Policy in code


For a while now there has been a desire to embed sane policy defaults in code and allow for a policy file to override them. This would allow deployers to only configure policies that they specifically want to override which could reduce the size and complexity of those files. It would also allow for generating a sample policy file which includes an exhaustive list of all policies.

Problem description

There are two issues being addressed here:

Given a deployed policy file it is not trivial to determine how much it differs from the defaults that a project expects. This is due to there not being an authoritative place to find all policies and their defaults. Some projects provide sample files but they’re not always exhaustive. And it’s not easy to diff a production policy file against the sample file after extensive modification.

Given an authenticated request context it is not possible to determine which policies will pass. This is because policy checks are ad hoc throughout the code with no central registry of all possible checks. And a policy file may not have all policies listed as some may be left to fallback to the default rule.

Proposed change

The proposal is that any policy that should be checked in the code can be registered with the Enforcer class, similar to how configuration registration is done. A new method for policy enforcement will be added which errors if the policy being checked has not previosly been registered. Current methods of policy loading from a file and policy checking will not be affected.

Registration will require two pieces of data:

  1. The rule name, e.g. “compute:get” or “os_compute_api:servers:index”

  2. The rule, e.g. “rule:admin_or_owner” or “role:admin”

Registration will optionally take a third piece of data:

  1. A description string. This can help guide admins with information on each policy.

The rule name is needed for later lookups. The rule is necessary in order to set the defaults and generate a sample file. The description can be added as a comment to policy sample files.

Registration will be done by passing a PolicyOpt class to Enforcer.register_rule or a list of PolicyOpt’s to Enforcer.register_rules.

As an example, based on how Nova might use this:

-- nova/policy/create.py

from oslo_policy import policy
from nova import policy as nova_policy

server_policies = [
                     description='Checked on POST /servers'),
                     description='Controls whether the forced_host '
                     'scheduler hint is allowed.'),
                     description='Checks if a volume can be attached '
                     'during instance create.'),
                     description='Checks if a network can be attached '
                     'during instance create.'),

policy_engine = nova_policy.get_policy()
# registration will error if a duplicate policy is defined

-- nova/api/openstack/compute/servers.py

from nova import policy

policy_engine = policy.get_policy()

def create(self, context):
    policy_engine.authorize('os_compute_api:servers:create', target, creds)
        # This would error because the policy is not registered
            'os_compute_api:servers:create_not_registered', target, creds)
    if volume_to_attach:
            'os_compute_api:servers:create:attach_volume', target, creds)

The proposed change to oslo.policy is that the Enforcer class will gain two new methods: “register_rule” and “register_rules”. These methods will process and store the registered policies. The “load_rules” method will be modified to merge rules loaded from policy files in with the registered defaults. Rules loaded from files will overwrite registered defaults.

An “authorize” method will be updated so that attempting to check against a rule that doesn’t exist will be an error. In other words the default rule loses its special status and is not a fallback for rules that are not defined. It will still remain as a reference for other rules to use.

A PolicyOpt class will be added which defines a policy to be registered. It will initially hold rulenames, rules, and descriptions.

Files to change:

  • oslo_policy/policy.py


Rather than modifying the Enforcer class in oslo_policy/policy.py a new Policy class could be added which handles registration and contains a new “authorize” method. The Policy class would mostly handle registration and storage of policies and would proxy to Enforcer for loading policy from files and handling the actual enforcement. Over time it may make sense to pull the loading of policy from files out of the Enforcer class and into Policy.

Impact on Existing APIs

A new “register” method will be added to the Enforcer class.

Security impact

There is no security impact from this change. The way that policies are enforced does not change, just where they’re loaded from.

Performance Impact

Registration of policies from code will have a slight peformance at the time of registration, but this should be no different than registering configuration options

Configuration Impact

There is no direct configuration impact from this change. This change will allow projects who have registered policies to not need a policy file in order to use those defaults. This will allow deployers to trim down, or remove, their policy files if they are running close to the defaults.

Developer Impact

It will not be required, but it will be encouraged, that projects switch to registering policy rules before using them. So developers will need to get in the habit of adding that registration before use, similar to adding a new configuration option.

Testing Impact

Unit testing should be sufficient here. This adds a new capability that can be used by other projects but it is not directly dependent on anything.



Primary assignee:


Other contributors:



Target Milestone for completion:


Work Items

  • Add a PolicyOpt class to oslo_policy/policy.py

  • Add a “register_rule” method to Enforcer for registration of rules

  • Add a “register_rules” method to Enforcer for registration of rules

  • Update Enforcer.load_rules() to merge registered rules with file loaded rules

  • Add an “authorize” method to Enforcer which functions like “enforce” but errors if the policy being checked has not been registered.




Nova would like to use this functionality.



Anticipated API Stabilization


Documentation Impact

The ability to register policy rules will be documented in developer facing documentation. Any deployer facing changes will be the responsibility of consuming projects to document as they switch over to using policy registration.




Nova spec for this capability: https://review.openstack.org/#/c/290155/


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode