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Re: [Pki-devel] The Why's of PKI

On 09/14/2011 10:18 AM, Chandrasekar Kannan wrote:
On 09/14/2011 10:00 AM, Andrew Wnuk wrote:
On 09/14/2011 09:10 AM, Chandrasekar Kannan wrote:
On 09/14/2011 08:42 AM, Andrew Wnuk wrote:
On 09/14/2011 05:31 AM, Chandrasekar Kannan wrote:
On 09/13/2011 05:48 PM, Andrew Wnuk wrote:
On 09/13/2011 06:41 AM, Adam Young wrote:
The Layout of the PKI project is very unusual for a Java Server application.

I'm trying to understand the rationale for some of the things that were done.

Why do we create a separate server instance for each subsystem?

Because each subsystem is a standalone server.

I'm not sure if it needs to be a stand alone server. It was designed and implemented as such starting 10 years ago. It might be very well be a separated name space uri inside the same tomcat instance.

They are standalone servers for reliability and availability reasons, so single tomcat failure is not going to knock down all your servers at the same time.

That is easily avoided by cloning...

Standalone servers are even more reliable with cloning. They are more modular and provide bigger flexibility in designing deployments. For example, ratio 1:1 between CAs and DRMs is not necessarily the best as we learned from big deployments.

(sorry, I missed "not" in the original answer)

As we know being modular provides flexibility _only at a cost_. The cost of deploying more and more instances is high and having to maintain them as well. Rather consolidating these "services" into one server seems like a good approach to me. When we start talking about 1:1, I start thinking along these lines..

- What good can a DRM do when its associated CA is offline anyways - it cant archive. So there goes 50% of its functionality.. - What good can a TPS do when its 1:1 associated services like tks,drm are offline. Might as well be a single server. - What good can a OCSP be when its associated CA is offline. Serve OCSP requests based on stale data?.

Redundancy is the only thing that can help If some subsystems are permanently offline. Deployments should be able to recover from situations where subsystems are temporarily offline.
Please open bugs if there are any issues in the recovery process.

IMHO this modular design has brought in unnecessary complexity to a PKI topology which could be simplified by consolidating these services together in a single container.

Is a  reason to continue doing so?

It provides great flexibility in deploying Certificate Server

The same level of flexibility can be achieved even with a single tomcat instance provided that instance configuration at install time takes care of tweaking stuff.

Is using different ports for CA and DRM (an so forth) merely an artifact of using multiple servers, or is there an additional reason to do so?

Pkicreate tool allows selecting any ports. Pkicreate also suggests ports for out of the box ease of use.

Do we expect the same user to have and user different certificates for different servers,

This is a matter of deployment strategy.

such that the certificate then becomes a union of authentication and authorization?

Certificates are the source of identity. Authorization is a separate process based on verified identity.

Is there a  reason to separate the CA and DRM Directory servers?

Protection of archived keys.

They could even stay protected - if there's a plan to consolidate.
In my mind Separation != protection.

Separation is not equal protection, but it allows to apply appropriate protection standards to specific data.

I'm yet to hear how it cannot be achieved otherwise when consolidated..

Is it a "best practice" to do so? What would be the implications of using a single instance for both?

Is there any reason why the CA uses an LDAP server instead of a Relational Database?

X509 certificates are using the same distinguished names as LDAP.
Many identity products are based on directories.
Provides very secure access options.
Provides robust replication over secure channel.

Do we expect people to make queries dircetyl against the CA DirSrv,


or is the Database best hidden from public view?

Why do we split the build process up into multiple Source RPMS?

  Is there a reason to maintain this split?

Are there design documents or discussions for these decisions?

Yes, please look for "Legacy Certificate Management System Website" on the internal CS wiki.

Sorry I dug through that pile. None answered the first question still so far for me. Why are these separate instances to begin with ?.

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