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5.4. Realms and Tiers

In terms of API, both the Realm and Tier classes implement the Partition interface, as shown in the following class diagram:
A Realm is used to define a discrete set of users, groups and roles. A typical use case for realms is the segregation of corporate user accounts within a multi-tenant application, although it is not limited this use case only. As all identity management operations must be performed within the context of an active partition, PicketLink defines the concept of a default realm which becomes the active partition if no other partition has been specified.
A Tier is a more restrictive type of partition than a realm, as it only allows groups and roles to be defined (but not users). A Tier may be used to define a set of application-specific groups and roles, which may then be assigned to groups within the same Tier, or to users and groups within a separate Realm.