Make key manager interface interoperable with Barbican

URL to Launchpad blueprint:

The volume encryption feature added in the Havana release currently can only operate with a single key that is hardcoded in. A much more flexible and secure solution would be to generate and store keys in Barbican, a cohesive and secure Linux-based key management system, which is now in the OpenStack incubation process.

Problem description

Problem 1: The OpenStack Volume Encryption feature currently cannot provide its designed level of security due to the absence of a key management service. Only a placeholder is available now, which isn’t sufficient for the volume encryption feature to be used in an enterprise environment. Keys cannot be stored, and only one hard-coded key is presented for all volumes. The proposed outcome would provide the ability to create and safely store dedicated keys for individual users or tenants.

Problem 2: An ephemeral disk encryption feature supporting LVM was not accepted into the Icehouse release due to the lack of a key manager. For security reasons, since the disk is in close proximity to the virtual host, ephemeral disk encryption must use a key that’s safely stored outside of the virtual host environment.

An enterprise-grade key manager is needed for both cases, and Barbican (approved for incubation on 3/10/14) is becoming the default key manager that is slated to support OpenStack volume encryption, ephemeral disk storage encryption, and other potential security features. In order for Barbican to support these two storage encryption features, an interface between the existing key manager interface (nova/keymgr/ used for volume encryption and the Barbican key manager needs to be developed.

Proposed change

Create an interface that will call python-barbicanclient, allowing Barbican to securely generate, store, and present encryption keys to Nova in support of the volume encryption feature. The adapter will be a modification of the present key management abstraction layer in the volume encryption feature supporting block storage encryption on Cinder and ephemeral disk encryption.


Instead of implementing the existing key manager interface, python-barbicanclient could be invoked directly, but the additional indirection allows more extensibility if a different key manager needs to be integrated later.

Data model impact


REST API impact


Security impact

Use of a bonafide key manager greatly improves the security posture of the volume encryption and upcoming ephemeral disk encryption features. When each user or tenant use a unique key instead of a common key, and when it is stored in a separate server, it will be much more difficult for an attacker to access stored encrypted data owned by a user or group of collective users within a tenant.

Though the wrapper will be handling encryption keys, the security risk is considered minimal since the host must be trusted, and the wrapper is only holding the key temporarily.

Notifications impact


Other end user impact


Performance Impact

The additional storage write and read time to initially query Barbican for the encryption key should be negligible.

Other deployer impact

Assuming that Barbican is the default key manager, then no impact. If it’s not the default, then a configuration flag in Nova will need to be added.

Developer impact




Primary assignee:


Other contributors:

brianna-poulos bruce-benjamin

Work Items

Develop simple translation of existing key manager interface methods (e.g., get_key) into the corresponding python-barbicanclient calls.




Tempest testing should be performed to ensure that the wrapper works correctly.

Documentation Impact

The use of Barbican as the default key manager for the storage encryption will need to be documented.