Connecting Puppet Enterprise with external directory services

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Puppet Enterprise (PE) connects to external Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory services through PE’s role-based access control (RBAC) service. This allows you to use existing users and user groups that have been set up in your external directory service. Specifically, you can use PE to:

  • Authenticate external directory users.
  • Authorize access of external directory users based on RBAC permissions.
  • Store and retrieve the groups and group membership information that has been set up in your external directory.

The supported directory services are OpenLDAP and Active Directory.

User accounts that originate from an external directory are referred to as remote users. Users created in PE are referred to as local users.

You can add both remote and local users directly to user roles. In addition, when an external directory group is imported into PE and assigned to a user role, the remote users that belong to that group all become members of the user role. Remote users do not appear in the list of users in PE until they log into PE for the first time. When new remote users log in for the first time, they automatically gain any permissions assigned to user groups they are in.

External directory groups imported into PE are called user groups. Remote user groups are not bulk imported from an external directory service into PE. Instead, you explicitly import specific user groups from the directory service.

Note: The connection to your external LDAP directory is read-only. If you want to make changes to remote users or user groups, you need to edit the information directly in the external directory.

Connect to an external directory service

This section describes how to connect PE to your external directory service. PE only connects to the external directory service when a user logs in or when groups are imported. The table below provides examples of the settings used to connect to an Active Directory service and an OpenLDAP service. Each setting is explained in more detail below the table.

To connect PE to your external directory service:

  1. From the console, click Access control, and then click External Directory.

  2. Fill in the directory information as described in the following table. Note that the settings shown in the table are examples only. You need to substitute these example settings with the settings used in your directory service.

All of the fields are require,d except for Login help, Lookup user, Lookup password, User relative distinguished name, and Group relative distinguished name. If you do not enter User relative distinguished name or Group relative distinguished name, RBAC will search the entire base DN for the user or group.

Field Example Active Directory settings Example OpenLDAP settings
Directory name My Active Directory My Open LDAP Directory
Login help (optional) https://myweb.com/ldaploginhelp https://myweb.com/ldaploginhelp
Hostname myhost.delivery.exampleservice.net myhost.delivery.exampleservice.net
Port 389 (636 for LDAPS) 389 (636 for LDAPS)
Lookup user (optional) cn=queryuser,cn=Users,dc=puppetlabs,dc=com cn=admin,dc=delivery,dc=puppetlabs,dc=net
Lookup password (optional) The lookup user’s password. The lookup user’s password.
Connection timeout (seconds) 10 10
Connect using SSL? Select or leave unchecked (Note: To ensure a secure connection, you also need to set the ds-trust-chain) Select or leave unchecked (Note: To ensure a secure connection, you also need to set the ds-trust-chain)
Base distinguished name dc=puppetlabs,dc=com dc=puppetlabs,dc=com
User login attribute sAMAccountName cn
User email address mail mail
User full name displayName displayName
User relative distinguished name (optional) cn=users ou=users
Group object class group groupOfUniqueNames
Group membership field member uniqueMember
Group name attribute name displayName
Group lookup attribute cn cn
Group relative distinguished name (optional) cn=groups ou=groups

After you’ve filled in the External Directory form, click Test connection to ensure that the connection has been established. If you’re successful, a green Success message is displayed at the top of the form. Save your settings after you have successfully tested them.

Explanation of external directory settings

Directory name The name that you provide here is used to refer to the external directory service anywhere it is used in the PE console. For example, when you are viewing a remote user in the PE console, the name that you provide in this field is listed in the console as the source for that user. Set any name of your choice.

Login help (optional) If you supply a URL here, a “Need help logging in?” link is displayed on the login screen. The href attribute of this link is set to the URL that you provide.

Connection information

The settings in this section are used by PE to connect to your external directory.

Hostname This is simply the FQDN of the directory service to which you are connecting.

Port This is the port that PE uses to access the directory service. The port is generally 389, unless you choose to connect using SSL, in which case it is generally 636.

Lookup user (optional) The distinguished name (DN) of the directory service user account that PE uses to query information about users and groups in the directory server. If a username is supplied, this user must have read access for all directory entries that are to be used in the console. We recommend that this user is restricted to read-only access to the directory service.

If your LDAP server is configured to allow anonymous binding, you do not need to provide a lookup user. In this case, the RBAC service binds anonymously to your LDAP server.

Lookup password (optional) The lookup user’s password. If you supply this password, note that the password is not stored securely and may be viewed by anyone with the “View, edit, and test” permission for the directory service.

If your LDAP server is configured to allow anonymous binding, you do not need to provide a lookup password. In this case, the RBAC service binds anonymously to your LDAP server.

Warning: RBAC stores the lookup user’s password in plain text in the database, without obfuscation. If used, we strongly recommend that you improve security by ensuring that the lookup user has read-only access and carefully considering what other people and software could have access to this password.

Connection timeout (seconds) The number of seconds that PE attempts to connect to the directory server before timing out. Ten seconds is fine in the majority of cases. If you are experiencing timeout errors, make sure the directory service is up and reachable, and then increase the timeout if necessary.

Connect using SSL? Select if you want to use SSL to connect to the external directory. If you select this option, make sure you also specify the SSL port in the Port field above. In addition, to ensure that the directory service is properly identified, you need to configure the ds-trust-chain to point to a copy of the public key (PEM format) for the directory service.

Note: Several additional settings are currently only configurable through the ds endpoint of the RBAC API. These include support for StartTLS connections, the power to opt in or out of nested group search, and the ability to disable ldap_matching_rule_in_chain.

Base distinguished name When PE constructs queries to your external directory (for example to look up user groups or users), the queries consist of the relative distinguished name (RDN) (optional) + the base distinguished name (DN), and are then filtered by lookup/login attributes. For example, if PE wants to authenticate a user named Bob who has the RDN ou=bob,ou=users, it sends a query in which the RDN is concatenated with the DN specified in this field (for example, dc=puppetlabs,dc=com). This gives a search base of ou=bob,ou=users,dc=puppetlabs,dc=com.

The base DN that you provide in this field specifies where in the directory service tree to search for groups and users. It is the part of the DN that all users and groups that you want to use have in common. It is commonly the root DN (example dc=example,dc=com) but in the following example of a directory service entry, you could set the base DN to ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com since both the group and the user are also under the organizational unit ou=Puppet.

Example directory service entry

# A user named Harold
dn: cn=harold,ou=Users,ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: organizationalPerson
cn: harold
displayName: Harold J.
mail: harold@example.com
memberOf: inspectors
sAMAccountName: harold11

# A group Harold is in
dn: cn=inspectors,ou=Groups,ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com
objectClass: group
cn: inspectors
displayName: The Inspectors
member: harold

Attribute mappings

These settings tell PE which external directory attributes hold the metadata for users.

User login attribute This is the directory attribute that the user uses to log in to PE. For example, if you specify sAMAccountName as the user login attribute, Harold will log in with the username “harold11” because sAMAccountName=harold11 in the example directory service entry provided above.

The value provided by the user login attribute must be unique among all entries under the User RDN + Base DN search base you’ve set up. For example, say you’ve selected the following settings:

base DN = dc=example,dc=com
user RDN = null
user login attribute = cn

When Harold tries to log in, the console searches the external directory for any entries under dc=example,dc=com that have the attribute/value pair cn=harold. (This attribute/value pair does not need to be contained within the DN). However, if there is another user named Harold who has the DN cn=harold,ou=OtherUsers,dc=example,dc=com, two results will be returned and the login will not succeed because the console does not know which entry to use.

This problem can be solved in one of two ways:

  1. You can narrow your search base such that only one of the entries can be found. In this case, we could set the user RDN to ou=Puppet because the second Harold is not in that organizational unit.

  2. You can use a value for login attribute that you know to be unique. This makes sAMAccountName a good choice if you’re using Active Directory, as it must be unique across the entire directory.

User email address This is the directory attribute to use when displaying the user’s email address in PE.

User full name This is the directory attribute to use when displaying the user’s full name in PE.

Querying users

This setting is used by PE to query the directory service for users.

User relative distinguished name (optional) The user RDN that you set here is concatenated with the base DN to form the search base when looking up a user. For example, if you specify ou=users for the user RDN, and your base DN setting is ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com, PE only finds users that have ou=users,ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com in their DN.

This setting is optional. If you choose not to set it, PE searches for the user in the base DN (example: ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com). Setting a user RDN is helpful in the following situations:

  • When you experience long wait times for operations that contact the directory service (either when logging in or importing a group for the first time). Specifying a user RDN reduces the number of entries that are searched.
  • When you have more than one entry under your base DN with the same login value.

Note: It is not currently possible to specify multiple user RDNs. If you want to filter RDNs when constructing your query, we suggest creating a new lookup user who only has read access for the users and groups you want to use in PE.

Querying groups

These settings are used by PE to query the directory service for groups.

Group object class The name of an object class that all groups have.

Group membership field Tells PE how to find which users belong to which groups. This is the name of the attribute in the external directory groups that indicates who the group members are.

Group name attribute The attribute that stores the display name for groups. This is used for display purposes only.

Group lookup attribute The value used to import groups into PE. Given the example directory service entry provided above, the group lookup attribute would be cn. When specifying the Inspectors group in the console to import it, provide the name inspectors.

The value for this attribute must be unique under your search base. If you have users with the same login as the lookup of a group that you want to use, you can narrow the search base, use a value for the lookup attribute that you know to be unique, or specify the Group object class that all of your groups have in common but your users do not.

Note: If you have a large number of nested groups in your group hierarchy, or you experience slowness when logging in with RBAC, we recommend disabling nested group search unless you need it for your authorization schema to work. See the note in the RBAC API docs about performance and opting out of nested group searches.

Group relative distinguished name (optional) The group RDN that you set here is concatenated with the base DN to form the search base when looking up a group. For example, if you specify ou=groups for the group RDN, and your base DN setting is ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com, PE only finds groups that have ou=groups,ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com in their DN.

This setting is optional. If you choose not to set it, PE searches for the group in the base DN (example: ou=Puppet,dc=example,dc=com). Setting a group RDN is helpful in the following situations:

  • When you experience long wait times for operations that contact the directory service (either when logging in or importing a group for the first time). Specifying a group RDN reduces the number of entries that are searched.
  • When you have more than one entry under your base DN with the same lookup value.

Note: It is not currently possible to specify multiple group RDNs. If you want to filter RDNs when constructing your query, we suggest creating a new lookup user who only has read access for the users and groups you plan to use in PE.

Note: At present, PE only supports a single Base DN.

  • Use of multiple user RDNs or group RDNs is not supported.

Verify directory server certificates

If you select Connect using SSL when setting up your external directory connection, your connection to the directory are encrypted. If you would also like to verify the directory server’s SSL certificate to ensure that RBAC isn’t being subjected to a Man-in-the Middle (MITM) attack, you need to take the additional step of configuring a setting in your HOCON configuration file.

The RBAC service verifies directory server certificates using a trust store file, in Java Key Store (JKS) or PKCS12 format, that contains the chain of trust for the directory server’s certificate. This file needs to exist on disk in a location that is readable by the user running the RBAC service.

To turn on verification:

  1. From the PE console, go to Nodes > Classification, and click the PE Console node group.
  2. Click Classes and scroll down to the puppet_enterprise::profile::console class.
  3. Click the Parameter name drop-down list and select rbac_ds_trust_chain.
  4. In Value, set the absolute path to the trust store file.
  5. Click Add parameter and then click the commit button.
  6. To make the change take affect, run Puppet (puppet agent -t). Running Puppet restarts pe-console-services.

After this value is set, the directory server’s certificate will be verified whenever RBAC is configured to connect to the directory server using SSL.

Once your external directory has been connected to PE, see Working with user groups and users from an external directory service.

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