TurnKey Linux Virtual Appliance Library

Most secure way to SSO and Shop Cart

Just signed up for Turnkey and I want to have a Single Sign On database that talks to Digital Chalk for my courses. I installed Moodle but it is doubling the efforts of Digital Chalk I thought AWS had integrated Digital Chalk within it, and I still need SSO for Calendar, Video Chat and Account Info for the courses offered in Digital Chalk. I have to use Digital Chalks API to pass Course payment info into user accounts. I could just do away with SSO and use Digital Chalks database but I would still need a Cart and Frontend with SSL. Is there a Turnkey solution for the Cart at least. I would even look at Wordpress as a frontend if necessary but either that or Moodle I would need SSO to deal with the integrated accounts in either. I really like what I see so far, I just need a little guidance from someone that has gone through this type of integration. Thanks in advance!
Jeremy's picture

I don't know enough about Digital Chalk (or SSO)

So I can't give you a definative answer.

But my first thought is that as Digital Chalk is proprietry (from what I can see) I imagine that the only way you will get it to SSO with any other product is via them. From what I've seen many (if not most) proprietry apps like that would be able to handle that sort of thing via their API (although it may require an additional fee). But rather than me speculating further, you would be best to contact them to see if it's even possible.

My (somewhat sceptical) suspicion is that they probably have a product (or perhaps a partner that supplies a product) that will completely fulfill your needs (ie shopping cart etc) - but for another additional fee.

Also I don't quite get what you mean when you say: "...I thought AWS had integrated Digital Chalk within it..." You understand that AWS is Amazon Web Services right? It is basically a range of services which include VPS (remotely hosted virtual machine) type solution (EC2) as well as 'cloud' storage (S3) among others. It can be used by companies directly to sell a product (such as a server based service) to customers, or as a value-added 3rd party service (which is basically what TKL does). If I get you correctly, I think perhaps where your confusion is coming in is because (from what i gather from a quick read of the Digital Chalk website) they use AWS as the host for the services you buy from them (ie your 'Digital Chalkboard'). Although I don't know enough about them to be sure. So my assumption is that it is more like 'Digital Chalkboard runs on top of AWS' rather than it being 'integrated' with it (or perhaps it's just a difference of perspective? Or perhaps I have it all wrong...)

I have no idea of the mechanics of how you would go about connecting your shopping cart to Digital Chalk (again you'll need to consult with them - although it sounds like perhaps you have a good idea of that already?), perhaps one of the two TKL ecommerce appliances (or even WordPress as you suggest) may be of use to you? For their APIs (assuming they have them) and other details you are probably best off consulting/contacting their respective (upstream) documentation/wikis/support forums/mailing lists/etc. You may get lucky here on TKL forums, but from my experience, the knowledge in the community here (main particularly) tends to be more generic Linux/webserver/etc in nature.

FWIW I imagine that Moodle would be able to do what you want, but as you say that would then make Digital Chalkboard redundant for your purposes. But perhaps that's a better way to go anyway? (would certainly be cheaper - assuming you haven't already invested too heavily in Digital Chalkboard). I guess it depends on how invested in that you are (in pure dollars, but also staff training, existing content, etc).

Do you have a Tip Jar? Thanks for the Response!

Oh yeah I assumed readers knew I would be paying for Digital Chalks services, my bad. They do have an API and SSO capability in their Enterprise Level and grant access for a one time fee, but SSO is only available on an external database since they want to be secure on their side.  I talked with them for 2 hours on 2 different occasions and it is too bad they don't figure out a way to just host for Enterprise, I have to do all this extra stuff to implement the service they will make money on as a fee for every course I sell.  They want me to pay a large fee and then go work on implementing around their product just to get my product working with theirs, this is only because I don't want their branding on my site.  I googled that AWS is actually Linking Digital Chalk with their service and I thought Turnkey was what they were insisting I use.  I just talked with Digital Chalk and they said they have the Moodle service integrated for $500 a month. Here is the info, I guess I was confused as Digital Chalk is on AWS with the SaS tier.  

http://www.digitalchalk.com/moodle

Moodle is the quickest way to integrate the SSO is what I am thinking as I must have a Database that will SSO to Digital Chalk and use their API to allow access to the content on Digital Chalk.  SSO is only for housing your Database somewhere else but utilize Digital Chalks service.  Looks Like I may just try Magneto and then use Digital Chalks API to open Courses in the account database on Digital Chalk instead of using SSO. I had it backwards as I thought I would use Digital Chalk to SSO the database created on their servers to give me access to other functions I want such as Admin level for Helios Calendar and a Video Chat with 1 Video Feed to Hundreds of Students to watch. 

Turnkey is the coolest service I have ever worked with and I was dreading building Query's or making sure Library's were running or installing packages for Moodle or any other Online Learning System. 

Do I need to buy an SSL cert for Magneto or does it come with one? It says it has the ability.

Jeremy's picture

No worries :)

But out of interest, I'm not actually clear what you are getting for your $500/mth? I guess support by the sounds of it? Is there anything else? Video chat from what I can gather?

I ask because you could easily host your own TKL Moodle server and a TKL Magento server on AWS for less than half that. In fact if you buy reserved instances then it would be significantly less than that again (save about 50% in hourly usage fees), and depending on your usage and your history with AWS, you may even be eligible for the AWS free tier for one of your servers!

Don't get me wrong, perhaps their service is well worth the money to you. But I'm inclined to think that you could probably hire someone by the hour to leverage one or more TKL appliances to do what you want for a similar initial cost but then save yourself thousands a year in running costs. Also IIRC premium TKL support is only $150/mth (and includes EBS backed instances).

Have a look at AWS pricing here. If you go for the free tier (and/or want to run micro servers) then you'll also need to enable EBS backed instances (which TKL charge $20/mth for on top of AWS fees). Or if you just want to run S3 backed small or medium instances then you can just pay a 10% TKL premium (on the usual AWS charges). A good overview of TKL on AWS pricing is here.

Even if you choose to run with Digital Chalkboard then perhaps it would still be cheaper to host Moodle

Anyway, sorry I digress... Did you notice that I'm a TKL fan! :)

Anyway, it looks like Moodle has a Paypal module already available if you only want something simple.  This Moodle thread (that I found with a random google) is probably worth a browse. In fact google may have some other good ideas for you, like this one here. Or there's a fairly technical discussion of what sort of thing needs to be done to get Moodle and Magento working together (although not an explicit solution) here. Also from what I've read Moodle integrates easily with Joomla and Drupal, both of which have shopping cart plugins AFAIK. Seeing as Moodle is written in php (AFAIK) you could even hire someone to develop a module specificly for you.

If you want to donate to TKL then you'll find the button hidden here. Regardless it'd be interesting to hear what solution you settle on. I'd be especially excited if you can find something open source (and even more excited again if you share your docs on getting it working) because then we could perhaps look at putting together an integrated appliance (including Moodle with whatever shopping cart).

Yeah TKL Rocks!!!

The $500 per month is their maintenance fee for Moodle.  Digital Chalks setup is really slick though that is my main reason for using it.  I can web edit/create tests / post lessons and encode HD even and their server renders 3 different Streams for slower connections. The main feature I like is that the Playback of the video won't go past where the Student has watched so they can't skip ahead and tons of functions behind it like starting dates and little switches for almost everything you can think of.  Admin Levels for enterprise too for Teachers that won't create courses but need access to certain functions.

So I need SKYPE which is why I thought I should SSO with Moodle.  Moodle has a SKYPE plugin so it would be seamless.  I got TokBox rolling on my Wordpress install so that was pretty cool too but SKYPE is preferred by my clients and if I can get it integrated it is so widely used the brand name may be familiar to students.

I may have thousands of students on at the same time so I wanted to hit the ground running which is the main aspect for using Digital Chalks SaS tier through AWS.  I buy into it with the Enterprise level mainly for SSO and the extra Admins.

I also want Helios Event Calendar to be available externally completely open and then with a small calendar with students filters when logged in.  I am going to buy the Developer License at Helios for this.  Really cool little calendar that is Mobil Ready with Google Map locations for events.

SSO would be the way to get all 3 Seamless but Helios doesn't require a login unless you want to admin for event registration and newsletter generation. So I could just do away with SSO and just have an external page for SKYPE Group chats and an external page for the Helios Calendar since only admins login to do things.  Ideally I wanted my Teachers when they login to Digital Chalk, to be auto logged in with SSO to Helios Calendar and have their admin panel link populate only when logged in. Not that big of a deal if I can't so SSO is really not gaining me much as far as students are concerned.

I have to make the API integrate to a Shopping cart so I can send payment to my client and then reserve payment for my service charge from Digital Chalk and then give credit to the account for the students to gain access to the course. 

Moodle Doubles my efforts for Digital Chalk.  It has a create a course section, which Digital Chalk has so it looks real confusing and I think Digital Chalk went and optimized Moodle to have their course management plug in so you can't see the Moodle create course page.  If it were cheaper I would go for it as I could probably just insert my Helios Calendar into the Moodle calendar calls since Moodle is open source.  This would be great.

I can't create a hack on top of Moodle I want it to be standardized code but thanks for those links.  I have the ability to make an excellent product and within Digital Chalk I can allow Students to see only the courses that they purchased so I can market different courses on different sites and serve all of them from the same Enterprise account. This is a huge benefit as all my work is cookie cut to an HTML webpage at that point for specific courses if I decide to target different markets and be very direct so it won't overwhelm the reader for hundreds of different courses. 

You see how Digital Chalk is making me do alot of leg work, I also have to Mask their URL they assign me because they won't insert a CNAME or A Record in their host for me, they just give a Subdomain that I mask to my external URL. These 3 things I need could be solved instantly if I could just host as an Enterprise level from their server.  I am sure it is only because of security that they don't allow this. 

Jeremy's picture

Thanks for your extensive reply

It sounds like a big job you have on, but once you get it sorted sounds like it will be a sweet product and minimum work to keep it rolling.

Good luck and hope it all works out.

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