The purpose of the Auth APIs in Backstage are to identify the user, and to provide a way for plugins to request access to 3rd party services on behalf of the user (OAuth). This documentation focuses on the implementation of that solution and how to extend it. For documentation on how to consume the Auth APIs in a plugin, see TODO.
Accessing Third Party Services
The main pattern for talking to third party services in Backstage is user-to-server requests, where short-lived OAuth Access Tokens are requested by plugins to authenticate calls to external services. These calls can be made either directly to the services or through a backend plugin or service.
By relying on user-to-server calls we keep the coupling between the frontend and backend low, and provide a much lower barrier for plugins to make use of third party services. This is in comparison to for example a session-based system, where access tokens are stored server-side. Such a solution would require a much deeper coupling between the auth backend plugin, its session storage, and other backend plugins or separate services. A goal of Backstage is to make it as easy as possible to create new plugins, and an auth solution based on user-to-server OAuth helps in that regard.
Identity - WIP
NOTE: Identity management and the
SignInPagein Backstage is NOT a method for blocking access for unauthorized users, that either requires additional backend implementation or a separate service like Google's Identity-Aware Proxy. The identity system only serves to provide a personalized experience and access to a Backstage Identity Token, which can be passed to backend plugins.
Identity management is still work in progress, but there are already a couple of pieces in place that can be used.
Identity for Plugin Developers
As a plugin developer, there are two main touchpoints for identities: the
IdentityApi exported by
@backstage/core via the
identityApiRef, and a not
yet existing middleware exported by
IdentityApi gives access to the signed-in user's identity in the frontend.
It provides access to the user's ID, lightweight profile information, and an ID
token used to make authenticated calls within Backstage.
The middleware that will be provided by
verification of Backstage ID tokens, and optionally loading additional
information about the user. The progress is tracked in
Identity for App Developers
If you're setting up your own Backstage app, or want to add a new identity
provider, there are three touchpoints: the frontend auth APIs in
@backstage/core-api, the backend auth providers in
auth-backend, and the
SignInPage component configured in the Backstage app via
The frontend APIs and backend providers are tightly coupled together for each
auth provider, and together they implement an e2e auth flow. Only some auth
providers also act as identity providers though. For example, at the moment of
writing, the Google Auth provider is able to act as a Backstage identity
provider, but the GitHub one can not. For an auth provider to also act as an
identity provider, it needs to implement the
BackstageIdentityApi in the
frontend, and in the backend it needs to return a
It is up to each provider to implement the mapping between a provider identity and the corresponding Backstage identity. That is currently still work in progress, and as a stop-gap for example the Google provider returns the local part of the user's email as the user ID.
The final piece of the puzzle is the
SignInPage component that can be
configured as part of the app. Without a sign-in page, Backstage will fall back
guest identity for all users, without any ID token. To enable sign-in, a
SignInPage needs to be configured, which in turn has to supply a user to the
@backstage/core package provides a basic sign-in page that allows
both the user and the app developer to choose between a couple of different
More details are provided in dedicated sections of the documentation.