Role Based Access Control

Where SSL provides authentication when connecting to an OVS database, role based access control (RBAC) provides authorization to operations performed by clients connecting to an OVS database. RBAC allows for administrators to restrict the database operations a client may perform and thus enhance the security already provided by SSL.

In theory, any OVS database could define RBAC roles and permissions, but at present only the OVN southbound database has the appropriate tables defined to facilitate RBAC.


RBAC is intended to supplement SSL. In order to enable RBAC, the connection to the database must use SSL. Some permissions in RBAC are granted based on the certificate common name (CN) of the connecting client.

RBAC is controlled with two database tables, RBAC_Role and RBAC_Permission. The RBAC_Permission table contains records that describe a set of permissions for a given table in the database.

The RBAC_Permission table contains the following columns:

The table in the database for which permissions are being described.
Describes whether insertion and deletion of records is allowed.
A list of columns that are allowed to be updated.
A list of column names. One of the listed columns must match the SSL certificate CN in order for the attempted operation on the table to succeed. If a key-value pair is provided, then the key is the column name, and the value is the name of a key in that column. An empty string gives permission to all clients to perform operations.

The RBAC_Role table contains the following columns:

The name of the role being defined
A list of key-value pairs. The key is the name of a table in the database, and the value is a UUID of a record in the RBAC_Permission table that describes the permissions the role has for that table.


All tables not explicitly referenced in an RBAC_Role record are read-only

In order to enable RBAC, specify the role name as an argument to the set-connection command for the database. As an example, to enable the “ovn-controller” role on the OVN southbound database, use the following command:

$ ovn-sbctl set-connection role=ovn-controller ssl:


There is currently no pre-defined role for ovn-northd. You must configure a separate listener on the OVN southbound database that ovn-northd can connect to if your deployment topology require ovn-northd to connect to a OVN southbound database instance on a remote machine.

Pre-defined Roles

This section describes roles that have been defined internally by OVS/OVN.


The ovn-controller role is specified in the OVN southbound database and is intended for use by hypervisors running the ovn-controller daemon. ovn-controller connects to the OVN southbound database mostly to read information, but there are a few cases where ovn-controller also needs to write. The ovn-controller role was designed to allow for ovn-controllers to write to the southbound database only in places where it makes sense to do so. This way, if an intruder were to take over a hypervisor running ovn-controller, it is more difficult to compromise the entire overlay network.

It is strongly recommended to set the ovn-controller role for the OVN southbound database to enhance security.