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Provide user-configurable, pluggable authentication mechanisms for GeoServer.
Backwards Compatability

Proposed By

David Winslow

Assigned to Release



Under Discussion


This would allow users more control over GeoServer's behavior, in turn making GeoServer useful in more contexts.


I have been doing some thinking about pluggable security systems in GeoServer. (inspired mostly by Right now we have at least two "sections" of GeoServer which are guarded by different authentication mechanisms, but share a database for authorization. Everything is configured in an XML file that ends up in a JAR inside a WAR which doesn't really lend itself to pluggable security systems. That is, user-configurable pluggable security systems, as we already have a pretty flexible system with Acegi. However, right now all that's available to users ("users" at the moment being those willing to modify web.xml and some properties files by hand) is the option to assign roles and passwords to users, and to restrict either layers (if we include Andrea's recent work) or service methods to a subset of those roles. That is, there are three configuration sections relevant to security:

  • defines user, password, list of roles
  • defines layer, read/write, list of allowed roles
  • defines service, operation, list of allowed roles

There's also a suggestion ( to have a properties file defining access rules based on url and http method (so we can restrict operations in the REST API), so I'll add:

  • defines URL, HTTP method, list of allowed roles

What's not at all user-configurable right now is the authentication mechanism used to find out what user is accessing GeoServer. We just have the following hardcoded:

  • for the admin console, use an HTTP cookie, redirecting to a form if the cookie is not found OR if the user is not in the required role (which is also hardcoded).
  • for the OWS services, use HTTP basic auth, returning a 401 error when permission is denied.
  • for rest stuff, no authentication is implemented.

So we have GeoServer kind of divided into security 'zones;' the admin console is one; the OWS services are another, and the REST stuff (or maybe just the rest) constitutes a third. It might be nice for users to be able to define these zones themselves, but right now they seem pretty radically different in structure so that should probably wait until we have enough use cases to better define them. Each zone has not only its own authentication mechanism, but also its own type of restriction rules:

  • admin console: it's just 'you have to be in ROLE_ADMIN'
  • OWS service: layer+access or service+method -> list of allowed roles
  • REST API: URL+HTTP method -> list of allowed roles

For a first stab at pluggable authentication mechanisms, maybe it's sufficient to just let users set the mechanism for each of these zones individually; it could be as simple as including a set of parameters in web.xml that are expected to be class names of authentication plugins, something like





Likewise for REST_AUTHENTICATOR and ADMIN_AUTHENTICATOR. Bean names could work here as well. The default values would just emulate the current authentication system, and the current properties files would still be used for the authorization tasks.

In the long run though, it may be that users would like to be able to define their own zones (example use case: multiple REST plugins are provided that need to provide access to different clients; so you want to allow two different authentication mechanisms to clients using different subsets of the REST API). Since a zone as I've defined it is just a subset of GeoServer's functionality combined with an authentication mechanism and a type of rule, we could probably have just a file that looks something like:




Probably changes to the datadir should be minimized for 1.6.x and 1.7.x releases, but we could probably make even more drastic changes going into 2.0.  The properties files are probably all due for replacement with something more scalable as handling lots of datastores is one of the goals for 2.0, handling lots of different user accounts is probably in line with that.


This section should contain feedback provided by PSC members who may have a problem with the proposal.

Backwards Compatibility

If we define the rule filters such that they use properties files for configuration, then datadirs created before this functionality will still work (possibly requiring a file to be added). However, a more scalable solution may be in order anyway as one of the goals of the new configuration work for 2.0 is to support larger numbers of layers in a GeoServer instance.


Andrea Aime:
Alessio Fabiani
Justin Deoliveira:


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