Allow copying unonwned images by policy

Currently Glance has a mechanism which allows a user to copy images between two (or more) backend stores. That only works for images that they themselves own, which covers many of the use-cases for the feature. However, considering different types of clouds, admins may want users to be able to copy images between stores that they do not own for the purposes of performance optimization and storage efficiency.

Problem description

Currently a user may only copy images that they own, and there is no way to allow otherwise. This may lead to anti-pattern behavior, such as downloading an image and re-uploading it so that it can be copied. Further, it may prevent optimizations, such as a user pre-copying a public image to a store for an edge site to improve boot time, and CoW re-use.

Specifically, Nova is working on a feature to automate storage efficiency improvements, which rely on this ability in many cases. Glance has supported multiple backend stores for some time, but Nova (specifically the ceph/rbd image backend) can only cooperate with Glance on a single ceph cluster. If multiple clusters are involved, the worst-case scenario is that Nova ends up downloading the image from Glance via HTTP and then uploads it to the ceph backing store as a private-to-the-instance base image. This results in a loss of fast-snapshot capability as well as massive storage inefficiency. See Nova spec for glance multistore capability.

Proposed change

Allow the copy-image import method to check policy for permission instead of hard-coding “is admin or owner” behavior. If granted by policy, use an admin context to kick off the actual import task on behalf of the requesting user.

Because the “is admin or owner” behavior is baked deep into many layers in Glance, enabling this requires some substantial work. As a part of this process, the import task will coalesce all image operations that may be delegated to a non-owner into a single location to aid in auditing. If and only if the policy grants this permission (which is only possible for copy-image) then an admin-capable ImageRepo will be provided to the task for use in image property manipulation.

When the copy-image operation is performed by a user other than the owner through this mechanism, it should be clear that the ownership of the image (and any new resources created in the process) remains unchanged.


  • One alternative is to just say “sorry, only owned images may be copied.”

  • Another alternative is to have Nova store Glance admin credentials, and effectively implement the policy check on their side, using an admin user to copy the image if and when necessary.

Data model impact


REST API impact

No new APIs or return codes are added. There is a small implied behavioral change in the form of users potentially being able to copy images they could not before.

Security impact

As with any policy change, there is a potential for unintentional granting of elevated permission to some users. Assuming the code is correct, this is no different from other policy knobs. The default policy for this operation will remain as “is admin or owner” so no actual change will happen unless the operator so elects.

There is also a potential impact with the use of an admin context for the operation which has more power to inflict damange or leak information than there would be otherwise. This effect is mitigated by the following design points:

  • The admin context is not passed to the import task, but rather used only to grab an admin-capable ImageRepo which is given to the task.

  • All of the related actions done as admin on behalf of the user are confined to a single “actions” object for easy auditing.

  • This is only (currently) applied to the copy-image import method, which means that (ideally) the maximum privilege escalation would be copying an image that the user can already see to a new backend store.

Notifications impact


Other end user impact


Performance Impact

No impact on Glance, but there is a net positive impact to the overall system in the case where Nova is able to use this feature to co-locate an image in the backend of a given remote site.

Other deployer impact


Developer impact

There are a number of changes to layers in the onion between the API and the task itself. This is mostly around the optional admin_repo argument that may be passed through gateway, proxy, and down to the task.



Primary assignee:


Work Items

  • Add tests that validate the current behavior which provide a measurement of the change as the feature takes shape.

  • Refactor the task creation code to allow passing an optional admin_repo from the API to the task.

  • Add a context.elevated() helper, like other projects have, which keeps the user’s context mostly whole but with admin privileges.

  • Refactor the api_image_import module to consolidate all image operations that will need to be delegated to the admin_repo if it is passed from the API.

  • Add a policy action for copy_image which is the primary knob by which an admin can enable this feature.

  • Update documentation for the copy-image method of image_import to explain the expectations of the admin, owner, and user delegate when non-owners are allowed to do this.




  • New functional and unit tests will be added before the actual changes are made to validate current behavior. Each patch along the way will modify or augment those to test the new behavior and ensure there are no regressions.

  • Nova will ultimately gain a test job that deploys multiple stores, including one rbd-backed store, and will initiate a copy-image import on behalf of a tempest ephemeral tenant that does not own the public cirros image.

Documentation Impact

Documentation is likely needed around the policy knob, explaining what it does, how to use it, and why an admin may want to use it.