Using service tokens to prevent long-running job failures

When a user initiates a request whose processing involves multiple services (for example, a boot-from-volume request to the Compute Service will require processing by the Block Storage Service, and may require processing by the Image Service), the user’s token is handed from service to service. This ensures that the requestor is tracked correctly for audit purposes and also guarantees that the requestor has the appropriate permissions to do what needs to be done by the other services. If the chain of operations takes a long time, however, the user’s token may expire before the action is completed, leading to the failure of the user’s original request.

One way to deal with this is to set a long token life in Keystone, and this may be what you are currently doing. But this can be problematic for installations whose security policies prefer short user token lives. Beginning with the Queens release, an alternative solution is available. You have the ability to configure some services (particularly Nova and Cinder) to send a “service token” along with the user’s token. When properly configured, the Identity Service will validate an expired user token when it is accompanied by a valid service token. Thus if the user’s token expires somewhere during a long running chain of operations among various OpenStack services, the operations can continue.


There’s nothing special about a service token. It’s a regular token that has been requested by a service user. And there’s nothing special about a service user, it’s just a user that has been configured in the Identity Service to have specific roles that identify that user as a service.

The key point here is that the “service token” doesn’t need to have an extra long life – it can have the same short life as all the other tokens because it will be a fresh (and hence valid) token accompanying the (possibly expired) user’s token.


To configure Cinder to send a “service token” along with the user’s token when it makes a request to another service, you must do the following:

  1. Find the [service_user] section in the Cinder configuration file (usually /etc/cinder/cinder.conf, though it may be in a different location in your installation).

  2. In that section, set send_service_user_token = true.

  3. Also in that section, fill in the appropriate configuration for your service user (username, project_name, etc.)


There is no configuration required for a service to receive service tokens. This is automatically handled by the keystone middleware used by each service (beginning with the Pike release).

(The previous statement is true for the default configuration. It is possible for someone to change some settings so that service tokens will be ignored. See the Troubleshooting section below.)


If you’ve configured this feature and are still having long-running job failures, there are basically three degrees of freedom to take into account: (1) each source service, (2) each receiving service, and (3) the Identity Service (Keystone).

  1. Each source service (basically, Nova and Cinder) must have the [service_user] section in the source service configuration file filled in as described in the Configuration section above.


    As of the Train release, Glance does not have the ability to pass service tokens. It can receive them, though. The place where you may still see a long running failure is when Glance is using a backend that requires Keystone validation (for example, the Swift backend) and the user token has expired.

  2. Each receiving service, by default, is set up to accept service tokens. There are two options to be aware of, however, that can affect whether or not a receiving service (for example, Glance) will actually accept service tokens. These appear in the [keystone_authtoken] section of the receiving service configuration file (for example, /etc/glance/glance-api.conf).


    The value is a list of roles; the service user passing the service token must have at least one of these roles or the token will be rejected. (But see the next option.) The default value is service.


    This is a boolean; the default value is false. It governs whether the keystone middleware used by the receiving service will pay any attention to the service_token_roles setting. (Eventually the default is supposed to become True, but it’s still False as of Stein.)

  3. There are several things to pay attention to in Keystone:

    • If you’ve decided to turn on service_token_roles_required for any of the receiving services, then you must make sure that any service user who will be contacting that receiving service (and for whom you want to enable “service token” usage) has one of the roles specified in the receiving services’s service_token_roles setting. (This is a matter of creating and assigning roles using the Identity Service API, it’s not a configuration file issue.)

    • Even with a service token, an expired user token cannot be used indefinitely. There’s a Keystone configuration setting that controls this: [token]/allow_expired_window in the Keystone configuration file. The default setting is 2 days, so some security teams may want to lower this just on general principles. You need to make sure it’s not set too low to be completely ineffective.

    • If you are using Fernet tokens, you need to be careful with your Fernet key rotation period. Whoever sets up the key rotation has to pay attention to the [token]/allow_expired_window setting as well as the obvious [token]/expiration setting. If keys get rotated faster than expiration + allow_expired_window seconds, an expired user token might not be decryptable, even though the request using it is being made within allow_expired_window seconds.

To summarize, you need to be aware of:

  • Keystone: must allow a decent sized allow_expired_window (default is 2 days)

  • Each source service: must be configured to be able to create and send service tokens (default is OFF)

  • Each receiving service: has to be configured to accept service tokens (default is ON)