Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Lori MacVittie, Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Java IoT, Microservices Expo

Java IoT: Article

Access Control in Multi-Tenant Applications

Defining "Who sees what" and "who does what" are the two important aspects of access control in any software application

Defining "Who sees what" and "who does what" are the two important aspects of access control in any software application.

"Security" is a much larger subject, but this article focuses on just the access control aspects of security in a software application.

The Older Paradigm: Roles and Page-Level Access Controls
When you build a custom application for a specific customer, the access control policies of the organization are often defined upfront as part of the requirements phase. Depending on the vertical, domain and the specific organizational structure of the business, first the roles are defined. And then each role is given access to a set of screens, forms, pages and reports. What role A sees might be different from what role B sees. What role A can do could be different from what role B is allowed to do. Of course, certain areas in the application can be accessed by multiple roles. While building software products (used by several customers), the roles are often generalized and predefined. The various access control policies of the product are often hard coded in to the roles. The customer will be able to assign one or more roles to their users.

The New Paradigm: Privilege-Based Access Controls
In the new paradigm, before doing any action (including showing something on the screen - which is the View action), you check / demand for the privilege to view that information or do a certain action. It could be standard actions such as view, edit and delete or special privileges such as "Access to History Data" or "Access to information or content created by people other than myself. In the new paradigm, a user / roles privileges are resolved during run time - not hard coded at design time. This allows the product developer to complete the development just by demanding the necessary privileges at each step, without having to worry about the users and roles in the system.

Mapping Privileges to Roles
By enumerating the various privileges (entity wise or form wise standard privileges as well as special privileges) in an administration screen, we can allow the end customer to map the privileges to any specific role, during run time. This takes care of dynamic changes in organizational policy. This also allows the end customer to create completely new roles (not originally envisaged by the product designer) dynamically during actual usage and map a set of privileges to these new roles using an admin screen.
For example in a HR product, the product might have default roles such as "Employee" and "Manager" whereas a customer may create a new role called "Team Leader" or "Mentor."

Subsequently, users can be assigned with one or more roles (including new custom roles). So when a user is using the system, the application can resolve who the user is, what his or her role is, what the privileges of the role are - all during run time. So before a particular action, the application can simply check whether the required privilege is available for the user and proceed. While this may seem little challenging from the software design/development front, it will bring in lot of flexibility for the customers.

Relationship-Based Privileges
Many a time, mapping privileges to roles and assigning roles to users is also not adequate. Let's illustrate this with an example:

[email protected] has logged in to a performance management product. She has been assigned the role of a "Manager" and a set of Privileges have been assigned to this role. For example she can add certain new skills in the skills master, which another user with an "Employee" role cannot do.

But the real challenge however is in defining what she can and cannot see and what she can and cannot do with respect to the performance appraisal ratings of various employees.

Out of the 300 people in the organization, userX, is a "Primary Manager" for 4 employees, "Co-Manager for 5 employees", "Mentor" for 5 employees, "Department Head for 40 employees", and "Peer" for 15 employees. She is not related to the rest of the employees in the organization (in the context of performance management).

The privileges of what each of these "Relationships" can and cannot do is different. For example, a Mentor can view performance ratings but cannot edit them. A Primary Manager can edit ratings, but cannot approve them. And a Department head can approve/disapprove ratings, but cannot edit them.

How can we allow userX to login in once, view all the employees related to her in a single grid, but restrict her access depending on the relationship between her and the employee on whom she is performing the action?

  • Step 1: Define relationships in a master: This could be added / edited by the end customer.
  • Step 2: Map each privilege to a set of relationships who are to be given this privilege.
  • Step 3: Resolve the relationship between the user and the employee during run time and accordingly deduce whether the user has or does not have the privilege to do an action.

Static Data Scope
Apart from defining what a role can or cannot do / see, we often also want to restrict the boundaries of the data that the user has access to. For example, "Can edit employee profile information - but - only for people in his division / department", "Can see salary details - but only for employees reporting to her or to her down the line reports". Another example is to say that the Sales manager can access leads / customers only from his territory.

These datascopes should not be hard coded in the product, but should be configurable by an end customer. For each role and privilege mapping, the data scope can also be mapped.

The meanings of these datascopes are defined as "Meta data" which are nothing but Filter conditions. These filter conditions should be dynamically applied on the data set being accessed during run time, depending on the role-privilege-data scope resolved for the user context.

Dynamic Data Scope
This is an extended form of data scope, where the variable being defined for the data scope is itself defined dynamically.

For example, an "HR Administrator" role assigned to "User A" should administer for employees in "Location, P, Q and R" and "HR Administrator" role assigned to "User B" should administer for employees in "Location S, T and V" - where the location itself is user defined by the end customer in a Location Master.

Or Finance Manager should be able see the books of Divisions "A, B, C and D" where the Divisions itself is user defined by the end customer in a Division master.

Multi-Tenant Access Control
When the roles, relationships, privileges, static and dynamic data scopes are user definable by the end customer, and when the sample application serves multiple customers / tenants (from a single instance of the application), then we need to store all these access control configurations - tenant wise. So during run time, we should not only resolve the data scopes-privileges-roles-users, but also apply the tenant context and look up the appropriate tenant specific access control settings, before deciding to allow or disallow a particular action in the application.

Privilege mapping should be possible at the field Level, entity Level, form Level and page Level, so that the end customer / tenant has absolute control and flexibility in defining and modifying "Who sees what" and "Who can do what" in the system.

Tying in Subscription/ License Control with Access Control
Different tenants/ customers/ user groups should be given access or denied access to different modules and features in the product. This depends on the package that they have bought (in a SaaS product) or based on the Organizational Policy (in a Private/ Internal SaaS product).

These modules and features have to be first defined as Meta data and the corresponding page level access controls have to be mapped to them. This will allow the product to hide or show certain menu items and links to users depending on the tenant context and the packages enabled for that tenant/ user group.

Usage-Based Quota and Access Control
Many a times tenants are allowed to use the product for a specific no. of users or for a specified quota of usage (For example can do XXX no. of market surveys). These transactions and events have to be metered in the product, and once the defined quota is exceeded, the access control system should deny access to any user belonging to that tenant / user group.

Summary
The Access Control Paradigm of a Multi-tenant Application/ SaaS Product, should enlarge its frame of reference to include extensive customizability and configurability to suit different customers and organizations while still maintaining a single instance and code base.

The engineering stack of a Multi - tenant SaaS product, should have a robust and flexible Access Control layer, so that all the dynamic and run time capabilities are handled at the framework level. The developer then can focus on building the business functions, follow the guidelines provided by the underlying framework and demand a privilege before doing any significant action.

More Stories By Sathiya Rajendhran

Ramkumar is the Founder and Director of Mango DVM, a venture capital funded company in the digital music space, currently going through a third round of funding. He is also the Director of Product Management at Asteor Software Inc, where he was instrumental in incubating and bringing to market two new software products (Techcello & Synergita). He is also the Director of RSR Innovations, a consultancy firm specializing on Strategic Marketing, Innovation and Leadership Development.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Ramkumar had spent over two decades in various corporates; in functions such as Automation Engineering, Project management, Product management, Marketing and General management.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Sharding has become a popular means of achieving scalability in application architectures in which read/write data separation is not only possible, but desirable to achieve new heights of concurrency. The premise is that by splitting up read and write duties, it is possible to get better overall performance at the cost of a slight delay in consistency. That is, it takes a bit of time to replicate changes initiated by a "write" to the read-only master database. It's eventually consistent, and it'...
The burgeoning trends around DevOps are translating into new types of IT infrastructure that both developers and operators can take advantage of. The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer thought leadership discussion focuses on the burgeoning trends around DevOps and how that’s translating into new types of IT infrastructure that both developers and operators can take advantage of.
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Thomas Bitman of Gartner wrote a blog post last year about why OpenStack projects fail. In that article, he outlined three particular metrics which together cause 60% of OpenStack projects to fall short of expectations: Wrong people (31% of failures): a successful cloud needs commitment both from the operations team as well as from "anchor" tenants. Wrong processes (19% of failures): a successful cloud automates across silos in the software development lifecycle, not just within silos.
A company’s collection of online systems is like a delicate ecosystem – all components must integrate with and complement each other, and one single malfunction in any of them can bring the entire system to a screeching halt. That’s why, when monitoring and analyzing the health of your online systems, you need a broad arsenal of different tools for your different needs. In addition to a wide-angle lens that provides a snapshot of the overall health of your system, you must also have precise, ...
Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco, described how to scale cloud-based content management repositories to store, manage, and retrieve billions of documents and related information with fast and linear scalability. He addres...
The following fictional case study is a composite of actual horror stories I’ve heard over the years. Unfortunately, this scenario often occurs when in-house integration teams take on the complexities of DevOps and ALM integration with an enterprise service bus (ESB) or custom integration. It is written from the perspective of an enterprise architect tasked with leading an organization’s effort to adopt Agile to become more competitive. The company has turned to Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) as ...
Monitoring of Docker environments is challenging. Why? Because each container typically runs a single process, has its own environment, utilizes virtual networks, or has various methods of managing storage. Traditional monitoring solutions take metrics from each server and applications they run. These servers and applications running on them are typically very static, with very long uptimes. Docker deployments are different: a set of containers may run many applications, all sharing the resource...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
It's been a busy time for tech's ongoing infatuation with containers. Amazon just announced EC2 Container Registry to simply container management. The new Azure container service taps into Microsoft's partnership with Docker and Mesosphere. You know when there's a standard for containers on the table there's money on the table, too. Everyone is talking containers because they reduce a ton of development-related challenges and make it much easier to move across production and testing environm...
Cloud Expo 2016 New York at the Javits Center New York was characterized by increased attendance and a new focus on operations. These were both encouraging signs for all involved in Cloud Computing and all that it touches. As Conference Chair, I work with the Cloud Expo team to structure three keynotes, numerous general sessions, and more than 150 breakout sessions along 10 tracks. Our job is to balance the state of enterprise IT today with the trends that will be commonplace tomorrow. Mobile...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
As the world moves toward more DevOps and Microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The Microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. Serverless computing is revolutionizing computing. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Raghav...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Am...

Modern organizations face great challenges as they embrace innovation and integrate new tools and services. They begin to mature and move away from the complacency of maintaining traditional technologies and systems that only solve individual, siloed problems and work “well enough.” In order to build...

The post Gearing up for Digital Transformation appeared first on Aug. 25, 2016 12:15 PM EDT  Reads: 1,381

SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration, and management solutions, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...
To leverage Continuous Delivery, enterprises must consider impacts that span functional silos, as well as applications that touch older, slower moving components. Managing the many dependencies can cause slowdowns. See how to achieve continuous delivery in the enterprise.