TripleO - Pattern to safely spawn a container from a container

TripleO - Pattern to safely spawn a container from a container

This spec describes a pattern which can be used as an alternative to what TripleO does today to allow certain containers (Neutron, etc.) to spawn side processes which require special privs like network namespaces. Specifically it avoids exposing the docker socket or using Podman nsenter hacks that have recently entered the codebase in Stein.

Problem Description

In Queens TripleO implemented a containerized architecture with the goal of containerizing all OpenStack services. This architecture was a success but a few applications had regressions when compared with their baremetal deployed equivalent. One of these applications was Neutron, which requires the ability to spawn long lived “side” processes that are launched directly from the Neutron agents themselves. In the original Queens architecture Neutron launched these side processes inside of the agent container itself which caused a service disruption if the neutron agents themselves were restarted. This was previously not the case on baremetal as these processes would continue running across an agent restart/upgrade.

The work around in Rocky was to add “wrapper” scripts for Neutron agents and to expose the docker socket to each agent container. These wrappers scripts were bind mounted into the containers so that they overwrote the normal location of the side process. Using this crude mechanism binaries like ‘dnsmasq’ and ‘haproxy’ would instead launch a shell script instead of the normal binary and these custom shell scripts relied on the an exposed docker socket from the host to be able to launch a side container with the same arguments supplied to the script.

This mechanism functionally solved the issues with our containerization but exposed some security problems in that we were now exposing the ability to launch any container to these Neutron agent containers (privileged containers with access to a docker socket).

In Stein things changed with our desire to support Podman. Unlike Docker Podman does not include a daemon on the host. All Podman commands are executed via a CLI which runs the command on the host directly. We landed patches which required Podman commands to use nsenter to enter the hosts namespace and run the commands there directly. Again this mechanism requires extra privileges to be granted to the Neutron agent containers in order for them to be able to launch these commands. Furthermore the mechanism is a bit cryptic to support and debug in the field.

Proposed Change


Use systemd on the host to launch the side process containers directly with support for network namespaces that Neutron agents require. The benefit of this approach is that we no longer have to give the Neutron containers privs to launch containers which they shouldn’t require.

The pattern could work like this:

  1. A systemd.path file monitors a know location on the host for changes. Example (neutron-dhcp-dnsmasq.path):


  1. When systemd.path notices a change it fires the service for this path file: Example (neutron-dhcp-dnsmasq.service):

Description=neutron dhcp dnsmasq sync service

  1. We use the same “wrapper scripts” used today to write two files. The first file is a dump of CLI arguments used to launch the process on the host. This file can optionally include extra data like network namespaces which are required for some neutron side processes. The second file is a timestamp which is monitored by systemd.path on the host for changes and is used as a signal that it needs to process the first file with arguments.

# When a change is detected the systemd.service above executes a script on the

host to cleanly launch containerized side processes. When the script finishes launching processes it truncates the file to start with a clean slate.

# Both the wrapper scripts and the host scripts use flock to eliminate race

conditions which could cause issues in relaunching or missed containers.


With Podman an API like varlink would be an option however it would likely still required exposure to a socket on the host which would involve extra privileges like what we have today. This would avoid the nsenter hacks however.

An architecture like Kubernetes would give us an API which could be used to launch containers directly via the COE.

Additionally an external process manager in Neutron that is “containers aware” could be written to improve either of the above options. The current python in Neutron was writtin primarily for launching processes on baremetal with assumptions that some of the processes it launches are meant to live across a contain restart. Implementing a class that can launch side processes via a clean interface rather than overwriting binaries would be desirable. Classes which supported launching containers via Kubernetes and or Systemd via the host directly could be supported.

Security Impact

This mechanism should allow us to remove some of the container privileges for neutron agents which in the past were used to execute containers. It is a more restrictive crude interface that allows the containers only to launch a specific type of process rather than any container it chooses.

Upgrade Impact

The side process containers should be the same regardless of how they are launched so the upgrade should be minimal.



Primary assignee:


Other contributors:


Work Items

# Ansible playbook to create systemd files, wrappers

# TripleO Heat template updates to use the new playbooks

# Remove/deprecate the old docker.socket and nsenter code from puppet-tripleo

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