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Candid authentication for LXD

1. Overview

As you may know, LXD can both be used locally on your machine or remotely using its secure REST API.

In that mode, the default authentication method is an SSH-like private/public key exchange combined with an (optional) trust password that’s configured on the remote server to make adding new trusted clients easier.

Adding a trusted client involves either an administrator providing its public key for LXD to trust it or, more commonly, the administrator having set a trust password which is then used by the client to add itself to the trust store.

This works well when you have a limited number of clients and don’t need to add or revoke access very often.

But what if you’re in a more organized environment where you have a number of people and services that need access to a number of LXD servers and you need to be able to easily grant or revoke access, ideally by just managing group memberships in a central authentication system?

Well, that’s what LXD’s external authentication support through Candid is for.

It allows to setup an authentication gateway (candid) which connects your LXD servers to your existing authentication system.

Originally authored by Stéphane Graber

2. What you’ll learn

  • Install and setup Candid with basic local authentication
  • Overview of additional authentication methods supported by Candid
  • Setting up LXD to authenticated against a Candid server

3. What you’ll need

For this tutorial, all you’ll need is an Ubuntu 18.04 LTS system that you can install LXD on. This can be a virtual machine or cloud instance but can’t itself be a container.

The Candid server will be installed in a container on that system.

4. Installing LXD

Installing the LXD snap

For this tutorial, we want the latest stable release of LXD, not the LTS release.

The easiest way to get it is by installing the LXD snap with sudo snap install lxd

Expected output should look like:

2018-10-13T03:25:01Z INFO Waiting for restart...
lxd 3.6 from 'canonical' installed

Cleaning up any remnant of the LXD deb

And then have it migrate and cleanup any data from the pre-installed LXD with sudo lxd.migrate

Expected output should look like:

=> Connecting to source server
=> Connecting to destination server
=> Running sanity checks
The source server is empty, no migration needed.

The migration is now complete and your containers should be back online.
Do you want to uninstall the old LXD (yes/no) [default=yes]? 

All done. You may need to close your current shell and open a new one to have the "lxc" command work.
To migrate your existing client configuration, move ~/.config/lxc to ~/snap/lxd/current/.config/lxc

Basic LXD configuration

Finally, it’s time to get a basic configuration going with lxd init

Expected output should look like:

Would you like to use LXD clustering? (yes/no) [default=no]: 
Do you want to configure a new storage pool? (yes/no) [default=yes]: 
Name of the new storage pool [default=default]: 
Name of the storage backend to use (btrfs, ceph, dir, lvm, zfs) [default=zfs]: 
Create a new ZFS pool? (yes/no) [default=yes]: 
Would you like to use an existing block device? (yes/no) [default=no]: 
Size in GB of the new loop device (1GB minimum) [default=43GB]: 
Would you like to connect to a MAAS server? (yes/no) [default=no]: 
Would you like to create a new local network bridge? (yes/no) [default=yes]: 
What should the new bridge be called? [default=lxdbr0]: 
What IPv4 address should be used? (CIDR subnet notation, “auto” or “none”) [default=auto]: 
What IPv6 address should be used? (CIDR subnet notation, “auto” or “none”) [default=auto]: 
Would you like LXD to be available over the network? (yes/no) [default=no]: 
Would you like stale cached images to be updated automatically? (yes/no) [default=yes] 
Would you like a YAML "lxd init" preseed to be printed? (yes/no) [default=no]: 

For the purpose of this tutorial, all the defaults should be fine.

5. Installing Candid

Creating the Candid container

We’ll be creating an Ubuntu 18.04 container to run the Candid server. This is done with lxc launch ubuntu:18.04 candid

Expected output should look like:

Creating candid
Starting candid

Installing the Candid snap

At the time of writing, candid is only available in the edge channel.

First get a shell inside the container using lxc exec candid bash, then use snap install candid --edge to install the snap from the edge channel.

Expected output should look like:

2018-10-13T03:38:24Z INFO Waiting for restart...
candid (edge) v1.0.0-alpha4+git31.adea903 from 'rog' installed

And you can confirm that it’s running a minimal candid server by running ps aux | grep candidsrv

Expected output should look like:

root       692  0.0  0.1 237124 12480 ?        Ssl  03:38   0:00 candidsrv /var/snap/candid/683/config.yaml

Basic Candid configuration

Now it’s time to configure candid to be usable with our LXD server.

As we didn’t do any custom DNS setup and don’t have a domain we can use for this, we’ll just run Candid in http-only mode and using the container’s IPv4 address.

The configuration file is located at /var/snap/candid/current/config.yaml and should look like:

## Documentation can be found here:

## Server URLs and ports
listen-address: :8081
location: 'http://candid.lxd:8081'

## Persistent storage
# Defaults to non-persistent memory storage, install PostgreSQL or MongoDB
# and configure them below before using this service in production
  type: memory

#  type: mongodb
#  address:

#  type: postgres
#  connection-string: postgres://user:pass@localhost/candid

## Identity providers
# Configure this with whatever authentication system you're using
- type: static
  name: static
      name: User One
      password: password1
       - group1
       - group3
      name: User Two
      password: password2
       - group2
       - group3

## Logging
logging-config: INFO

## Authentication keys
public-key: oDbQFEs4Kv+KQnaYTowd8XTSpOqRr7UOi6jyUqxVA0k=
private-key: nm0E1c2TCaFUiE661XAmfU50XhIsPxsDFV679mQms9M=

# Don't change, snap-specific paths
access-log: /var/snap/candid/common/logs/candid.access.log
resource-path: /snap/candid/current/www/

Let’s go ahead and edit it, changing: - location from http://candid.lxd:8081 to http://<ip of container>:8081 - Doing any changes you want to the static accounts or configure it to use another authentication method

With that done, run snap restart candid to reload the configuration.

Make a note of both your location URL and the public-key, you’ll need them in a minute when configuring LXD.

6. Using Candid for LXD authentication

Configuring the LXD daemon

First lets configure our LXD daemon to use our newly setup Candid server. This is done by setting candid.api.url and candid.api.key in the daemon configuration. The candid.api.key option is only needed when your Candid server isn’t running at a HTTPs URL.

And we’ll also make our LXD daemon listen on the network as that’s how clients will connect to it.

lxc config set candid.api.url
lxc config set candid.api.key oDbQFEs4Kv+KQnaYTowd8XTSpOqRr7UOi6jyUqxVA0k=
lxc config set core.https_address :8443

Configuring the LXD client

On the client side, we’ll add a new remote to talk to our local server using Candid.

lxc remote add localhost https://localhost:8443 --auth-type=candid will add a new localhost remote for you talking to your local LXD using Candid for authentication.

Expected output should look like:

Certificate fingerprint: 44bb4b17a008b163b4ccb86fcf335cae974131787945866188aa859497ce0a94
ok (y/n)? y
Opening an authorization web page in your browser.
If it does not open, please open this URL:

At this point, if you’ve been following those instructions on a desktop machine, your web browser should open and show you a login page, if on a server, hit the URL you’ve been provided from a separate terminal using a text browser like w3m.

As soon as you’re logged in the browser, the client will notice and your remote will be added. You can list all your remotes with lxc remote list

Expected output should look like:

|      NAME       |                   URL                    |   PROTOCOL    | AUTH TYPE | PUBLIC | STATIC |
| images          |       | simplestreams |           | YES    | NO     |
| local (default) | unix://                                  | lxd           | tls       | NO     | YES    |
| localhost       | https://localhost:8443                   | lxd           | candid    | NO     | NO     |
| ubuntu          | | simplestreams |           | YES    | YES    |
| ubuntu-daily    |    | simplestreams |           | YES    | YES    |

You can now switch over to that remote by default and all interactions with LXD will be authenticated through Candid.

To switch your default remote over to the Candid one, use lxc remote switch localhost, then run lxc list to test it.

Expected output should look like:

|  NAME  |  STATE  |         IPV4         |                     IPV6                      |    TYPE    | SNAPSHOTS |
| candid | RUNNING | (eth0) | fd42:ead8:b0cb:8343:216:3eff:fe19:80ba (eth0) | PERSISTENT |           |

7. Conclusion

This tutorial should have gotten you setup with Candid and LXD in a pretty minimal and artifical environment.

For a production environment, you’d at least want:

  • Setup persistent storage in Candid (PostgreSQL recommended)
  • Setup a proper identity provider for your environment (LDAP, SAML, …)
  • Enable HTTPs
  • Setup a DNS record for your Candid server
  • Make Candid available to all your clients

With that, you can then add your Candid server to as many LXD servers as you want and users can add them as remote which will send them to authenticate using their browser and then give them access.

By default authentication tokens expire after 1 hour and will get auto-renewed by Candid. This allows for somewhat fast revocation of access without having to deal with constant re-authentication.

8. Further reading