Feature pages are design documents that developers have created while collaborating on oVirt.

Most of them are outdated, but provide historical design context.

They are not user documentation and should not be treated as such.

Documentation is available here.

The ovirt-provider-ovn security groups


This feature aims to implement the OpenStack Networking API security group in the ovirt-provider-ovn.

By doing so, we allow fine-grained access control to - and from - the oVirt VMs attached to external networks.

The Networking API v2 defines security groups as a white list of rules - the user specifies in it which traffic is allowed. That means, that when the rule list is empty, neither incoming nor outgoing traffic is allowed (from the VMs perspective).

A security group is applied to a logical port - a logical switch port in the OVN model.



  • Networking API: OpenStack RESTful Networking API
  • OVN: Open Virtual Network. OVN is an OVS (Open vSwitch) extension that brings Software Defined Networking to OVS.
  • oVirt OVN provider: a proxy that implements a subset of the Networking API and interacts with OVN.
  • Security group: container for security group rules; networking API entity
  • Security group rules: specify the access to a network resource; networking API entity

Benefit to oVirt

Currently, the only security mechanisms present for oVirt VMs attached to external networks are quite crude L2 and L3 protections - MAC spoofing, and IP spoofing - implemented directly by Open vSwitch.

Security groups, which are a traffic white list, complement provided security by specifying which traffic is allowed to and from the resources - e.g. ports - using high level abstraction L3 and L4 semantics.

Furthermore, security groups allow these rules to be applied in fine grained fashion - e.g. the user can specify which rules apply to which ports.

Below, you can find some use cases of this feature:

  • only allow incoming traffic to a specific VM from a specific CIDR
  • only allow incoming access to a range of destination ports in a set of VMs
  • only allow outgoing traffic to a specific port on a set of VMs

L2 protection is not in scope of the Networking API security groups.


  • Provide a security group implementation, using OVN as the backend. No additional backend / database should be used other than ovn’s northbound database.

  • When possible, Openstack neutron’s behavior should be mimicked: by default, all VM incoming IP and outgoing traffic is dropped. This behavior is better specified in the requirements section.


  • For ingress traffic (to a guest / VM)
    • Only traffic matched with security group rules is allowed.
    • When there are no rules defined, all ingress traffic is dropped.
  • For egress traffic (from a guest / VM)
    • Only traffic matched with security group rules is allowed.
    • When there are no rules defined, all egress traffic is dropped.
    • Rules allowing all egress IP traffic are automatically added to all groups.

Security groups description

Security groups, in the general sense, are meant to group together a list of security group rules. They are applied to logical ports, and thus are used to associate a set of rules to a port.

They are indeed a white list - meaning that everything is denied when the list is empty - to which the user adds rules allowing specific traffic. As long as one rule is matched, that particular traffic is allowed.

Security group rules can match on L3 and L4 parameters, specifically on the L3 protocol, the L4 protocol, and destination ports. The remote IP address is also a subject for the match conditions, and rules can be added to allow incoming and outgoing traffic.

The API of security group rules can be found here.

Security group filters are only applied to ports whose port_security_enabled attribute is set. By default, when a new port is created, and the user does not specify this attribute, it is created set to ‘True’, meaning that security group filters will be applied to it.

This causes all incomming traffic to the port to be dropped, until the user white-lists the intended traffic for that port.

To mimic openstack’s behavior, oVirt provides the Default security group. When the user creates a port having port security activated, but doesn’t feature security groups, the Default security group is automatically assigned to the port. This group allows all egress IP traffic from the VMs, as well as all ingress traffic from instances also belonging to the Default security group. This way, connectivity between the user VMs is assured for the default setting. Check the default security group ACL description for more information.

User interface

The user is meant to provision security group(s) and rule(s) through ansible, or using a REST client, targeting the ovirt-provider-ovn.

This greatly reduces the oVirt-engine impact, since there’s no need to implement the REST client side of the API, nor implement these changes in the GUI.

Throughout the remainder of the document, ansible will be assumed as the client, given its descriptive yaml syntax. The os_security_group and os_security_group_rules will be leveraged for this.

Despite the above, ManageIQ can be used as GUI to provision security groups and rules.

Activating the feature

The feature will be always active, and it is a matter of identifying the ports that will be subject to the security group filters.

As previously mentioned, the port-security attribute will be used to know if a port will be added to the deny-all port group, having all ingress IP traffic dropped as a consequence.

The port-security attribute is set at port creation time, and its value will be inherited from the corresponding network entity when not defined at port level. Afterwards, it can be updated through the API - at port or network levels.

The default behavior for the network’s port-security attribute would be defined in the configuration file, through the port-security-enabled, property, located in a new section, called NETWORK. As stated in the provider configuration README, the default value for that attribute is true.

Existing ports can later be updated, disabling the port-security attribute, which would remove the ACLs that drop all IP traffic to the VM.

As defined in the network port security attribute definition, updating the port-security attribute on a network object does not cascade the value to ports attached to that network - meaning that effect would only apply to ports created after that update. Check the upgrade section for the consequences of this requirement on ovirt-provider-ovn upgrades.

User workflow

Since the feature is active by default, the intended workflow - from the oVirt engine user’s perspective - is:

  • create an external network on the ovirt-provider-ovn - its default port_security_enabled value is true.
  • create VMs attached to this external network - they will inherit the port_security_attribute from the network, which will result in dropping all IP traffic to that VM.
  • the intended traffic will have to be white-listed. Assuming the user is interested in allowing ssh traffic, the following ansible tasks should be used, which creates one security group - for which a security group rule allowing all egress traffic is automatically created - plus one security group rule allowing ingress tcp traffic meant for port 22:

- os_security_group:
    cloud: ovirt
    state: present
    name: my_app_default
    description: allow ssh
    register: my_app_default_security_group

- os_security_group_rule:
    cloud: ovirt
    state: present
    security_group: ""
    direction: ingress
    protocol: tcp
    port_range_min: 22
    port_range_max: 22

  • finally, the user is required to update the ports, indicating which security groups apply to it. The following ansible task shows how a single port, referenced by name, is updated:

- os_port:
    cloud: ovirt
    state: present
    name: <port_name>
        - ""


The install time required updates are described in the section below.

After the upgrade, the newly created network’s port_security_enabled attribute will default to what’s set in the configuration file, which, unless changed by the user, is True.

On upgrades with existing VMs - having attachments to external networks - the ports will not be updated, and it will be up to the administrator to manually activate port security in the existent ports.

An existing external network’s port_security_enabled attribute will default to False, meaning that security groups will not be applied to newly created VMs attached to existing networks.

Updating the network’s port-security-enabled attribute will not cascade to the existent ports, as defined in the Networking API.

Design feature description

Mandatory security group creation

There are 2 types of required security groups, that are created automatically by the ovirt-provider-ovn, when certain events occur. They are:

  1. the deny-all security group, provisioned when the first port with the port-security flag activated is created, thus avoiding the need to create it beforehand, or during deployment. This group will contain the rules that drop all IP traffic. More information can be found in Activating the feature.

The ansible representation of this group is:

- os_security_group:
    cloud: ovirt
    state: present
    name: deny-all
    description: security group to drop all IP traffic

Initial rule creation

Since the Openstack Networking API is a white list, the deny-all related rules cannot be triggered from the API itself.

To avoid the need to create the rules beforehand, these ACLs will be provisioned when the first port having the port-security attribute enabled is created.

Missing pieces

Ansible port module missing port_security_enabled attribute

The ansible module currently does not support updating the port_security_enabled attribute for a port.

To provide the user an integrated experience, ansible should allow for that attribute to be updated.

A bug has been created to track this feature request. Its state can be followed here.

Mapping networking API to OVN model objects

The security group data will be modeled as a port group. This ovn-nb table is only available on Open vSwitch 2.10, released upstream August 20th 2018.

This new table maps a list of ACLs to a list of ports, thus eliminating the need to replicate the same ACL over and over, having the port in the match criteria as the only difference - this way, you match against a group of ports. More information can be found here and here.

Encoding the security group information

The security group information will be encoded in the port group object.

The description of the security group parameters is located at the networking api.

All the security group attributes will be stored in the corresponding port group external ids.

Encoding the security group rule information

The security group information will be encoded in the ACL object, to which it naturally corresponds in the OVN-world.

The description of the security group rules is located at the networking api.

OVN ACL table

An OVN ACL has the following attributes:

name type description
priority int Range from 0 to 32,767. The smaller the value, the higher the priority
direction string Either ‘from-lport’ or ‘to-lport’.
match string The match criteria for the ACL. All the L3-L4 information (protocol, ether protocol, ports, ip prefix) is encoded here. Directly relates to OVS matches.
action string Either ‘allow’, ‘allow-related’, ‘drop’, or ‘reject’. Currently, ‘reject’ behaves as ‘drop’.

Mapping the rules

Mapping is a two way game: it is needed to translate from a networking API security group rule to an OVN ACL, and from an OVN ACL to a networking API security group rule.

To achieve the latter, the information that is not directly encoded in the ACL - e.g. protocol, ethertype, ports (both min & max), security group id, remote ip prefix, and description - will be duplicated in the ACL external IDs.

As the software matures, (most of) this information can eventually be extracted from the ACL match clause, but, in the first implementation, the plan is to duplicate it.

The security group rule white list behavior will be implemented through the priority concept; throughout the code two different priorities will be used: a lesser priority for all ACLs having a deny action and an higher priority for all ACLs having allow or allow-related actions.

OVN ACL table & openflow pipeline relationship

Take into account that the ACLs entries will translate directly into openflow entries in the openflow tables in openvswitch.

Direction attribute

The direction attribute in the ACL has a very important impact in the openflow pipeline - in which stage of the pipeline processing will the rule be evaluated.

The OpenFlow pipeline consists of two different stages: ingress and egress.

ACLs having a ‘from-lport’ direction will be evaluated in the ingress stage, while ACLs having a ‘to-lport’ direction will be evaluated in the egress stage.

Priority hard-coding side-effect

Remember that there are only two different priorities used: one for all drop related ACLs, and another for allow related ACLs.

This means that return traffic from an allow-related flow cannot be changed through an ACL - since it would have a lower priority.

ACLs cannot be attached to all ports

Access to logical switch ports with router or localnet type cannot be controlled through ACLs.

The remote_group_id parameter mapping

The remote_group_id security group rule parameter provides the user a way to allow ingress/egress traffic for all the VMs attached to ports having that security group. It enables the user to leverage semantics like a rule allowing all ssh ingress traffic for members of the ops security group.

Furthermore, the default Openstack behavior is to create rules allowing ingress for all members of the security group at group creation time - including the default group. This implies that this parameter is key to fully mimicking how openstack behaves.

How to encode the remote_group_id parameter

The OVN address set tables will be used to encode the remote group id information.

The OVN address sets are - as per OVN documentation - a ‘a named set of addresses’.

Each address set can only feature one type of addresses - eth, ipv4, ipv6 - and will be used in the ACL match column. Examples of address sets being used in the match conditions can be seen below.

IPv4 match using address sets
match="ip4 && ip4.src == $set1"

IPv6 match using address sets
match="ip6 && ip6.src == $set2"

The address sets referenced above would look like:

ovn-nbctl create Address_Set name=set1 addresses=''
ovn-nbctl create Address_Set name=set2 addresses='2001:db8:0:0:0:0:2:1 2001:db8:0:0:0:0:3:1 2001:db8:0:0:0:0:14:1'

A reference to the associated port group will be stored on the address set’s external ids.

Remote group ID relevant events

The relevant events for the remote_group_id parameter - and the actions that take place on each event - are summarized below:

  • create security group
    • create address sets for the security group - one for ipv4, another for ipv6
    • create 2 ACLs allowing ingress IP traffic from that group
  • delete security group
    • the associated address sets are deleted
  • add port
    • add the port’s IP address to each of the security groups
  • update port
    • update the port’s IP in each of the security groups
      • remove from old groups, add to new groups
    • if ip changes, update the IP in all of the current groups
  • remove port
    • remove the port’s IP address from all security groups attached to it

These event will not be integrated in the following section, for simplicity reasons.

Relevant events

The relevant events for the security group feature are listed and explained below.

Add security group

Adding security groups is done out of band, using either the os_security_group module or a REST client. Through it, the user issues a request to create a security group.

The ovirt-provider-ovn translates the security group information into a port group object, encoding the security group information in the external ids column.

Create/update timestamps of the security groups are also implemented, thus enabling the Resource timestamps networking-api extension.

The security group also has a revision_number attribute - also stored in the external ids - that is bumped everytime a change is made to the security group - add / remove rules, update name or description.

A sequence diagram depicting the creation of a security group meant for holding rules to allow incoming ssh traffic is shown below.


Add security group rule

Adding security group rules is also done out of band, using the os_security_group_rules or sending its correspondent REST API request.

The ACL match condition is built from the ether_type, protocol, port_range_max, port_range_min, and remote_ip_prefix security group rules attributes.

All of those attributes are then stored in the ACL external_ids column - along with the description and security group id attributes.

The newly created ACL is then stored in the ovn-nb database, and its data is afterwards translated back into the networking-api syntax.

The security group rules also feature the resource timestamps extension, but the revision number will always be one, since we do not allow a rule to be updated.

A sequence diagram where a user adds - through ansible - a security group rule meant to white list ssh traffic to the security group ‘allow-ssh’ is shown below.


Attach a VM to an external network.

Please refer to the sequence diagram below to better understand this flow.

When a VM is attached to an external network, an ovn logical switch port is created. This port concept is already implemented in the ovirt-provider-ovn project, but does not allow it to be bound to security groups. That support will need to be implemented.

Whenever a port is created, if it has the port-security flag activated, the ovirt-provider-ovn will have to update the deny-all port group data, adding the new port to its list of ports. If that port group does not exist, it will have to be created, and the corresponding ACLs added to it. This port-security attribute is currently not supported in the ovirt-provider-ovn, and thus, will also have to be added to the API.

The list of ports for each of the port groups representing the security groups bound to the added ports will also have to be updated.


OVN ACLs on pre-set security groups

drop-all-ip implementing the deny-all security group

To achieve the intended deny-all behavior, a port group will be created when the ovirt-provider-ovn starts.

It will feature two ACLs, with the following data:

  • ingress rule
    • priority: DROP_PRIORITY
    • action: drop
    • direction: to-lport
    • match: inport == @<port_group> && ip
  • egress rule
    • priority: DROP_PRIORITY
    • action: drop
    • direction: from-lport
    • match: outport == @<port_group> && ip

NOTE: these rules will be filtered out by the API, because they are simply not featured in the Networking API. This means that a user listing all security group rules will not see the rules corresponding to the ACLs defined above.

Default security group

This group enables connectivity between all the VMs whose ports have this group set.

To do so, it features 2 ingress rules - allowing traffic from all the VMs whose ports belong to the Default security group - and 2 egress rules - allowing ip traffic to leave the VM.

To implement the ingress rules, the remote_group_id parameter is used.

Two rules are created for each direction: one for IPv4, another for IPv6.

It features four ACLs, with the following data:

  • ingress rules
    • rule #1 - IPv4
      • priority: ALLOW_PRIORITY
      • action: ALLOW
      • direction: to-lport
      • match: inport == @Default && ip4 && ip4.src == $pg_ip4_Default
    • rule #1 - IPv6
      • priority: ALLOW_PRIORITY
      • action: ALLOW
      • direction: to-lport
      • match: inport == @Default && ip6 && ip6.src == $pg_ip6_Default
  • egress rules
    • rule #1 - IPv4
      • priority: ALLOW_PRIORITY
      • action: ALLOW
      • direction: from-lport
      • match: outport == @Default && ip4
    • rule #1 - IPv6
      • priority: ALLOW_PRIORITY
      • action: ALLOW
      • direction: from-lport
      • match: outport == @Default && ip6

ovirt-provider-ovn API update

The following updates to the entities of the current API are required:

  • network
    • add the port_security_enabled attribute
  • port
    • implement the port_security_enabled attribute
    • implement the security_groups attribute
  • security groups
    • implement this entity, as described here
  • security group rules
    • implement this entity, as described here

Networking API extensions implemented


Feature dependencies

  • Open vSwitch 2.10 - port group table
  • python-ovsdbapp 0.12.1 - port group support, without openstack dependencies


The recommended tools to check this feature are ansible and ncat.

Ansible should be used to provision the security groups and the respective rules.

ncat should be used to check the ports on the VM are reachable.

There are 3 main tests:

  • test the default security group - deny all behavior
    • regression testing: assure the old behavior is kept when the feature is deactivated
    • incoming traffic is blocked when the feature is activated
  • test a user created security group - open ingress tcp port 22
    • create a new security group
    • create a new security group rule, similar to the one described in the user workflow section
    • assign that group to a port, as described in the the user workflow section
    • check that the only ingress traffic allowed is to port 22, protocol tcp.
  • test rule’s behavior
    • provision 3 different networks, and create one VM in each of those networks - e.g. Vm1 in net1, Vm2 in net2, Vm3 in net3.
    • each of the networks must have a subnet; define appropriate CIDRs in each subnet - e.g. sub1, sub2, sub3. The CIDRs should be,, and, respectively.
    • provision a router, adding the 3 networks to it.
    • add a rule allowing ICMP traffic only from the CIDR, and add it to the port belonging to Vm3. Vm3 will be the ‘destination’ VM, whereas VMs 1 and 2 will be the ICMP ping sources. Check that Vm1 is able to ping the destination VM, while Vm2 is not - because its source IP address does not belong to the allowed CIDR specified in the rule.

Documentation & External references

OpenStack Networking API specification

oVirt OVN integration

oVirt Provider OVN

RFE Provide support for adding security groups and rules using ovirt-provider-ovn