"I am working as we speak on redoing all the policy and agreement documents to extend participation in the federation to entities outside UT," Soldi said.

Among those likely to join the FACN application are non-UT medical schools in Texas, so that their pediatricians also can participate in that program, Caskey said.

Also, the federation is working toward cross-certification with the Federal Bridge Certificate Authority. This certification will let UT System institutions interoperate in a secure and trusted manner with the federal government, said Caskey. With this certification, members of the UT federation could use local credentials to securely access applications provided by federal agencies, starting with the National Institutes of Health.

Although, so far, the federation has drawn only a small number of users, it's gaining ground throughout the UT system, Caskey said. "People don't see this as some foreign technology that's useful for a niche purpose." For example, in a recent discussion about developing a portal for distributed network administration, one of the first questions raised was whether the federation could support it. "That's the key, when people start asking those questions and start wanting to do that first."

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer