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Kerberos is an authentication protocol developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Kerberos allows individuals communicating over an insecure network to prove their identity to one another in a secure manner. Kerberos authentication can be used to overcome weak points such as eavesdropping and replay attacks in other authentication mechanisms and to ensure the integrity of the data that is communicated.

The Kerberos authentication process involves several systems connected in a network, or a Kerberos realm. Kerberos authentication within a realm works on the basis of tickets, which serve to prove the authenticity of client requests. Kerberos authentication makes use of a trusted third party system called Key Distribution Center (KDC).

The KDC maintains a database of secret keys where each member system of a realm - whether a client or a server - shares a secret key known only to itself and to the Kerberos KDC. Knowledge of this key serves to prove the system's identity and this key never leaves the KDC. After the client is authenticated the KDC generates a session key for communication between the client and the application server, which they can use to secure their interactions.

Implementation Considerations

While Kerberos can overcome the vulnerabilities of other Web-based authentication mechanisms, the Kerberos configuration and administration can result in a relatively high administrative effort. In addition, Kerberos relies on authentication infrastructure, such as a Key Distribution Center, that enforces a Mandatory Access Control approach to authentication. Therefore, the use of Kerberos in open environments such as the Internet can increase the administrative load associated with the scalability of Kerberos supporting infrastructure.

For information about the integration of non-Windows server components in the Microsoft Kerberos Infrastructure, see the documents available from the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) at published on non-SAP site.


SAP NetWeaver Application Server (SAP NetWeaver AS) Java supports Kerberos with SPNego authentication.

SAP NetWeaver Application Server ABAP only supports Kerberos with SPNego in conjunction with SAP Single Sign-On 2.0 or higher.