How To Configure SSO in Apache using Mellon, AD FS on Ubuntu 20.04

This guide will show you how to configure single sign-on (SSO) in Apache using Mellon and Active Directory Federation Service (AD FS) on Ubuntu 20.04.
Single sign-on is a property of access control of multiple related, yet independent, software systems. With this property, a user logs in with a single ID and password to gain access to a connected system or systems without using different usernames or passwords, or in some configurations seamlessly sign on at each system. 
Apache is the most widely-used web server in the world. It provides many powerful features including dynamically loadable modules, robust media support, and extensive integration with other popular software. 
Mellon is an authentication module for Apache. It authenticates the user against a SAML 2.0 IdP, and grants access to resources depending on attributes received from the identity provider (IdP). 
AD FS is a software component developed by Microsoft that can be hosted on-premises on any Windows Server operating system, but if your application is a hybrid in which some parts are implemented in the cloud, it may be more efficient to replicate your on-premises AD DS to Azure AD in order to provide users with seamless access to systems and applications.
We will use below information throughout this tutorial to demonstrate SSO implementation steps in Apache:
FQDN			IP Address	Purpose		OS	AD DS, ADFS	Windows Server 2019	Apache+Mellon	Ubuntu 20.04


To follow this tutorial along, you will need one (physical or virtual) machine installed with either Ubuntu 18.04, 20.04 or Debian 9, 10. 
  • This guide assume that you already have Active Directory Federation Service in place.
  • Make sure you have proper entries for your Ubuntu system and AD FS (FQDN) with their respective IPs in your DNS.
  • Make sure your Ubuntu and AD FS (FQDN) are reachable to each other via ping command.
Ping your AD FS (FQDN) from your Ubuntu like below:
Ping your Ubuntu (FQDN) from your AD FS like below:
Type below command to set correct timezone on your Ubuntu:
sudo timedatectl set-timezone Asia/Karachi
When you have all the prerequisites in place, you may proceed with the below steps by following video tutorial in parallel to avoid confusion. 

Install Required Packages

Login to your Ubuntu system with non-root sudo privileged user and type below command to install OpenSSL, Apache, Mellon, and PHP:
sudo apt -y install openssl apache2 libapache2-mod-auth-mellon ntpdate php php-fpm
Once installation completed, edit php.ini files, uncomment date.timezone directive and set correct timezone.
sudo nano /etc/php/7.4/fpm/php.ini 
If you don't know your correct timezone, you can list all the timezones with sudo timedatectl list-timezones command.
date.timezone = Asia/Karachi
Save and close the editor when you are finished. 
Make sure you repeat the same steps for /etc/php/7.4/cli/php.ini, and /etc/php/7.4/apache2/php.ini as well: 
When you are done, restart PHP to make changes effect:
sudo systemctl restart php7.4-fpm.service

Configure Mellon

Create a directory under /etc/apache2 location to store your mellon metadata files:
sudo mkdir -p /etc/apache2/mellon
cd /etc/apache2/mellon
Type /usr/sbin/mellon_create_metadata ENTITY-ID ENDPOINT-URL to create metadata, and SSL certificate files like an example below:
sudo /usr/sbin/mellon_create_metadata ""
The above script creates three files under /etc/apache2/mellon location, you should rename these files to something appropriate like an example below:
sudo mv *.key mellon.key
sudo mv *.cert mellon.cert
sudo mv *.xml mellon_metadata.xml
At this stage, ask your AD FS administrator to provide you metadata or you can obtain it by yourself like an example below:
sudo wget -O /etc/apache2/mellon/FederationMetadata.xml --no-check-certificate
Create a mellon configuration file under /etc/apache2/conf-available location like an example below:
sudo nano /etc/apache2/conf-available/mellon.conf
Add configuration directives like an example below:
<location />
MellonSPPrivateKeyFile /etc/apache2/mellon/mellon.key
MellonSPCertFile /etc/apache2/mellon/mellon.cert
MellonSPMetadataFile /etc/apache2/mellon/mellon_metadata.xml
MellonIdPMetadataFile /etc/apache2/mellon/FederationMetadata.xml
MellonEndpointPath /mellon
MellonEnable "info"
Save and close the editor when you are finished. 

Create Apache VirtualHost

To make accessible over the web browser, we need to create a configuration file in Apache. We will use a Self-signed SSL certificate in our case, if you wish, you can use your own Signed SSL certificate to avoid browser warning.

Create a Self-signed certificate like an example below:
sudo openssl req -newkey rsa:3072 -new -x509 -days 3652 -nodes -out /etc/ssl/certs/techsupportpk.pem -keyout /etc/ssl/private/techsupportpk.key
Enter appropriate information on the following prompts:
Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:PK
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:Sindh
Locality Name (eg, city) []:Karachi
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:Tech Support Pakistan
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:IT Support
Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name) []
Email Address []

Create a VirtualHost configuration file like an example below: 
sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/sp.techsupportpk.conf
Add configuration directives like an example below:
<IfModule mod_ssl.c>
<VirtualHost _default_:443>
DocumentRoot /var/www/html
ServerSignature Off
ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error_sp.log
CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access_sp.log combined
LogLevel info ssl:warn

SSLEngine on
SSLCertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/techsupportpk.pem
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/ssl/private/techsupportpk.key

<Location /protected>
AuthType Mellon
MellonEnable auth
Require valid-user
Save and close the editor when you are finished.
We will keep all the web contents under /var/www/html/protected location in our case:
sudo mkdir -p /var/www/html/protected
Create a simple index page under /var/www/html/protected like an example below:
sudo nano /var/www/html/protected/index.html

Insert simple html code:
<title>Index Page</title>
<h2>This simple index page is accessible to only authenticated users!</h2>
<a href="">Logout</a>
Save and close the editor when you are finished.  

Verify Apache Configuration

Type below command to verify your Apache configuration:
sudo apache2ctl configtest
If everything configured correctly, this will return Syntax OK in the output. If there is any configuration error, fix them first then proceed to next step.
Type below command to activate your Apache configuration:
sudo a2enmod ssl
sudo a2enconf mellon.conf sudo a2ensite sp.techsupportpk.conf
Restart Apache to make changes effect:
sudo systemctl restart apache2
Synchronize your Ubuntu clock with your AD FS like below:
sudo ntpdate -u
At this stage your Apache and Mellon configuration is completed on your Ubuntu system.

Configure AD FS Relying Party Trust

First, you need to transfer mellon_metadata.xml file from your Ubuntu system to your AD FS server using WinSCP or whatever tool you wish to use.
Login to your ADFS server, open up AD FS Management console, Right-click Relying Party Trust, Click Add Relying Party Trust

Keep default Claims aware, click Start

Click Import data about the replying party from a file, click Browse, select your mellon_metadata xml file, click Next

You can safely ignore if this warning popup appears, Click OK

Display name has no impect on configuration, you can keep whatever display name you like, click Next
Keep the Permit everyone access policy, Click Next
Click Next

Click Close
Right-click on your added Relying Party Trust, click Edit Claim Issuance Policy
Click Add Rule
Select Send LDAP Attributes as Claim, click Next
Configure claim rule like below:
Click Finish when you are done.
Add another rule, this time select Transform an Incoming Claim, click Next
Configure rule like below:
Click Finish when you are done.
Click Apply, OK

With this Relying Party Trust configuration, your AD FS is ready to serve the purpose.

Verify SSO

Open up a web browser and type in the address bar, you will be taken to your AD FS login page as shown in screenshot below:

Enter your valid username and password to Sign in:

Upon successful authentication, you will be bounced back to your page as shown in screenshot below:

Click logout to test your Ad FS logout functionality.


Now that you have successfully configured SSO in Apache using Mellon and Active Directory Federation Service, you can start deploying your applications with SSO functionality.

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