Commit 5db88843 authored by Howard Chu's avatar Howard Chu
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Overlay API notes. work in progress, please comment.

parent 2c74b5db
slapd internal APIs
Frontend, backend, database, callback, overlay - what does it all mean?
The "frontend" refers to all the code that deals with the actual interaction
with an LDAP client. This includes the code to read requests from the network
and parse them into C data structures, all of the session management, and the
formatting of responses for transmission onto the network. It also includes the
access control engine and other features that are generic to LDAP processing,
features which are not dependent on a particular database implementation.
Because the frontend serves as the framework that ties everything together,
it should not change much over time.
The terms "backend" and "database" have historically been used interchangeably
and/or in combination as if they are the same thing, but the code has a clear
distinction between the two. A "backend" is a type of module, and a "database"
is an instance of a backend type. Together they work with the frontend to
manage the actual data that are operated on by LDAP requests. Originally the
backend interface was relatively compact, with individual functions
corresponding to each LDAP operation type, plus functions for init, config, and
shutdown. The number of entry points has grown to allow greater flexibility,
but the concept is much the same as before.
The language here can get a bit confusing. A backend in slapd is embodied in a
BackendInfo data structure, and a database is held in a BackendDB structure.
Originally it was all just a single Backend data structure, but things have
grown and the concept was split into these two parts. The idea behind the
distinct BackendInfo is to allow for any initialization and configuration that
may be needed by every instance of a type of database, as opposed to items that
are specific to just one instance. For example, you might have a database
library that requires an initialization routine to be called exactly once at
program startup. Then there may be a "open" function that must be called once
for each database instance. The BackendInfo.bi_open function provides the
one-time startup, while the BackendInfo.bi_db_open function provides the
per-database startup. The main feature of the BackendInfo structure is its
table of entry points for all of the database functions that it implements.
There's also a bi_private pointer that can be used to carry any configuration
state needed by the backend. (Note that this is state that applies to the
backend type, and thus to all database instances of the backend as well.) The
BackendDB structure carries all of the per-instance state for a backend
database. This includes the database suffix, ACLs, flags, various DNs, etc. It
also has a pointer to its BackendInfo, and a be_private pointer for use by the
particular backend instance. In practice, the per-type features are seldom
used, and all of the work is done in the per-instance data structures.
Ordinarily an LDAP request is received by the slapd frontend, parsed into a
request structure, and then passed to the backend for processing. The backend
may call various utility functions in the frontend to assist in processing, and
then it eventually calls some send_ldap_result function in the frontend to send
results back to the client. The processing flow is pretty rigidly defined; even
though slapd is capable of dynamically loading new code modules, it was
difficult to add extensions that changed the basic protocol operations. If you
wanted to extend the server with special behaviors you would need to modify the
frontend or the backend or both, and generally you would need to write an
entire new backend to get some set of special features working. With OpenLDAP
2.1 we added the notion of a callback, which can intercept the results sent
from a backend before they are sent to a client. Using callbacks makes it
possible to modify the results if desired, or to simply discard the results
instead of sending them to any client. This callback feature is used
extensively in the SASL support to perform internal searches of slapd databases
when mapping authentication IDs into regular DNs. The callback mechanism is
also the basis of backglue, which allows separate databases to be searched as
if they were a single naming context.
Very often, one needs to add just a tiny feature onto an otherwise "normal"
database. The usual way to achieve this was to use a programmable backend (like
back-perl) to preprocess various requests and then forward them back into slapd
to be handled by the real database. While this technique works, it is fairly
inefficient because it involves many transitions from network to slapd and back
again. The overlay concept introduced in OpenLDAP 2.2 allows code to be
inserted between the slapd frontend and any backend, so that incoming requests
can be intercepted before reaching the backend database. (There is also a SLAPI
plugin framework in OpenLDAP 2.2; it offers a lot of flexibility as well but is
not discussed here.) The overlay framework also uses the callback mechanism, so
outgoing results can also be intercepted by external code. All of this could
get unwieldy if a lot of overlays were being used, but there was also another
significant API change in OpenLDAP 2.2 to streamline internal processing. (See
the document "Refactoring the slapd ABI"...)
OK, enough generalities... You should probably have a copy of slap.h in front
of you to continue here.
What is an overlay? The structure defining it includes a BackendInfo structure
plus a few additional fields. It gets inserted into the usual frontend->backend
call chain by replacing the BackendDB's BackendInfo pointer with its own. The
framework to accomplish this is in backover.c. For a given backend, the
BackendInfo will point to a slap_overinfo structure. The slap_overinfo has a
BackendInfo that points to all of the overlay framework's entry points. It also
holds a copy of the original BackendInfo pointer, and a linked list of
slap_overinst structures. There is one slap_overinst per configured overlay,
and the set of overlays configured on a backend are treated like a stack; i.e.,
the last one configured is at the top of the stack, and it executes first.
Continuing with the stack notion - a request enters the frontend, is directed
to a backend by select_backend, and then intercepted by the top of the overlay
stack. This first overlay may do something with the request, and then return
SLAP_CB_CONTINUE, which will then cause processing to fall into the next
overlay, and so on down the stack until finally the request is handed to the
actual backend database. Likewise, when the database finishes processing and
sends a result, the overlay callback intercepts this and the topmost overlay
gets to process the result. If it returns SLAP_CB_CONTINUE then processing will
continue in the next overlay, and then any other callbacks, then finally the
result reaches the frontend for sending back to the client. At any step along
the way, a module may choose to fully process the request or result and not
allow it to propagate any further down the stack. Whenever a module returns
anything other than SLAP_CB_CONTINUE the processing stops.
An overlay can call most frontend functions without any special consideration.
However, if a call is going to result in any backend code being invoked, then
the backend environment must be correct. During a normal backend invocation,
op->o_bd points to the BackendDB structure for the backend, and
op->o_bd->bd_info points to the BackendInfo for the backend. All of the
information a specific backend instance needs is in op->o_bd->be_private and
all of its entry points are in the BackendInfo structure. When overlays are in
use on a backend, op->o_bd->bd_info points to the BackendInfo (actually a
slap_overinfo) that contains the overlay framework. When a particular overlay
instance is executing, op->o_bd points to a copy of the original op->o_bd, and
op->o_bd->bd_info points to a slap_overinst which carries the information about
the current overlay. The slap_overinst contains an on_private pointer which can
be used to carry any configuration or state information the overlay needs. The
normal way to invoke a backend function is through the op->o_bd->bd_info table
of entry points, but obviously this must be set to the backend's original
BackendInfo in order to get to the right function.
There are two approaches here. The slap_overinst also contains a on_info field
that points to the top slap_overinfo that wraps the current backend. The
simplest thing is for the overlay to set op->o_bd->bd_info to this on_info
value before invoking a backend function. This will cause processing of that
particular operation to begin at the top of the overlay stack, so all the other
overlays on the backend will also get a chance to handle this internal request.
The other possibility is to invoke the underlying backend directly, bypassing
the rest of the overlays, by calling through on_info->oi_orig. You should be
careful in choosing this approach, since it precludes other overlays from doing
their jobs.
One of the more interesting uses for an overlay is to attach two (or more)
different database backends into a single execution stack. Assuming that the
basic frontend-managed information (suffix, rootdn, ACLs, etc.) will be the
same for all of the backends, the only thing the overlay needs to maintain is a
be_private and bd_info pointer for the added backends. The chain and proxycache
overlays are two complementary examples of this usage. The chain overlay
attaches a back-ldap backend to a local database backend, and allows referrals
to remote servers generated by the database to be processed by slapd instead of
being returned to the client. The proxycache overlay attaches a local database
to a back-ldap (or back-meta) backend and allows search results from remote
servers to be cached locally. In both cases the overlays must provide a bit of
glue to swap in the appropriate be_private and bd_info pointers before invoking
the attached backend, which can then be invoked as usual.
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