Default Service Role

bug #1951632

In Rocky, keystone added a default role hierarchy. This was part of a large initiative to improve RBAC across all OpenStack projects. Through the process of adopting the default roles implemented in Rocky, OpenStack developers and operators have acknowledged that several OpenStack service accounts have too much authorization.

This specification details the reasons for creating a new role called service and updating the default policies across OpenStack for service-to-service communication to use that specialized role.

Problem Description

Today, keystone-manage bootstrap provides three default roles, admin, member, and reader. These roles build a basic hierarchy, where admin implies member, and member implies reader. The rationale for this work is detailed in the original specification.

The admin role has the ability to do just about anything in the OpenStack deployment. Unfortunately, it’s used as catch all for authorization. This results in service users getting the admin role when they need to do a privileged operation in one service. In reality, this is poor security practice because that service account has the ability to do anything. It can create, update, and remove any resource in the deployment. A bad actor could easily use a compromised service account to create backdoor access to the deployment.

By applying the principle of least privilege to service users, we can harden OpenStack default security posture and reduce the surface area of administrative power.

Proposed Change

Expand the keystone-manage bootstrap utility to create a new role named service. Conflicts should be handled gracefully, especially since some policies in OpenStack rely on the service role already and it’s entirely plausible that operators have created this role already. Existing roles shouldn’t be deleted and then recreated, so that we don’t break anything relying on the role ID.

This role should be kept outside of the existing role hierarchy that includes admin, member, and reader. Those role definitions were created with humans in mind, and organized hierarchically to apply to hierarchical RBAC. Service-to-service communication is much more prescriptive in that service accounts only need to access a handful of APIs from other services. Building the service role outside the current hierarchy ensures we’re following the principle of least privilege for service accounts.

After keystone implements support for the service role, OpenStack service developers can start integrating it into their default policies.


We need to keep all the service-to-service APIs default to service role only and not to add any other role in logical or here. The idea here is to keep their default access to service role only. If any of the service-to-service APIs are used by admin or non-admin user then recommendation is to ask them to override the default in policy.yaml file instead of changing the default in code. There might be exception service-to-service APIs which project think are useful to be used by admin or non-admin user then they can take the exceptional decision to default them to user role and service role.

As we have dropped the system scope implementation for services, service to service communication with service role will be done with project scope token.

Additionally, any deployment tools that create service accounts for OpenStack services, should start preparing for these policy changes by updating their role assignments and performing the deployment language equivalent of the following:

$ openstack role add --user nova --project service service
$ openstack role add --user cinder --project service service
$ openstack role add --user neutron --project service service
$ openstack role add --user glance  --project service service
$ openstack role add --user manila  --project service service

Future Work Proposals

Service-Specific Default Roles

In a later release we could elaborate on this concept to create additional roles called compute-service, block-storage-service, network-service, image-service and so on. The service role could imply each of these roles and the policies for each service could be refined again to only allow access based on the service. This would require additional deployment tool intervention:

$ openstack role add --user nova --project service compute-service
$ openstack role add --user cinder --project service block-storage-service
$ openstack role add --user neutron --project service network-service
$ openstack role add --user glance --project service image-service

This would reduce the ability for service accounts to interact with APIs they don’t need.

Application Credentials

An alternative to service-specific default roles would be to use application credentials with access rules for each service. Each service would still have the service role, but it would be restricted to only access the APIs it requires using access rules.


We could rely on deployment tooling to deploy this role at installation time. However, that still opens the door for inconsistencies across OpenStack installers.

Adding formal support in keystone-manage bootstrap is cleaner, more consistent, and integrates with existing deployment tools without additional action required.

Security Impact

This new role is already used in some OpenStack policies. Using it initially will be better than granting service users the admin role.

Notifications Impact


Other End User Impact

This work doesn’t require any client code since it’s done using keystone-manager.

Performance Impact

This is a trivial change to add another row to the roles table. Performance impact is negligible.

Other Deployer Impact

If operators or deployers have a utility that creates a service role, then they can update that utility to remove that API call and they can rely on the functionality in keystone-manage bootstrap.

Developer Impact

Developers will have another role at their disposal for writing default policies. They should understand the proper usage of service and that it should only be used for service-to-service APIs.



Primary assignee:

<lbragstad> <abhishekk>

Work Items

  • Update keystone-manage bootstrap to create a new role called service

  • Add the corresponding service role to the administrator guide

  • Add the service role to the developer documentation

  • Add the service role to any OpenStack-wide documentation describing the secure RBAC personas


This work is required to move forward on a set of community-wide goals to improve authorization in OpenStack.

Documentation Impact

Listed above in the Work Items section.


Referenced inline.