Senlin Authorization

As a service to be consumed by end users and possibly other IT persons, Senlin has some basic components and strategies to manage access control. The design is meant to be as open as possible though the current focus as this document is drafted is on enabling Keystone-based (aka. token-based) OpenStack authorization.

This document presents an overview of the authentication and authorization mechanisms provided by the Senlin API and its service engine. The top-most design consideration of these mechanisms is to make it accommodating so that the interactions with different authentication engines can be done using the same framework. The reason behind this decision is to make Senlin cloud-backend agnostic so it can be used to support clustering of resources in a multi-cloud, or multi-region, or multi-availability-zone setups.

Major Components

In the context of an OpenStack cloud, the most important components involved in the authentication and the authorization process are:

  • The Senlin client (i.e. the python-senlinclient package) which accepts user credentials provided through environment variables and/or the command line arguments and forwards them to the OpenStack SDK (i.e. the openstacksdk package) when making service requests to Senlin API.

  • The OpenStack SDK (openstacksdk) is used by Senlin engine to interact with any other OpenStack services. The Senlin client also uses the SDK to talk to the Senlin API. The SDK package translates the user-provided credentials into a token by invoking the Keystone service.

  • The Keystone middleware (i.e. keystonemiddleware) which backs the auth_token WSGI middleware in the Senlin API pipeline provides a basic validation filter. The filter is responsible to validate the token that exists in the HTTP request header and then populates the HTTP request header with detailed information for the downstream filters (including the API itself) to use.

  • The context WSGI middleware which is based on the oslo.context package provides a constructor of the RequestContext data structure that accompanies any requests down the WSGI application pipeline so that those downstream components don’t have to access the HTTP request header.

Usage Scenarios

There are several ways to raise a service request to the Senlin API, each of which has its own characteristics that will affect the way authentication and/or authorization is performed.

  1. Users interact with Senlin service API using the OpenStack client (i.e. the plugin provided by the python-senlinclient package). The requests, after being preprocessed by the OpenStack SDK will contain a valid Keystone token that can be validated by the auth_token WSGI middleware.

  2. Users interact with Senlin service API directly by making HTTP requests where the requester’s credentials have been validated by Keystone so the requests will carry a valid Keystone token for verification by the auth_token middleware as well.

  3. Users interact with Senlin service API directly by making HTTP requests, but the requests are “naked” ones which mean that the requests do not contain credentials as expected by Senlin API (or other OpenStack services). In stead, the URI requested contains some special parameters for authentication and/or authorization’s purposes.

Scenario 1) and 2) are the most common ways for users to use Senlin API. They share the same request format when the request arrives at the Senlin API endpoint. Scenario 3) is a little bit different. What Senlin wants to achieve is making no assumption where the service requests come from. That means it cannot assume that the requester (could be any program) will fill in the required headers in their service requests. One example of such use cases is the Webhook API Senlin provides that enables a user to trigger an action on an object managed by Senlin. Senlin provides a special support to these use cases.

Operation Delegation (Trusts)

Since Senlin models most operations as “Actions” that can be executed by worker threads asynchronously, these operations have to be done on behalf of the requester so that they can be properly traced, authenticated, audited or logged.

Credentials and Context

A generic solution to the delegation problem is to ask users to provide their credentials to Senlin so Senlin can impersonate them when interacting with other services. In fact, this may be the only solution that can be applied on different cloud backends.

Senlin supports a context property for all “profile” types by default unless overridden by a profile type implementation. This context can be treated as a container for these credentials. Storing user credential in Senlin database does imply a security risk. In future, we hope Senlin can make use of the Barbican service for this purpose.

Senlin’s implementation of context is based on the oslo_context package. There is still room for improvement thanks to the new enhancements to that package.

Trusts: Dealing with Token Expiration

In some cases, the solution above may be impractical because after the client-side processing and/or the front-end middleware filtering, Senlin cannot get the original user credentials (e.g. user name and password). Senlin can only get a “token”, which expires in an hour by default. This means that after no more than one hour, Senlin won’t be able to use this token for authentication/authorization.

The OpenStack identity service (a.k.a Keystone) has considered this situation and provided a solution. When a requester wants to delegate his/her roles in a project to a 3rd party, he or she can create a “Trust” relationship between him/her (the trustor) and that 3rd party (the trustee). The “Trust” has a unique ID that can be used by the trustee when authenticating with Keystone. Once trust ID is authenticated, the trustee can perform operations on behalf of the trustor.

The trust extension in Keystone V3 can be used to solve the token expiration problem. There are two ways to do this as shown below.

  1. Requester Created Trusts: Before creating a profile, a requester can create a trust with the trustee set to the senlin user. He or she can customize the roles that can be assumed by senlin, which can be a subset of the roles the requester currently has in that project. When the requester later on creates a profile, he or she can provide the trust_id as a key of the context property. Senlin can later on use this trust for authentication and authorization’s purpose.

  2. Senlin Created Trusts: The solution above adds some burdens for an end user. In order to make Senlin service easy of use, Senlin will do the trust creation in the background. Whenever a new request comes in, Senlin will check if there is an existing trust relationship between the requester and the senlin user. Senlin will “hijack” the user’s token and create a trust with senlin as the trustee. This trust relationship is currently stored in Senlin database, and the management of this sensitive information can be delegated to Barbican as well in future.

Precedence Consideration

Since there now exist more than one place for Senlin to get the credentials for use, Senlin needs to impose a precedence among the credential sources.

When Senlin tries to contact a cloud service via a driver, the requests are issued from a subclass of Profile. Senlin will check the user property of the targeted cluster or node and retrieve the trust record from database using the user as the key. By default, Senlin will try obtain a new token from Keystone using the senlin user’s credentials (configured in senlin.conf file) and the trust_id. Before doing that, Senlin will check if the profile used has a “customized” context. If there are credentials such as password or trust_id in the context, Senlin deletes its current trust_id from the context, and adds the credentials found in the profile into the context.

In this way, a user can specify the credentials Senlin should use when talking to other cloud services by customizing the context property of a profile. The specified credentials may and may not belong to the requester.

Trust Middleware

When a service request arrives at Senlin API, Senlin API checks if there is a trust relationship built between the requester user and the senlin user. A new trust is created if no such record is found.

Once a trust is found or created, the trust_id is saved into the current context data structure. Down the invocation path, or during asynchronous action executions, the trust_id will be used for token generation when needed.

Senlin provides an internal database table to store the trust information. It may be removed in future when there are better ways to handle this sensitive information.