Ephemeral storage encryption for LVM backend

Ephemeral storage encryption for LVM backend


The proposed feature will provide data-at-rest security for LVM backed, libvirt managed ephemeral storage devices attached to a VM instance.

Problem description

The current implementation of LVM ephemeral storage leaves user data vulnerable following instance shutdown, through disk block reuse (if data is not securely erased), improper storage media disposal and physical facility compromise.

For example, if a compute node goes down without properly disposing of the active instances, when it is restarted, the disk blocks that held pre-reboot instances’ data will be reallocated to new instances. Since LVM storage is not sanitized before allocation this, in principle, permits recovery of other users’ data.

Proposed change

User data can be protected against inadvertant disclosure by encrypting ephemeral storage disks with a unique key, accessible only via a secure key manager (most likely Barbican, currently in incubation) with proper credentials. The feature will be labeled optional until the status of Barbican key manager is finalized.

This feature is part of a larger effort to add ephemeral storage encryption to OpenStack.


It is unlikely there is another solution that would cover all the cases such unexpected compute node events, preventing proper instance shutdown, improper storage media disposal, etc., covered by ephemeral storage encryption.

For example, ephemeral disks could be sanitized before being attached to instances to prevent disclosure due to block storage reuse. However, this would not protect users’ data against improper storage media disposal. Moreover, data sanitization is expensive since the entire ephemeral disk, which can be sizeable, must be wiped.

REST API impact


Security impact

This feature will make LVM ephemeral storage more secure by providing data-at-rest security for user data.

  • A uniqe encryption key is created for each instance (or batch of instances in case of a batch launch) in compute.API._populate_instance_for_create() and stored securely using key manager (e.g., Barbican).

  • The key is retrieved, using its uuid and the user’s context, immediately before the ephemeral disk is created to minimize the exposure.

Potential security concerns:

  • Command cryptsetup will be added to the rootwrap filter.

  • User context will be passed to imagebackend.Lvm.create_image(), LibvirtDriver.create_swap() and LibvirtDriver.create_ephemeral() from LibvirtDriver._create_image()

Notifications impact


Other end user impact

Certain instance operations:

  • instance rescue

may not be immediately supported.

Performance Impact

The optional encryption layer imposes a roughly 10% performance penalty on ephemeral storage I/O performance, according to measurements performed with the Phoronix test suite on a single-node DevStack cloud.

Other deployer impact

  • LVM ephemeral storage encryption is controlled by 3 options collected in the ephemeral_storage_encryption options group. The name is deliberately generic since the same options could be used to control encryption for other backends.

    ephemeral_storage_encryption options group

    • enabled:Boolean – enables/disables LVM ephemeral storage encryption;

      default is False

    • cipher:String – cipher-mode string to be passed to cryptsetup; the set of

      cipher-mode combinations available depends on kernel support; default is aes-xts-plain64

    • key_size:Integer – encryption key length in bits; default is 512

    The default values have been chosen to provide a high level of confidentiality. (Note that in XTS mode only half of the key bits are used for encryption key.)

  • Encryption is implemented using the cryptsetup utility, which is available as a package on most Linux distributions.

Developer impact




Primary assignee:

Dan Genin <daniel.genin@jhuapl.edu>

Other contributors:


Work Items

Two of the three components comprising the feature:

have already merged in Icehouse.

The final remaining item is to actually add encryption to imagebackend.Lvm.


Depends on Barbican (https://review.openstack.org/#/c/94918/) for key management.

Depends on cryptsetup being installed.


We will work to implement Tempest tests for the feature. However, Tempest testing will require Tempest support for LVM backed ephemeral storage as well as Barbican for key management. These changes may take some time to implement.

Documentation Impact

Ephemeral storage encryption configuration options and its dependencies, namely dmcrypt/cryptsetup and Barbican, will have to be documented.



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