at TNG, the time spent in seclusion has been a valuable opportunity to reflect, but also to create something new!

The Security and Safety Things App Challenge 2020 provided the perfect setting to demonstrate our computer vision skills under time pressure. In just three months we managed to create two innovative apps – all the way from idea to development to availability in the marketplace. Not only that but both apps were actually awarded first prize in their categories: Visual Feedback won in the ​​Retail and Commerce category and Dynamic Privacy Mask in the Smart Cities category!

This year we not only wave goodbye to handshakes, but also to unsanitary feedback buttons!  As retail store managers told us, customer feedback given via physical, in-store feedback buttons has indeed decreased dramatically. We remedied this with our app Visual Feedback! Visual Feedback enables customers to give feedback with a simple hand gesture, e.g. a thumbs up or thumbs down (demo video). To make the process even more playful and engaging, emojis that correspond to the given feedback are then displayed in place of the customer's head. Giving feedback with Visual Feedback is not only contactless, but also fun!

Our second app is a bit more serious. Many of us feel uncomfortable when high-resolution security cameras record personal data. Of course this cannot be completely avoided (after all, cameras are there to record people!) but that does not mean that credit cards or PIN pads have to be filmed at the grocery store or that the screen of your laptop needs to be captured in the waiting area at the airport. In fact, GDPR even demands that the collection of personal data be limited to what is necessary ("data minimization"). With Dynamic Privacy Mask, the recording of personal data can now be minimized even further. Using a Neutral Network, our app masks object classes such as people, laptops, and keyboards (demo video) – and soon also PIN pads, credit cards, and mobile phones. Through our app we hope to raise the standard of data protection and privacy in the long term. After all, GDPR also states that operators of security cameras must adhere to the technological state of the art when it comes to protecting personal data (and, in particular, everyone's right to informational self-determination).

Want to learn more about our apps? Drop us a line at iot-apps(at)tngtech.com for more information and let us know what you think!

Previous project news can be found in the archive.