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V4/Community Portal

Work in progress
This document is not complete yet. However, if you have any comments, please feel free to discuss.

Name: V4/Community Portal
Ticket: #3613
Target version: TODO
Author: Derny
Incomplete.png Pending review
Last updated: 2016-06-3 by Mbasti


There are several use cases where the owners of a FreeIPA server might want to allow anonymous users to interact with the FreeIPA server, such as for self-service user registration. This proposal outlines a web application that can interact with the FreeIPA server on behalf of an anonymous user.

Source code: Community Portal on GitHub

Use Cases

Self-service user registration

If the FreeIPA server owner wishes to allow anonymous registration, the self-service portal allows users to input a set of preconfigured fields and submit them to the FreeIPA server, creating a staged user with these field values. An administrator can then review account sign ups and individually approve or reject accounts.


Community portal arch.png

Stand Alone Web Application

The self-service portal is designed as a stand-alone application that communicates with the FreeIPA server using only ipalib and the RPC. The server sees the self-service portal as it does any other client, and never needs to directly interact with anonymous users.

Self-Service Registration

Self-service registration is designed to make use of FreeIPA's new staged user feature. When users sign up for FreeIPA, the self-service portal calls the ipalib Python API to issue a stageuser-add command. Submission to the self-service portal is protected with a CAPTCHA. The user's input is then validated. If there are any errors in the user's inputs, the user is dropped back to the sign-up form with values pre-filled, and a message outlining the error is displayed. If the user's input is valid, then the command is sent and committed on the FreeIPA server, and the user is dropped to a completion page.

Administrator Notification

When a user has registered, the adminstrator is sent an email describing the new user. Confirmation or rejection of new users should be performed manually.

There is talk of using D-Bus to publish a notification that a user has signed up and then have another script subscribed to that notification actually dispatch the email/notice/carrier pigeon. I think this solution is over-engineered and will increase development time.


With the core framework of the Self-Service Portal built, the software should be easily extensible so that other self-service use cases involving the participation of an anonymous user, such as self-service password reset, can be covered.


The Self-Service Portal will be implemented as a stand-alone Python web application. User input will be taken via forms, and client-side scripting will be limited to visual enhancements only, in order to greatly simplify the application and ensure compatibilty.

The self-service portal will be configured to use a special user account on the FreeIPA server with very limited permissions, which means in the event that the Community Portal is compromised, the scope of the damage that can be done is limited to the authorized commands required by the portal. For the self-service registration, the only permission needed is the ability to execute "stageuser-add".

The portal will use the ipalib Python API to issue commands. Validation is performed entirely by the ipalib API, as well as the actual sending of the command over RPC.


The portal should be built using a Python web framework, in order to simplify development and avoid having to write code directly interacting with WSGI. A prototype is built in Flask, a lightweight Python web framework, but Flask's absence from the RHEL repos may mean an alternate choice is needed.

The pages themselves are rendered using the Jinja2 template engine.

Feature Management

The Self-Service portal exists almost completely decoupled from the FreeIPA core and by design cannot be interacted with via the FreeIPA WebUI or CLI.


The application will require some configuration to use. A user account on the FreeIPA server with the permissions required by the self-service portal (permission to perform stageuser-add) will need to be created. The self-service host server will need to be configured with Kerberos credentials so that it can access the FreeIPA server. Disabling the self-service portal in case of a breach or coordinated attack is as simple as shutting down the web application.

Scripts will be written to automatically configure and deploy the self-service portal.

How to Test

As a stand-alone application, unit and integration tests will be written, with the boundaries between the application and ipalib mocked out. No special testing configuration should be needed, and the application should fit in nicely with existing continous integration systems.