Refactor existing security support into a new PSEC framework


This RFC refactors the existing security support code into the new MCA infrastructure, creating a PSEC framework containing initial native and munge plugins.





Copyright (c) 2016 Intel, Inc. All rights reserved.

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The MCA infrastructure was added to PMIx to support the use of dynamic plugins. One such use-case provides the ability to easily extend support for additional security protocols to authenticate connections between the client and server. This RFC introduces the PSEC framework for that purpose, moving the existing code from the src/sec directory into two new plugins (“native” and “munge”).

Selection of the plugin to be used by a client is based on options provided by the server. When the server is called to setup a client’s environment, it will add an envar called PMIX_SECURITY_MODE containing the comma-delimited list of active PSEC plugins on the server.

Upon initial connection, the client will select its active plugin by picking the highest priority plugin whose name is contained in the list provided by the server. The client then passes the name of the selected plugin to the server during the connection handshake procedure, and the server selects the matching plugin to use with that client.

Legacy clients connect to the server via a separate rendezvous point. Thus, the server knows that any client connecting via that point will not provide the updated plugin information. In this case, the server has no choice but to take the default PSEC plugin, returning an error if the client is using a different protocol.

Tool connection cannot operate in quite the same manner because the tool, not having been spawned by the server, has no access to the server’s list of active plugins. Instead, the tool initiates its connection to the server and includes its list of available plugins. The server then picks the highest priority available plugin from that list, returning an error if no matching plugin is available.

The selected plugins are called whenever security operations need to be performed. Thus, each server-client pairing can support whatever security option they uniquely select.

Protoype Implementation

The PMIx library implementation is covered in the Add the PSEC framework pull request. The prototype has been tested against Open MPI as referenced in an upcoming pull request.


Ralph H. Castain
Intel, Inc.
Github: rhc54