As Harvard thinks about how best to enable authentication across multiple schools, organizations, affiliates and populations, it has choices to make - centralize all authentication, allow every group to pursue its own strategy, or coordinated federation that includes the best of centralized and localized approaches.
Federated authentication requires a fabric of trust. Among University collaborators, InCommon.org
has been a leader in creating tools, technologies and policies that enables multiple groups within institutions and among institutions to share data based on role-based access. It does not require organizations to issue unique credentials to every collaborator. Instead it delegates authentication to trusted institutions and then creates an ecosystem of access built on trust relathonships.
The underlying technology is Shibboleth.
University collaboration via policies and technologies that support federated authentication. That's cool!