Denver III: Revenge of the Snowpenstack

YET AGAIN we returned to Denver, the city that brings snow and trains together. This time we were here not just for the Project Teams Gathering but also for the OpenStack Summit and Forum. Although the time allotment for all the activity this week was very compacted and our brains were fried before the PTG even started, the keystone team made good progress on several topics.

Forum Etherpad

PTG Etherpad

This recap will cover topics from both the Forum and the PTG, since many topics were touched on first at the Forum and then followed up upon during the PTG.

Application Credentials

Forum Etherpad

PTG Etherpad

We opened the Forum with a session on the next steps for application credentials, requesting broader input from the community before diving into the development details as a team at the PTG.

Access Rules

The first topic was the nearly-completed access rules (formerly "capabilities", formerly "white lists") feature for application credentials. The "Access Rules Config" (formerly "Permissible Path Templates") construct, which was a major point of contention during the initial draft of the spec, came as an unpleasant surprise to attendees at the Forum session, as it reduces the self-service nature of the feature, creates interoperability issues, and is partially redundant with policies. Curating a list of permitted access rules would also be impossible for the keystone team to do, since the number of APIs within OpenStack is unbounded and since keystone could potentially be used outside of an OpenStack ecosystem. As a team, we agreed to update the spec to defer this feature in this form, but to modify the data model of access rules to become individual objects in the database that can be queried and linked to application credentials after their initial creation, which will help with re-discovering an access rule after an application credential is deleted without needing to resort to reading documentation.

Regarding "Chained API Calls", in which e.g. POST /v2.1/servers requires additional API calls to other services from the nova user on behalf of the end user, we agreed that without a discovery model that allows users to find out the chain of requests that is initiated by the first request, requiring users to add rules to the app cred for every background API request poses a usability constraint on the user, so this is also deferred until we see a specific need for it in the field and have decided on some automatable way to discover the API call trace needed to create this chain in the access rule.

Regarding the role check on body key optimization, which is meant to address the actions APIs in nova and cinder which need different restrictions based on the action, we're concerned about special-casing this unique API which the teams involved may end up fixing anyway, so we agreed to let the access rules feature bake for a while before investigating the need for it again.

We also discussed adding support for a microversion range to the access rules, to address a potential case where the behavior of a method/path combination changes between microversions and needs to be restricted. Again, we will get the access rules feature merged and socialized for a while and allow some time to discuss the idea with the other services.

Renewable Application Credentials

We introduced the idea of renewable application credentials at the Forum, which is meant to address the issue that federated users who have role assignments only via mapped group membership currently cannot use application credentials since group membership is ephemeral, and if the role assignments on the application credential were made permanent in the database it could fall out of sync with the identity provider and open a vulnerability in which the application credential could be used after the user is deleted from the backing identity provider. The Forum attendees pointed out that this seemed like a band-aid over the real issue, which is that the shadow user implementation itself fails to account for deleted or modified users in the identity provider backend, and that pushing the fix into application credentials does nothing to address the core issue. We agreed during the PTG to push this TTL feature up to the user object, so that a user becomes disabled if they are not logged in for a while and application credentials cannot be used when the owner is disabled.

Automating Ownership

Operators and heat developers are unhappy with the amount of manual steps needed to maintain an application credential, from the above need to manually refresh the application credential (or user) to the long-debated inability to transfer or share ownership of an application credential. This came up in both the application credentials Forum session as well as the operator feedback session. During the PTG session, we discussed a potential way to implement this highly requested feature via something like "group app creds". Implementing this would a fundamental change in keystone's core structure, but it could be accomplished if we moved to having a kind of inheritable "principal" model. We're not anywhere close to that yet, so we plan to continue to advocate for and document the proactive rotation approach to dealing with application credential ownership changes.

Operator Feedback

Forum Etherpad

We had our usual catch-all operator feedback session in which we had the chance to speak directly with keystone operators about how they use keystone. The recurring hardship around defining a new role is still the top issue. The introduction of an OpenStack-wide read-only default role will help, but operators also want something like a project-manager role by default. This should already exist in Stein in the form of the admin role on the domain scope, and is also something that Adjutant handles. Many operators have independently implemented their own tools and scripts similar to Adjutant to help with managing keystone. The ability to delete project resources (discussed in another Forum session) and the ability to manage quota limits in keystone will help reduce the need for independent scripts.

We talked about multi-region/site deployments and about keystone federation. Some operators simply run one keystone that is shared to multiple regions. Others run completely independent keystones. The ideal case is to run federated or synchronized keystones across sites. Predictable or settable project and user IDs are explicitly requested to help make this type of deployment easier. We also got positive support for the Native SAML backlog spec, which would help operators to avoid relying on Apache for service provider configuration and allow them to delegate service provider configuration to domain administrators. It was also brought up that the SAML specification can allow for a callback that would help with automatically deleting shadow users when they are removed from the IdP backend, which is worth investigating but may not be universally implemented by all IdPs.

An interesting idea that was requested was to implement a keystone-only or keystone-and-swift-only dashboard to avoid the need for horizon. It sounds like it is difficult to decouple horizon from nova and so operators who use keystone just for swift authentication or for other non-OpenStack services have difficulty using horizon as the graphical UI for keystone. A dashboard like this should be relatively easy to implement now that we have replaced our controller and routing code with Flask. We have also already discussed adding some HTML support which would be necessary to implement SAML2.0 WebSSO.

Edge and Federation

PTG Etherpad

Edge computing continues to be a major topic in OpenStack. Although in theory autonomous identity servers, connected by federation and utilizing local application credentials for persistence, is a workable architecture for most Edge "MVP" models, we've failed to promote this architecture and still face the perception that keystone doesn't work for Edge and must either be changed or worked around, for instance using some kind of external broker as discussed in this presentation on "localization".

Predictable and Settable IDs

The concrete ask that keystone definitely does not address yet is for predictable or settable user and project IDs, which are needed to address issues of resource ownership for glance, swift, and possibly other services across autonomous sites. We have long rejected proposals to allow explicitly setting project IDs due to the threat of ID squatting and because it removes keystone's ability to control the unique ID, and in most cases operators don't want to have to come up with their own ID generation mechanism anyway. We would like to solve this problem by using IDs that are generated in a predictable way based on the name and domain name of the resource, but this doesn't solve the issue for older deployments.

We will still move forward with predictable IDs, although making this work for projects is tricky because names are mutable. One idea was to use a user-set secondary identifier as a kind of salt for the ID generator. Demand is also high enough at this point for settable IDs that there is probably no way around implementing this as well.


We also want to address X.509 authentication as a first-class federated authentication method to help support PKI-based identity providers like Verizon Media's (Oath's) Athenz. Verizon Media uses this as an Edge implementation but in their case they can tolerate network partitions, so supporting X.509 authentication is not really about supporting Edge but simply providing better federation coverage. In theory this should already work out of the box, but we need better CI and documentation for it.


Forum Etherpad

Keystone/Tempest Etherpad

QA Etherpad

Keystone Etherpad

Keystone/Nova Etherpad

As system scope and the reader role come closer to becoming a reality, we're starting to work with other teams to fully flesh out what these changes mean for OpenStack.

First of all, we need it to be tested. Keystone currently has hundreds of in-tree unit tests for policies, but we also need to work with the QA team on integration tests. Tempest will need new client personas, starting with system admin and project member, which would be essentially the same as the admin and non-admin personas tempest has now, and gradually add other personas like domain admin or system reader. Tempest itself does not need to provide 100% coverage for all nine default personas (system/domain/project admin/member/reader) as this could be covered by Patrole, but it does need to test some of the different behaviors that occur with different scopes and roles, such as filtered lists. For backwards compatibility, tempest's system admin persona will redirect to the old admin persona if the enforce_scope feature flag in tempest is toggled off.

Second, the nova team is working with us to be our policy guinea pigs and has created a spec for their policy overhaul. They will be working to remove the hard-coded is_admin database check in code and move toward using policy to check for the admin role and system scope. At the Forum, operators acknowledged that using the system scope would be a major change, but for the main example of live migration this is usually limited to operator-ish users already and so the number of users who would need to be re-trained is limited. At the PTG, we also discussed what default policies the nova project should provide, and advised that for some semi-special cases like wanting read-only plus live-migration, policy adjustments could be addressed in documentation rather than changing the defaults provided by nova.

For the keystone team, we need to wrap up our own policy overhaul. Along with that, we'd like to improve our in-tree testing, minimally by speeding up test setup time by using setUpClass but ideally by refactoring it into a generalized testing framework or pattern.

We also have been considering addressing the need for global admins to do project-specific operations, which system scope currently would not allow: an admin would have to use system scope grant to themselves a role assignment on a project and then get another project-scoped token to do an operation within the project. An alternative is to use the currently unexposed root domain with inherited roles to allow admin users to inherit a role assignments on any project. The admin would still need a project-scoped token but would not need to do a dance around granting and revoking their role assignment on the project. This would not be the same as impersonating another user, but it may also be useful to have some way of getting a "view" of another user and assuming their role assignments.


Forum Etherpad

Keystone PTG Etherpad

Cross-Project PTG Etherpad

We had a Forum session in which the keystone team, nova team, and operators could discuss the next steps for unified limits in keystone, especially with regard to the migration plan. We have never done a service-to-service migration before, so migrating limits from the nova database to the keystone database is new territory. We plan to implement an offline migration using the nova-manage utility to export limits to a file and keystone-manage to import them into the keystone database. Nova will also change their quota APIs to proxy to keystone as necessary so that operator tooling will continue to work. There are further details in the limits proposal for nova.

The migration plan is meaningless until we have an implementation in oslo.limit to consume the limits API from keystone. So far we have been unable to get traction on the design. We agreed that we need to land some code, any code, in order to be able to iterate on it, and that the initial implementation will be as simple as possible and not use context managers for managing race conditions.

Team Cycle Retrospective

We opened our PTG time with a cycle retrospective. There were a few major takeaways around planning work and empowering contributors.

We need to focus on breaking large work topics into small, independent tasks. We did a good job of this with the policy rework bugs. The Flask refactor was also split up well, though if we took on something like that again we should plan and track each unit of work. This helps spread the load of code and reviews across the team and encourages 20%-time contributors or new contributors to pick up chunks of work without needing to have a lot of background knowledge on the project or needing to commit a lot of time to finishing a massive initiative. We will discuss evolving the "low-hanging-fruit" bug tag to try to estimate size and difficulty of a given task.

Relatedly, we also want to continue to participate in Outreachy but we've been lacking good introductory tasks for applicants to complete as part of their application. If we can come up with enough bite-sized real-life tasks for applicants, then great, but we also discussed having a set of exercises for applicants to complete that would not necessarily ever be merged.

Another outcome was that we need to do a better job of planning and following up on work throughout the cycle. We often have ambitious cycle goals that peter out during the cycle or get deprioritized in favor of other work. For large scale refactors, like the Flask work or the token model refactor, we need to make sure we plan for it ahead of time and break it up into distributable chunks. We also will draw harder lines when it comes to due dates, and do regular check-ins through the cycle as well as a virtual midcycle to ensure we are keeping a cadence going, keeping motivation high, unblocking people sooner rather than later and reevaluating our overall direction. We'll also plan to revamp office hours by planning ahead of time what the topic will be so that we can make productive use of the time together outside of the regular meeting.

Technical Vision

Forum Etherpad

PTG Etherpad

The TC created a technical vision for OpenStack and requested that projects do a self-reflection against it. So far, only a few projects have done so, keystone among them. In the Forum session with the TC, it was clear that the TC had provided no incentive or urgency for projects to complete this self-evaluation. While the technical vision is in large part about evaluating new project additions to OpenStack, it is also useful for older projects, like keystone or nova, to go through this exercise and reaffirm that the direction we are moving in is in alignment with the overall technical direction of the OpenStack project, especially since our central role in the ecosystem means that we have helped set the direction from the beginning and our decisions continue to have a widespread effect.

In keystone's self-reflection document, we also included a mission statement, which we have tried to write for a while but had never found the right format for it. Now we have a starting point, though it is currently very brief. During the PTG, we discussed adding more wording about keystone being a discovery service, as well as highlighting multi-tenancy more in light of our focus on unified limits these past few cycles. We also discussed the possibility of mentioning something about resiliency, especially with regard to distributed architectures like Edge systems. We also may want to use the mission statement to mention our obligations to the OpenStack ecosystem due to our central role in it.

For the rest of the technical vision, we want to add something to address the "Bidirectional Compatibility" section of the TC document, since interoperability and discoverability is a high priority for us. We also want to personalize the document to keystone somewhat, by adding "secure by design" as part of keystone's project vision.

Cycle Plan

PTG Etherpad

Train Roadmap

We have another ambitious cycle planned. Our top goals will be to complete work started in past cycles, especially around policy, application credentials, MFA, and unified limits. We'll also be prioritizing federation and Edge-related work.

We also need to plan time to complete community goals, even though the TC has not approved all of the Train goals yet, and to complete technical debt cleanup such as cleanup and refactoring of keystonemiddleware.