Auth0 vs. Keycloak: 5 Key Differences and How to Choose

What Is Auth0?

Auth0 is a cloud-based identity management platform that provides developers with the tools to implement authentication and authorization features in their applications. It supports a range of identity protocols such as OAuth, OpenID Connect, and SAML. 

Auth0 secures applications by ensuring that only authenticated users can access them, providing a streamlined experience for developers and users alike. Auth0’s focus on developer experience means it offers extensive documentation, SDKs, and quickstart guides to integrate its functionality into existing applications.

The platform’s notable features include social login, single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication (MFA), and user management capabilities. These features help in reducing the complexity involved in managing user identities and improving security. 

What Is Keycloak? 

Keycloak is an open-source identity and access management solution aimed at modern applications and services. It simplifies the implementation of authentication and authorization mechanisms, offering support for standard protocols like OpenID Connect, OAuth 2.0, and SAML. 

Keycloak is used by organizations of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises aiming to secure their applications and services. It is also designed to provide a positive user experience through its customizable login flows and account management interfaces.

One of Keycloak’s strengths is its ability to be deployed on-premises or in the cloud, offering flexibility for organizations with varying infrastructure requirements. It provides a comprehensive set of features including user federation, identity brokering, and social login, which can be extended through custom providers. 

Auth0 vs. Keycloak: 5 Key Differences 

Let’s look at the main differences between AuthO and Keycloak.

1. Architecture and Deployment

Auth0 primarily functions as a cloud-based service, providing a hassle-free setup without the need for managing infrastructure. This approach favors organizations looking for quick deployment and minimal maintenance efforts. However, enterprises often require on-premise solutions due to strict regulatory and data residency requirements.

Keycloak offers versatility in deployment options by being accessible as both an on-premise solution and a cloud service. Its open-source nature enables full control over the deployment environment, making it suitable for meeting compliance and data sovereignty requirements. This flexibility in deployment reassures enterprises of their capability to adapt the solution to their infrastructure needs.

2. Security

Auth0 emphasizes strong security features out of the box, including MFA, anomaly detection, and Universal Login for secure authentication. It offers continual updates and adheres to best practices in securing applications. Auth0’s compliance with ISO 27001, SOC 2, and GDPR shows its commitment to maintaining high security standards.

Keycloak, being open-source, relies heavily on its community for security updates and patches. While it provides essential security features like SSL/TLS, organizations using Keycloak must be proactive in applying updates and configuring security settings to safeguard against vulnerabilities. It places a significant responsibility on deployers to maintain security standards.

3. Integration and Extensibility

Auth0 offers a variety of hooks, rules, and extensions that enable customization of authentication and authorization services. Its API-first approach allows easy integration with existing applications, services, and third-party tools, facilitating easier incorporation into popular tech stacks.

Keycloak’s open-source foundation means it’s highly customizable and can be extended to meet specific requirements. It integrates well with a variety of systems and can be modified through custom extensions. However, the degree of customization requires technical proficiency, making it more suitable for organizations with dedicated IT teams.

4. Community and Support

Auth0 has a large, active community and professional support services, ensuring developers can easily find help and resources. The extensive documentation, tutorials, and community forums foster a supportive environment for troubleshooting and innovation.

Keycloak relies on the support of the open-source community, offering knowledge and resources for users. While professional support is available through third-party vendors, community support is necessary for resolving issues and learning best practices.

5. Pricing Model

Auth0 uses a subscription-based pricing model, offering different tiers based on features, use cases, and support levels. The solution offers a free tier up to 7,500 users with basic features, $35 per month for 500 B2C users, or $150 per month for 500 B2B users with up to 50 organizations.
Keycloak is free to deploy and use. However, indirect costs may arise from self-hosting, maintenance, and custom development. Organizations might also opt for third-party support services, which introduces variable expenses based on the level of service required.

Limitations of Auth0 

Here are some of the limitations of Auth0, reported by users on the G2 platform.

Pricing and Affordability

The platform’s pricing structure poses challenges for smaller initiatives. An adjustment in the free tier’s limits further complicates accessibility for these projects. Notably, the introduction of a feature like the magic link without a corresponding adjustment in price thresholds suggests a mismatch in value proposition for smaller user bases. 

The recent surge in pricing—a 300% increase from $0.023 to $0.07 per user places a strain on existing customers who had initially committed to the platform under its former pricing model.

Support Issues

Users have reported delays in response from the support team, which can be particularly frustrating when dealing with urgent issues that affect the deployment or operation of their applications. 

This is compounded by issues with support, ranging from generic responses that do not address specific concerns, to needing multiple follow-ups to resolve an issue.

Complex Token Management

The management of tokens within Auth0 is particularly complicated. This complexity arises from the multiple steps involved, including token generation, renewal, and revocation, which are essential for securing authentication and authorization processes. Technical aspects of this system can be difficult for those without extensive technical backgrounds. 

The complex nature of OAuth token management requires a considerable investment of time and resources to master, which can lead to potential errors and security vulnerabilities. Making use of Auth0’s resources can be challenging for smaller projects or teams with limited resources.

Modification of User Information

Modifying user information within Auth0, such as changing an email address, presents challenges due to the platform’s unfriendly processes for such adjustments. The process is cumbersome and imposes an inconvenience on users who need to perform these tasks.

Limited Flexibility for Larger Organizations

Auth0’s structured approach to pricing and feature access poses significant limitations for large enterprises or organizations with intricate security requirements. The platform’s rigid pricing model and the necessity to subscribe to expensive enterprise plans to unlock essential features (like SAML and Azure AD integration) limit its applicability for larger, more complex environments.

Related content: Read our guide to Auth0 alternatives

Limitations of Keycloak 

Here are some of the limitations of Keycloak, reported by users on the G2 platform.

Multi-Tenancy and High-Availability

Keycloak’s support for multi-tenancy and high-availability configurations need improvement. Users have pointed out that while Keycloak provides foundational capabilities for managing access at the entry point, its high-availability mode lacks efficient session replication. This can impact the reliability of applications in environments demanding fault tolerance.

Integration with Legacy Systems

Users have reported difficulties in connecting Keycloak with older systems, indicating that the platform might not fully accommodate the nuances and specific requirements of legacy infrastructure. This can pose hurdles for organizations seeking to modernize their identity and access management without overhauling their existing systems.

Insufficient Documentation and Examples

The current documentation is criticized for only covering “happy path” scenarios, which represent very specific use cases and do not adequately address the broader range of potential applications and configurations Keycloak is capable of supporting. This limitation makes it harder for users to leverage Keycloak in complex or non-standard deployments.

Limited Customization Options

Users have reported that Keycloak’s customization options are limited. This lack of flexibility can pose significant challenges for developers who need to tailor the system to meet specific requirements. The platform’s default configuration does not easily allow for modifications that many developers find essential for optimizing user management and authentication processes.

Failed LDAP Synchronization 

LDAP synchronization with Keycloak sometimes encounters failures, which can lead to disruptions in user management and access control. These issues can impact the reliability of the system in environments where consistent and accurate user data are crucial. The occasional need to manually intervene or troubleshoot these failures adds an additional layer of complexity and potential downtime.

How to Choose

When deciding between Auth0 and Keycloak for your identity and access management needs, consider the following key factors:

  • Deployment needs: Evaluate whether your organization requires a cloud-based solution for quick deployment and minimal maintenance (Auth0) or if you need the flexibility to deploy on-premises or in a private cloud due to strict regulatory or data residency requirements (Keycloak).
  • Budget constraints: Auth0 operates on a subscription-based pricing model, which might be costly for startups or projects with tight budgets. Keycloak is open-source and free, but consider potential costs related to maintenance, custom development, and optional professional support services.
  • Technical expertise: Keycloak’s customizable nature demands a higher level of technical expertise for deployment and ongoing management. Auth0, being more out-of-the-box with extensive documentation and support, may be more suitable for teams with limited technical resources.
  • Security features: Auth0 offers robust, built-in security features and regular updates, making it ideal for organizations that prioritize security but have less capacity to manage it actively. Keycloak requires more active management to maintain security, relying on the community for updates and patches.
  • Integration and extensibility: If your project demands extensive customization or needs to integrate with a variety of systems and technologies, Keycloak’s open-source model offers significant flexibility. Auth0 provides numerous integrations and a developer-friendly API but may not cover every unique customization need without additional cost.
  • Community and support: Consider the type of support you expect. Auth0 provides professional support and a vibrant community for troubleshooting, while Keycloak’s support depends largely on the community and third-party vendors, which might not be as immediate or comprehensive.

Frontegg: The Ultimate Auth0 and Keycloak Alternative

Frontegg is a cloud-based platform that provides an end-to-end user management solution for building and operating web and mobile applications. It aims to simplify the process of building and scaling SaaS applications by providing a set of pre-built and customizable building blocks that can be easily integrated in a self-served and user-friendly manner.

Frontegg provides the following features:

  • Authentication and authorization: Frontegg allows developers to authenticate and authorize users for their applications using various identity providers, such as email, Google, and Facebook.
  • Self-served SSO: Once you integrate Frontegg’s SSO solution, your customers can configure their SSO completely on their own.
  • MFA and passwordless: Frontegg provides the most advanced multi-factor authentication (MFA) and passwordless authentication with advanced security measures.
  • Role and permission management: Allows developers to create, read, update, and delete users, as well as retrieve information about the specific users.
  • Auditing and monitoring: Allows developers to track and log user activity and system events in their applications.
  • Data storage: Allows developers to easily store and retrieve data in their applications, including support for various data types, such as text, numbers, and files.

Notifications: Allows devs to send push notifications and email notifications to users in their apps.

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