GT 3.9.5 CAS: Developer's Guide


This document is an overview of the CAS server and its functionality. It is intended to help CAS administrators understand the features of the current implementation and throws light on permissions, assertion generation and querying capability in CAS.

[introduction to developers with reference to General Toolkit Developer's Guide for coding guidelines, porting guide, etc.]

Architecture and design overview

The server basically has users, actions and objects and policies governing the access to the objects for the users to perform specific actions. To better serve the requirements of a VO, the server allows grouping of users, actions and objects. This also facilitates specifiying policies about them with ease. The CAS server can be thought of as the front-end to a database that maintains state about such community permissions. The effect of each CAS request is either to modify this state or query it.

The server has two additional characteristics:

  • some query results are signed. Such signed results can be used for authorization at resources and other policy enforcement points that acknowledge such credentials.
  • the same database is used to maintain information to control authorization decision for the CAS server.

The following topics contain related information:

CAS Database Overview

The CAS database contains a number of tables to store information about users, resources (objects), actions and policies. This section describes each of those tables and their contents. The tables are categorized into tables used to identify and organize users in the database (trust_anchor, user and user_group), tables used to describe actions service_type, service_type_action, service_type_action_groups), tables used to describe and organize resources or objects (object, object namespace and object_group) and tables used to describe policies (policy_statement).

Tables relating to users

There are two categories of people in the CAS database, the trust anchors and the users. The users may further be placed in user groups and the granularity of operation in the CAS database, with respect to users, is user group.

trust anchor table
The trust_anchor table describes authorities that can generate credentials. It consists of tuples with {trust_anchor_nickname, authentication_method, authentication_data} tuples. In general, the meaning of one of these tuples is "database entries that refer to trust_anchor_nickname apply to the authority represented by authentication_data for authentication method authentication_method".
The current implementation supports the following contents in these fields: an authentication_method of "x509" and authentication_data is the certificate authority's CA certificate.
A trust_anchor_nickname uniquely identifies an authentication_method and authentication_data across the database.
For example, {globus_ca, x509, <contents of the globus CA cert> } associates the name globus_ca with the Globus CA certificate.
user table
The user table consists of {user_nickname, trust_anchor_nickname, subject_name} tuples, which map raw authentication information into the symbolic names that appear in CAS user specifications. The meaning of this tuple is database entries that refer to user_nickname apply to the user who authenticates as subject_name using the authentication mechanism and credentials generated by trust_anchor_nickname.
The current implementation supports a subject_name which is a X509 distinguish name of the user.
A subjectDN and trust anchor nick name uniquely identifies an entry in the user_table, that is there is a one to one mapping between a user nickname and the combination of subjectDN and trust anchor nickname.
For example, the tuple {user1, globus_ca, "/O=Globus/CN=User1 Name") means that the person who can authenticate using authentication method of the trust anchor globus_ca with subject name "/O=Globus/CN=User1 Name" CA has the permissions assigned to the user "user1" within the CAS database.
user group table
This table maintains a list of all user groups in the CAS database.
user_group_entry table
The user_group_entry table consists of {group, user} tuples implying that the specified user is a member of the group.

Tables to relating to actions

The database includes tables related to action specifications. Different services may define actions that have similar (or identical) names with different meanings and hence an action specification must include a service type in addition to the name of the action. The resource servers that receive CAS policy statements interpret the service types and actions. For example, a GridFTP server may honor policy statements that refer to the "file" service type and ignore policy statements for all other service types. In theory (because all this processing is done by the resource servers and not the CAS server), there's no need for the CAS server to keep track of allowable service types and actions. However, it is done to make it easier for administrators to detect and avoid errors while setting permissions.

The server also supports grouping of these service action mappings. Permissions may be granted to the service action groups or to a single service action.

service_type table
This table lists all the service types in the database.
service_type_action table
The service_type_action table consists of {service_type, action} tuples implying that the specified action is valid for the specified service type. For example, a {service_type, action} of {file, read} means that read is a valid action for the service type file. This mapping is represents as "serviceType/action" in the current implementation.
This table lists all the service action group names.
This table contains the following tuple (group, service/action). The tuple indicates that the service/action belongs to group.

Tables related to resources/objects

An object specification refers to an object or group of objects. An "object" may itself refer to either a single physical object (e.g., a file) or a collection of objects (e.g., all files within a directory). A given object is relevant within a namespace defined and the properties of the namespace apply to the object.
This table stores the following tuple (nickname, basename, comparisonAlg) implying that objects with in the namespace referred to as nickname in the CAS database are compared using the comparisonAlg and have a base URL(FIXME explain namespace better, correctly ?) of basename. A namespace uniquely identifies a single physical resource. For example, a namespace (ftpNS1,, wildcard) implies that all object names within the realm of this namespace, are to be compared using wildcard matching. Each comparison algorithm corresponds to a class with in the CAS server implementation an interface that defines routines for matching objects.

The current implementation supports exact match and wildcard matching. Objects are represented as "objectNamespace|objectName" in the current implementation.
object table
Stores the object name and the namespace that this object is in. For example, (/mydir/*, ftpNS1) implies that this object is within the ftpNs1 namespace, described above. Since this has wild card matching and hence /mydir/foo would match this object. CAS Objects can be either implicit, that is those that are inherent to CAS or explicit, that is objects on other resources about which policies may be stored in the CAS database. While implict objects maybe of many types, external objects are always represented as type "object".
implicit objects
It is sometimes convenient to treat some of the entities defined within the CAS server (such as users and groups) as objects. These implicit objects can be added to object groups and can appear in policy statements. Such policy statements govern access permissions to the CAS database. The types of implicit objects are:
  • A user (a reference to an entry in the user table).This is used when granting permissions such as "may unenroll this user"
  • A user_group (a reference to an entry in the user_group table). This is used to grant permissions such as "may add users to this group".
  • A service_type (a reference to an entry in the service_type table). This is used when granting permissions such as "may add actions to this service type";
  • An object_group (a reference to an entry in the object_group table). This is used when granting permissions such as "may add objects to this object group".
  • A namespace (reference to an entry in namespace table). This is used when granting permission like "may unenroll this namespace"
  • A trust anchor (reference to an entry in the trust_anchor_table); this is used when granting permissions like "may grant rights on this trust anchor"
  • The CAS server itself; this is used when granting permissions such as "may add new users to the CAS server". This is added at start up to the object_table.
object_group table
This table lists the names of object groups in the database.
object_group_entry table
The object_group_entry table consists of {object_group, objectSpecification, objectSpecDesc} tuples; the meaning of this tuple is that the specified objectSepcification of the type objectSepcDesc is a member of the specified object group. The objectSpecification could be an identifier for one of these objectSpecDesc, an object(implicit or explicit), user, user group, service type, namespace or trust anchor.

Tables relating to policy statements

The CAS server keeps track of policy statements, which are composed of three parts: a user specification, which denotes a user or set of users, an action specification, which denotes an operation (e.g., read a file) or a group of operation, and an object specification, which specifies an object or group of objects.

For example, if we were to specify a policy statement as an English sentence, "User1 may read", then the user specification would be "User1", the action specification would be "file/read", and the object specification would be In reality, the CAS server maintains this information as entries in database tables and translates it into a policy language when responding to a query.

policy_statement table
The policy_statement table consists of (userGroup, actionSpec, actionSpecDesc, objectSpec, objectSpecDesc) corresponding to the policy statement that implies:
A reference to an entry in user_group table.
A reference to an entry in service_action table or service_action_group table.
Either "serviceAction" or "serviceActionGroup" describing the actionSpec entry .
A reference to an entry in object table, object_group_entry table, user table, user_group table, service_type table, namespace table or trust_anchor table.
Either "object", "objectGroup", "user", "userGroup", "serviceType", "namespace" or "trustAnchor" describing the objectSpec entry.

Each statement implies that users who belong to the userGroup are permitted to perform the service/action or all service/action(s) in the serviceActionGroup on the specified object or all objects in the said object group.

CAS Permissions

A user (U) is said to have permission to perform service/action S/A on object (O) if there is a statement in the policy_statement table that meets these three conditions:

  1. The user element applies: U appears in the user table and the user element is either:
    • a user_group_specification referring to a user_group containing U,
    • or
    • the community_specification.
  2. The action element applies:
    • the action specification refers to service_type S and the action A.
    • the action specification refers to a service_action group that has service type S and action A as a member.
    • the action specification is superuser.
  3. The object element applies: it's either:
    • An object that "matches" O - that is, the appropriate matching function (based on the namespace that the object belongs to) applied to O and the object_name yields a match, or
    • An object group that contains an object that "matches" O.

CAS Requests

CAS requests can be broadly classified into administrative requests and query requests. Each CAS request requires some set of permissions. These permission are assessed by looking up the authenticated user in the user table, (to get the CAS nickname mapped to this user) and using that to check if the policy table has a permission defined for the operation as described in the previous section.

CAS Administrative Requests

Administrative requests typically modify the database and are used to add or remove CAS table entries.

  • Enroll or unenroll trust anchor
  • Enroll or unenroll user
  • Create or delete namespace
  • Create or delete objects
  • Create or delete service type
  • Add or remove service type/action mappings
  • Create or delete user, object or service action groups
  • Add or remove entries from any of the above
  • defined groups
  • grant or revoke permissions

The above request asserts permissions and performs the operation preserving the database consistency. For example, a policy can be defined (or right can be granted) only on objects that exist in the CAS database and so on.

Creation of any CAS object (like a trust anchor, namespace, object, user, service type, user group, object group, service_action group), allows the client to choose a user group, (irrespective of whether the client belongs to the group or not), to which all permissions on the newly created object is granted. In the case of the operation where the user creates a new user group, if the client chooses to grant all permissions to the newly created user group, then the user is added to the new group.

CAS Query Requests

Query request are classified into

  • requests that return assertions that are typically signed and can be used by the client to authorize with some resource.
  • requests that return information about the current state of the CAS database.

Assertion requests

The CAS server supports requests to retrieve policy information as signed policy assertion. These assertions can be presented at a resource by the client for authorization purposes. A policy assertion includes a list of policy statements, the distinguished name of the user that the permissions apply to, a validity period (a start and end time corresponding to when the assertion is valid), and is signed by the CAS server. Each of the requests for policy assertions takes a lifetime argument (the desired lifetime of the policy assertion, in seconds) and the following is done to generate them.

  1. The applicable user is identified as described here.
  2. Applicable set of policy statements for the user are identified as described here.
  3. If the set is not empty, policy assertion is created or else null is returned.
  4. The assertion lifetime is calculated as follows. If the requested lifetime is 0, the server's default lifetime is used, otherwise, the minimum of the requested lifetime and the server's maximum lifetime is used.
  5. The list of {service/action, object} permissions, the validity time (start time is the current time, end time is the current time plus the assertion lifetime), and the applicable user's subject name is formatted into a assertion.
  6. The assertion is signed and returned to the requestor.

In the current implementation, Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), standard defined by OASIS, is used for exchange of request for authorization assertions and response. OpenSAML, an open source implementation of the SAML 1.0 specification has been used as a utility to generate and process SAML Queries and Assertions.

The methods for the requests are:

This is a self request and any user in the CAS database can make this request. The set of policy statements is the complete set of the user's permissions, for all services other than the CAS service.
In this case, an additional argument specifies the requested user; the set of policy statements is the complete set of that user's permissions for all services other than the CAS service. This request requires cas/query or cas/superuser permission on the cas/server object.
This is a self-request and any user in the CAS database is allowed to make this request. In this case, the list of {service/action, object} permissions is determined as follows:

For each requested permission, if there is a policy statement granting the request in the CAS database, then the requested (service/action, object) is added to the returned assertion as a decision statement.

Assertion generation is done based primarily based on the objects. This has implications in the case of maximal assertion and user assertion generation, where all applicable polices are returned. The service restricts polices only based on objects and does not make a distinction on the service type. For example, if a non-implicit object has a CAS service type policy on it, that will be returned as a part of the assertion. Might be useful in case some other CAS server itself being treated as an external resource and the cas service types are used)

Public interface

The semantics and syntax of the APIs and WSDL for the component, along with descriptions of domain-specific structured interface data, can be found in the public interface guide.

Usage scenarios

[describe how to use the programatic interfaces of the component, provide examples]


[add links to any tutorials - if no tutorials, say "There are no tutorials available at this time"]

Feature summary

Features new in release 3.9.5

  • None

Other Supported Features

  • File-level access control for GridFTP
  • Issuance of SAML authorization decisions

Deprecated Features

  • None

Tested platforms

Tested Platforms for CAS

  • Windows XP
  • Linux (Red Hat 7.3)

Backward compatibility summary

Protocol changes in CAS since GT version 3.2

  • There is no backward compatibility with 3.2 because of the port from OGSI to WSRF.

API changes since GT version 3.2

  • None

Exception changes since GT version 3.2

  • None

Schema changes since GT version 3.2

  • WSDL reflects the port to WSRF from OGSI.

Technology dependencies

The CAS service depends on the following GT components:

  • WS Authentication and Authorization
  • Java WS Core

The CAS GridFTP authorization module depends on the following GT components:

  • Pre-WS Authentication and Authorization

The CAS service depends on the following 3rd party software:

  • OpenSAML

The CAS GridFTP authorization module depends on the following 3rd party software:

  • libxml

Security considerations

[describe security considerations relevant for this component]


[information on standard debugging]


[help for common problems developers may experience]

Related Documentation

[could link to pdfs and whitepapers about protocols, etc re: the component]