LDAP - POSIX environment integration¶
The LDAP directory uses a hierarchical structure to store its objects and their attributes, this structure can be thought of as a N-dimesional object. In contrast to this, POSIX or UNIX environments use a flat UID and GID namespace of entities (users, groups, services, etc.) which can be thought of as a two-dimesional surface. There are different ways of representing a N-dimesional objects on two-dimesional surfaces, unfortunately this cannot be done without compromise.
This is a list of the LDAP object attributes that are significant in a POSIX
environment, managed via the
And a similar list, for the
These attributes are defined by the
posixGroupId LDAP object types. All of them are auxiliary , and can
be added to any LDAP objects in the directory.
Group membership should be defined by creating a
groupOfNames LDAP object
posixGroupId types and using the
attribute to specify the Distinguished Names of the group members.
User Private Groups can be defined by adding the
posixGroupId to a LDAP object, for example
inetOrgPerson. In this case the
gid attributes should
define the same name. Check the The posixgroupid schema documentation
for more details.
LDAP directory is commonly used in large, distributed environments as a global account and group database. Because of the long operational lifetime of these environments, counting in dozens of years or more, and issues with modification of UID and GID values in large environments, good selection of the UID/GID ranges reserved for use in the LDAP directory is a priority.
The systemd project has an excellent rundown of the UIDs and GIDs used on typical Linux systems in their documentation. You can also read the Debian FAQ answer that describes the default UNIX accounts and groups present on a Debian system. As an example of production UID/GID range allocation, you can check the UID/GID allocation page in the documentation published by the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.
For convenience, here's a summary of the UID/GID ranges typically used on Linux
hosts, copied from the
systemd documentation page:
|UID/GID||Purpose||Defined By||Listed in|
|61184…65519||Dynamic service users||
|524288…1879048191||Container UID ranges||
The factors taken into account during the default UID/GID range selection for the debops.ldap role are:
- Large number of UNIX accounts, both for normal users and applications, starting with 50 000+ entries, with UID/GID of a given account reserved for a lifetime. Yearly increase in the number of accounts being 1000-5000, for example in a typical university.
- Support for unprivileged LXC containers, which use their own separate subUID/subGID ranges in the same namespace as the LXC host. This implies that the selected UID/GID range needs to be half of maximum size supported by the operatimg system, or less, to allow for unprivileged UID/GID mapping on the LXC host.
- Support for User Private Groups defined in the LDAP directory, which allows easier collaboration between users. This means that each UNIX account requires its own private UNIX group, ideally with the same name as the account, and the same UID/GID number.
- Avoid collisions with existing UID/GID ranges used on Linux systems for local
UNIX accounts and groups, or those reserved by common applications like
systemd. This implies that the UID/GID numbers <1100 should be off-limits for LDAP directory to not collide with common desktop PC installations. Ideally the 0-65535 UID/GID range should be avoided altogether to allow for a continuous UID/GID range which makes randomized allocation easier.
With these parameters in mind, the 1879048192…4294967294 UID/GID range, highlighted in the table above, seems to be the best candidate to contain a reserved LDAP UID/GID range.
The debops.ldap role defines a set of Ansible local facts that specify the UID/GID range reserved for use in the LDAP directory. The range is somewhat arbitrary and users are free to change it or not conform to the selected UID/GID range in their environments, however the selected range affects other applications configured by DebOps roles, for example:
- the range of subUIDs/subGIDs used for unprivileged containers
- the minimum and maximum UID/GID from the LDAP directory included in the
- the range of UIDs/GIDs allocated randomly by account management applications that support this functionality
and so on. The Ansible roles that want to conform to the selected UID/GID ranges can access them via Ansible local facts:
To allow for consistent UID/GID allocation in User Private Groups, a separate UID/GID range at the start of the allocated namespace has been reserved to contain only groups. The UIDs/GIDs above this range should be used only for personal or service accounts with correspodning private groups of the same name and GID as the account. The group range is defined in Ansible local facts as well:
The selected LDAP UID/GID range (
2000000000-2099999999) allows for 100 000
000 unique POSIX accounts. The range reserved for groups
2000000000-2001999999) supports 2 000 000 unique groups. Users can
increase or decrease the group range inside of the maximum UID/GID range, but
going beyond that comes with a risk of exceeding the maximum UID/GID supported
by the operating system and Unforseen Consequences. The UID/GID ranges can be
divided further between different purposes, but that's beyond the scope of this
With the selected ranges, a set of subUIDs/subGIDs (
also possible, therefore this range should be safe to use inside of the LXC
containers. This unfortunately limits the ability to completely separate
containers using private subUID/subGID ranges for each of them, but since the
UID/GID numbers inside of the containers will belong to the same "entity" be it
a person or a service, the risk in the case of breach between LXC containers
should be minimized.
The POSIX environments permit duplicate entries in the
databases, that is entries with the same user or group names, or duplicate
UID/GID numbers. However, most of the time, only the first entry found in the
database is returned. This might cause confusion and hard to debug issues in
the environment, or even security breaches if not handled properly.
The various DebOps roles that automatically manage custom UNIX groups or
accounts, for example debops.system_groups, will check if the LDAP
support is enabled on a given host. If it's enabled, they will automatically
_ character to any custom UNIX accounts or UNIX groups created by
them, which will affect the user or group names, home directory names,
sudo rules, group membership, etc. The names of UNIX groups or
accounts present by default on Debian or Ubuntu systems (
other such cases) that are managed by these Ansible roles will not be changed.
For example, the local equivalent of the LDAP
admins group will be changed
_admins. Local UNIX accounts of the administrators (
user) will be
_user, and so on.
These changes will not be performed on already configured hosts if the LDAP support is enabled later on, to not create duplicate entries in the local user and group databases. In these cases, administrators are advised to either apply the desired modifications by themselves, or rebuild the hosts with LDAP support enabled from scratch.
Other DebOps or Ansible roles can also implement similar modifications to UNIX
user or group names of the applications they manage, but that's not strictly
required. LDAP administrators and editors should take care that the user
uid) and group (
gid) names don't clash with the UNIX user and group
names of different applications installed locally, to not cause collisions.