Making sense of Cloud Foundry security group declarations

Fri, May 22, 2015

Cloud Foundry allows fine grained declaration of security groups, down to IP address ranges and Ports. While this provides great flexibility, making sense of why each rule in a security group exists and what each does is really difficult because of the limitations of the security group declaration mechanism.

The Cloud Foundry command line tool allows the creation of security groups from JSON declarations. The create-security-group command works like so:

> cf create-security-group SECURITY_GROUP PATH_TO_JSON_RULES_FILE

The JSON file needs to declare an array of rules where each rule has the following structure:

   "protocol": "tcp",
   "destination": "",
   "ports": "3306",
   "log": true

In my Cloud Foundry environment, I have a security group assigned to a Space with the following declaration:


With only 3 rules in place, it is already confusing what service each rule is for and why they are there.

I believe this can be easily improved by allowing an extra field comment that provides context about each rule. With this in place, the rules will look like this:

  {"protocol":"tcp","destination":"<ip-foo>","ports":"3306", "comment": "Allow database connection to PostgreSQL at"},
  {"protocol":"tcp","destination":"<some-ip>-<another-ip>","ports":"55882", "comment": "Allow logging to"},
  {"protocol":"tcp","destination":"<ip-bar>","ports":"443", "comment": "Allow monitoring service at"}

As things stand, Cloud Foundry Cloud Controller does not allow any extra fields to exist in a rule. For example, the above declaration will cause an error while trying to create a security group.

> cf create-security-group sample-space-security-group spec.json

Server error, status code: 400, error code: 300001, message: The security group is invalid: rules rule number 1 contains the invalid field 'comment', rules rule number 2 contains the invalid field 'comment', rules rule number 3 contains the invalid field 'comment'

If JSON allowed comments, commenting would result in a slightly more readable declaration file, although it won’t be stored in the Cloud Controller database and hence won’t be available upon querying with cf security-group <security-group-name>. This is a moot point anyway, as JSON explicitly doesn’t allow comments. There are workarounds that involve minifying the JSON input before parsing the configurations, but I don’t think that is the right direction to head to.

I have filed a ticket against Cloud Controller to address this issue. It doesn’t look like a difficult feature to implement. Hopefully this is available in Cloud Controller soon.