Update on the AWS SSH key fetching issue

We have fixed the issue with key fetching and submitted the updated AMI for review. It passed the automated scan, but manual review and deployment to the marketplace will take some time.

The new AMI also includes updates for dnsmasq security vulnerabilities that will be included in 1.1.8. If you want to install those updates on 1.1.7 by hand, you can use these packages: http://dev.packages.vyos.net/tmp/dnsmasq/

Permission denied issues with AWS instances

Quick facts: the issue is caused by an unexpected change in the EC2 system, there is no solution or workaround yet but we are working on it.

In the last week a number of people reported an issue with newly created EC2 instances of VyOS where they could not login to their newly created instance. At first we thought it may be an intermittent fault in the AWS since the AMI has not changes and we could not reproduce the problem ourselves, but the number of reports grew quickly, and our own test instances started showing the problem as well.

Since EC2 instances don't provide any console access, it took us a bit of time to debug. By juggling EBS volumes we finally managed to boot an affected instance with an disk image modified to include our own SSH keys.

The root cause is in our script that checks if the machine is running in EC2. We wanted to produce the AMI from an unmodified image, which required inclusion of the script that checks if the environment is EC2. Executing a script that obtains an SSH key from a remote (even if link-local) address is a security risk since in a less controlled environment an attacker could setup a server that could inject their keys to all VyOS systems.

The key observation was that in EC2, both system-uuid and system-serial-number fields in the DMI data always start with "EC2". We thought this is a good enough condition, and for the few years we've been providing AMIs, it indeed was.

However, Amazon changed it without warning and now the system-uuid may not start with EC2 (serial numbers still do), and VyOS instances stopped executing their key fetching script.

We are working on the 1.1.8 release now, but it will go through an RC phase, while the solution to the AWS issue is needed right now. We'll contact Amazon support to see what are the options, stay tuned.

VyOS development digest #10

At last, there are some news. In the order of immediate importance...

1.1.8 release plan

There have been some uncertainty over this issue and it wasn't clear if we'll be able to make an 1.1.8 release or not with squeeze's death, but recently Kim and I got squeeze builds to work again, and this enables us to finally make one.

What's certain is that bugfixes from 1.2.0 are going to make it there. What's not yet certain is which features we should cherry-pic. OpenVPN user/password auth, for example, is definitely safe and well tested enough to bring it to 1.1.8.

1.2.0 development status

1.1.8, of course, is nothing more than a maintenance release. But, we are way closer to a full feature release now that, especially with the work done by two awesome contributors, namely Christian Poessinger and Jules Taplin. Among recent contrubutions are multiple fixes to IPsec operational and configuration mode (in particular, "show vpn ipsec sa" works properly now), correct deletion of VTI interfaces, and there's also work being done on integrating mDNS repeater.

1.2.0, Python, and code rewrites

This was already discussed in http://blog.vyos.net/vyos-2-dot-0-development-digest-number-7-python-coding-guidelines-for-config-scripts-in-1-dot-2-0-and-config-parser-for-vyconf and http://blog.vyos.net/vyos-2-dot-0-development-digest-number-5-doing-1-dot-2-x-and-2-dot-0-development-in-parallel

By now, the Python library is "beta" rather than "alpha" and it has already been used to rewrite the cron ("set system task-scheduler") scripts by Tania Dzyubenko and me.

The library is now a proper Python package and it's installed as vyos.config module. You can use it for VyOS scripting, as well as code rewrites.

It has also been moved out of the vyatta-cfg package. The package where the new rewritten code goes is https://github.com/vyos/vyos-1x

You can find the rewritten cron script here: https://github.com/vyos/vyos-1x/blob/current/src/conf-mode/vyos-update-crontab.py
As you can see, it's architecturally pretty different from the older scripts. You can find the guideline it's written according to here in the wiki: https://wiki.vyos.net/wiki/Python_coding_guidelines

The architecture boils down to this: all VyOS config reads are confined to one function that converts it into an abstract representation, the rest of the logic is split into separate "verify", "generate", and "apply" stages that, accordingly, verify config correctness, generate configuration files, and apply them to the live system.

I'll re-iterate the reasons for these changes:
  • Testability: if only one place in the code really needs VyOS to work, the rest can be test on developers' workstations and build hosts, by hand as well as with automated unit and integration tests
  • Easier syntax changes: same, redesigned syntax can translate to the same abstract representation or a modified version of it, and there will not be need to weed out hundreds instance of the old syntax all over the script
  • Transactional commits: if the config correctness checking stage is clearly separated, once all scripts are rewritten in this manner, it will be possible to implement commit dry-run and abort commits if an error is detected before any change to the live system is made, thus greatly increasing the system's robustness

Scripts written in this manner will be reusable in VyOS 2.0 once it's ready with little change, thus ensuring more gradual rather than radical rewrite.

2.0 style command definitions in VyOS 1.2.0

If you look into the vyos-1x package, you will notice that there are no command "templates". That's right.

As you remember, the future VyOS 2.0 and its config backend will not be using the old style command "templates" (bunches of directories with node.def files). There is no way to get rid of them in VyOS 1.x, but we still can abstract them away, thus enabling a more gradual rewrite in this area too.

There are multiple problems with those old style templates. They are notoriously hard to navigate even for experienced developers and are a repellent for newcomers. They are equally hard to syntax check and the only real way to find out if they have any chance to work is to install a package on a test VyOS instance and try them by hand.
And last but not least, they allow embedded shell scripts that further spread the logic all over and make debugging even harder than it already is.

New style templates are in XML. Before anyone says "why not JSON", tell me if JSON got a widely accepted schema language and its implementation (I'm aware of some attempts, but...). XML had been machine-verifiable for almost two decades already.
XML interface definitions for VyOS come with a RelaxNG schema (https://github.com/vyos/vyos-1x/blob/current/schema/interface_definition.rng), which is a slightly modified schema from VyConf (https://github.com/vyos/vyconf/blob/master/data/schemata/interface_definition.rnc) so the definitions will be reusable with very minimal changes.

The great thing about schemas is not only that people can know the complete grammar for certain, but also that it can be automatically verified. The scripts/build-command-templates script that converts the XML definitions to old style templates also verifies them against the schema, so a bad definition will cause the package build to fail. I do agree that the format is verbose, but there is no other format now that would allow this. Besides, a specialized XML editor can alleviate the issue with verbosity.

Right now that script is complete enough to produce the templates for cron, but there's still work to be done. For example, it doesn't support the "allowed:" statement used for command completion. Any testing and patches are greatly appreciated!

VyOS 1.2.0 repository re-structuring

In preparation for the new 1.2.0 (jessie-based) beta release, we are re-populating the package repositories. The old repositories are now archived, you still can find then in the /legacy/repos directory on dev.packages.vyos.net

The purpose of this is two-fold. First, the old repo got quite messy, and Debian people (rightfully!) keep reminding us about it, but it would be difficult to do a gradual cleanup. Second, since the CI server has moved, and so did the build hosts, we need to test how well the new procedures are working. And, additionally, it should tell us if we are prepared to restore VyOS from its source should anything happen to the packages.vyos.net server or its contents.

For perhaps a couple of days, there will be no new nightly builds, and you will not be able to build ISOs yourself, unless you change the repo path in ./configure options by hand. Stay tuned.

Phabricator migration

I know you are tired of this already, but... yes, you guessed it right, we are migrating the phabricator again!

This time we are moving it to the host that currently houses the wiki, a VM at OpenITC (thanks, Sean!). This should be the last migration for a long while. We plan to consolidate all web resources on that host: while this is not so good for redundancy, it's easier to manage. Since the blog is not hosted there, and we also have a twitter, we still have out of band channels to notify people about outages and resolution timeframe estimates, should that server ever failed.

Today we'll shutdown the phabricator to migrate all the data on the new host and re-deploy it there (it would be nice to put it in read only mode instead, but it currently doesn't have it, it's planned for future versions). We also need to reconfigure the web server for the new setup, so there may be short periods of downtime for the wiki too.

We'll notify you when migration is complete.

VyOS 2.0 development digest #9: socket communication functionality, complete parser, and open tasks

Socket communication

A long-awaited (by me, anyway ;) milestone: VyConf is now capable of communicating with clients. This allows us to write a simple non-interactive client. Right now the only supported operaion is "status" (a keepalive of sorts), but the list will be growing.

I guess I should talk about the client before going into technical details of the protocol. The client will be way easier to use than what we have now. Two main problems with CLI tools from VyOS 1.x is that my_cli_bin (the command used by set/delete operations) requires a lot of environment setup, and that cli-shell-api is limited in scope. Part of the reason for this is that my_cli_bin is used in the interactive shell. Since the interactive shell of VyConf will be a standalone program rather than a bash completion hack, we are free to make the non-interactive client more idiomatic as a shell command, closer in user experience to git or s3cmd.

This is what it will look like:

SESSION=$(vycli setupSession)
vycli --session=$SESSION configure
vycli --session=$SESSION set "system host-name vyos"
vycli --session=$SESSION delete "system name-server"
vycli --session=$SESSION commit
vycli --session=$SESSION exists "service dhcp-server"
vycli --session=$SESSION commit returnValue "system host-name"
vycli --session=$SESSION --format=json show "interfaces ethernet"

As you can see, first, the top level words are subcommands, much like "git branch". Since the set of top level words is fixed anyway, this doesn't create new limitations. Second, the same client can execute both high level set/delete/commit operations and low level exists/returnValue/etc. methods. Third, the only thing it needs to operate is a session token (I'm thinking that unless it's passed in --session option, vycli should try to get it from an environment variable, but we'll see, let me know what you think about this issue). This way contributors will get an easy way to test the code even before interactive shell is complete; and when VyOS 2.0 is usable, shell scripts and people fond of working from bash rather than the domain-specific shell will have access to all system functions, without worrying about intricate environment variable setup.

The protocol

As I already said in the previous post, VyConf uses Protobuf for serialized messages. Protobuf doesn't define any framing, however, so we have to come up with something. Most popular options are delimiters and length headers. The issue with delimiters is that you have to make sure they do not appear in user input, or you risk losing a part of the message. Some programs choose to escape delimiters, other rely on unusual sequences, e.g. the backend of OPNSense uses three null bytes for it. Since Protobuf is a binary protocol, no sequence is unusual enough, so length headers look like the best option. VyConf uses 4 byte headers in network order, that are followed by a Protobuf message. This is easy enough to implement in any language, so it shouldn't be a problem when writing bindings for other languages.

The code

There is a single client library that can be used by all of the non-interactive client and the interactive shell. It will also serve as the OCaml bindings package for VyConf (Python and other languages wil need their own bindings, but with Protobuf, most of it can be autogenerated).

Parser improvements

Inactive and ephemeral nodes

The curly config parser is now complete. It supports the inactive and ephemeral properties. This is what a config with those will look like:

protocols {
  static {
    /* Inserted by a fail2ban-like script */
    #EPHEMERAL route {
    /* DIsabled by admin */
    #INACTIVE route {

While I'm not sure if there are valid use cases for it, nodes can be inactive and ephemeral at the same time. Deactivating an ephemeral node that was created by scritp perhaps? Anyway, since both are a part of the config format that the "show" command will produce, we get to support both in the parser too.

Multi nodes

By multi nodes I mean nodes that may have more than one value, such as "address" in interfaces. As you remember, I suggested and implemented a new syntax for such nodes:

interfaces {
  ethernet eth0 {
    address [;;

However, the parser now supports the original syntax too, that is:.

interfaces {
  ethernet eth0 {

I didn't intend to support it originally, but it was another edge case that prompted me to add it. For config read operations to work correctly, every path in the tree must be unique. The high level Config_tree.set function maintains this invariant, but the parser gets to use lower level primitives that do not, so if a user creates a config with duplicate nodes, e.g. by careless pasting, the config tree that the parser returns will have them too, so we get to detect such situations and do something about it. Configs with duplicate tag nodes (e.g. "ethernet eth0 { ... } ethernet eth0 { ... }") are rejected as incorrect since there is no way to recover from this. Multiple non-leaf nodes with distinct children (e.g. "system { host-name vyos; } system { name-server; }") can be merged cleanly, so I've added some code to merge them by moving children of subsequent nodes under the first on and removing the extra nodes afterwards. However, since in the raw config there is no real distinction between leaf and non-leaf nodes, so in case of leaf nodes that code would simply remove all but the first. I've extended it to also move values into the first node, which equates support for the old syntax, except node comments and inactive/ephemeral properties will be inherited from the first node. Then again, this is how the parser in VyOS 1.x behaves, so nothing is lost.

While the show command in VyOS 2.0 will always use the new syntax with curly brackets, the parser will not break the principle of least astonishment for people used to the old one. Also, if we decide to write a migration utility for converting 1.x configs to 2.0, we'll be able to reuse the parser, after adding semicolons to the old config with a simple regulat expression perhaps.


Node names and unquoted values now can contain any characters that are not reserved, that is, anything but whitespace, curly braces, square brackets, and semicolons.

What's next?

Next I'm going to work on adding low level config operations (exists/returnValue/...) and set commands so that we can do some real life tests.

There's a bunch of open tasks if you want to join the development:

T254 is about preventing nodes with reserved characters in their names early in the process, at the "set" time. There's a rather nasty bug in VyOS 1.1.7 related to this: you can pass a quoted node name with spaces to set and if there is no validation rule attached to the node, as it's with "vpn l2tp remote-access authentication local-users", the node will be created. It will fail to parse correctly after you save and reload the config. We'll fix it in 1.2.0 of course, but we also need to prevent it from ever appearing in 2.0 too.

T255 is about adding the curly config renderer. While we can use the JSON serializer for testing right now, the usual format is also just easier on the eyes, and it's a relatively simple task too.

VyOS 2.0 development digest #8: vote for or against the new tag node syntax, and the protobuf schema

Tag node syntax

The change in tag node format I introduced in the previous post turned out quite polarizing and started quite some discussion in the comments. I created a poll in phabricator for it: https://phabricator.vyos.net/V3 , please cast your vote there.

If you missed the post, or found the explanation confusing, here's what it's all about. Right now in config files we format tag nodes (i.e. nodes that can have children without predefined names, such as interfaces and firewall rules) differently from other nodes:

/* normal node */
interfaces {
  /* tag node */
  ethernet eth0 {
  /* tag node */
  ethernet eth1 {

It looks nice, but complicates the parser. What I proposed and implemented in the initial parser draft is to not use any custom formatting for tag nodes:

/* normal node */
interfaces {
  /* actually a tag node, but rendering is now the same as for normal */
  ethernet {
    eth0 {
    eth1 {

This makes the parser noticeable simpler, but makes the syntax more verbose and adds more newlines.

If more people vote against this change than for it, I'll take time to implement it in the parser.

Note: This change only affects the config syntax, and has no effect on the command syntax. The command for the example above would still be "set interfaces ethernet eth0 address", in user input and in the output of "show configuration commands". Tag nodes will also be usable as edit levels regardless of the config file syntax, as in "edit interfaces tunnel; copy tun0 to tun1".

Protobuf schema

Today I wrote an initial draft of the protobuf schema that VyConf daemon will use for communication with clients (shell, CLI tool, and HTTP bridge). You can find it here: https://github.com/vyos/vyconf/blob/master/data/vyconf.proto

Right now it defines the following operations:

VyOS 2.0 development digest #7: Python coding guidelines for config scripts in 1.2.0, and config parser for VyConf

Python coding guidelines for 1.2.0

In some previous post I was talking about the Python wrapper for the config reading library. However, simply switching to a language that is not Perl will not automatically make that code easy to move to 2.0 when the backend is ready, neither it will automatically improve the design and architecture. It will also improve the code in general, and help keeping it readable and maintainable.

You can find the document here: http://wiki.vyos.net/wiki/Python_config_script_policy 

In short:

  • Logic for config validation, generating configs, and changing system settings/restarting services must be completely separated
  • For any configs that allow nesting (dhcpd.conf, ipsec.conf etc.) template processor must be used (as opposed to string concatenation)
  • Functions should not randomly output anything to stdout/stderr
  • Code must be unit-testable

Config parser for VyConf/VyOS 2.0

Today I pushed initial implementation of the new config lexer and parser. It already supports nodes and node comments, but doesn't support node metadata (that will be used to mark inactive and ephemeral nodes).

You can read the code (https://github.com/vyos/vyconf/blob/master/src/curly_lexer.mll and https://github.com/vyos/vyconf/blob/master/src/curly_parser.mly) and play with it by loading the .cma's into REPL. Next step is to add config renderer. Once the protobuf schema is ready we can wrap it all into a daemon and finally have something to really play with, rather than just run the unit tests.

Informally, here's what I changed in the config syntax.

Old config

interfaces {
  /* WAN interface */
  ethernet eth0 {
    duplex auto

New config

interfaces {
  ethernet {
    /* WAN interface */
    eth0 {
      address [;;
      duplex auto;
      // This kind of comment is ignored by the parser

As you can see, the changes are:

  • Leaf nodes are now terminated by semicolons rather than newlines.
  • There is syntax for comments that are ignored by the parser
  • Multi nodes have the array of values in square brackets.
  • Tag nodes do not receive any special formatting.

I suppose the last change may be controversial, because it can lead to somewhat odd-looking constructs like:

interfaces {
  ethernet {
    eth0 {
      vif {
        21 {

If you are really going to miss the old approach to tag nodes (that is "ethernet eth0 {" as opposed to "ethernet { eth0 { ...", let me know and I guess I can come up with something. The main difficulty is that, while this never occurs in configs VyOS config save produces, different tag nodes, e.g. "interfaces ethernet" and "interfaces tunnel" can be intermingled, so for parsing we have to track which ones were already created, and this will make the parser code a lot longer.

I'm pretty convinced that "address; address" is simply visual clutter and JunOS-like square bracket syntax will make it cleaner. It also solves the aforementioned problem with interleaved nodes tracking for leaf nodes.

Let me know what you think about the syntax.

VyOS 2.0 development digest #6: new beginner-friendly tasks, design questions, and the details of the config tree

The tasks

Both tasks from the previous post have been taken up and implemented by Phil Summers (thanks, Phil!). New tasks await.

First task was very simple: the Reference_tree module needs functions for checking facts about nodes, analogous to is_multi. For config output, and for high level set/delete/commit operations we need easy ways to know if the node is tag or leaf, or valueless, what component is responsible for it etc. It can be done mostly by analogy with is_multi function and its relatives, so it's friendly to complete beginners. But Phil Summers implemented it before I could make the post (thanks again, Phil!).

Second task is a little bit more involved but still simple enough for anyone who started learning ML not long ago. It's about loading interface definitions from a directory. In VyOS, we may have a bunch of files in /usr/share/vyos/interfaces such as firewall.xml, system.xml, ospf.xml, and so on, and we need to load them into the reference tree that is used for path validation, completion etc.

Design questions

To give you some context, I'll remind you that the vyconf shell will not be bash-based, due to having to fork and modify bash (or any other UNIX shell) to get completion from the first word to begin with, and for variety of other reasons. So, first question: do you think we should use the vyconf shell where you can enter VyOS configuration commands as login shell, or we should go for JunOS-like approach when you login to a UNIX shell and then issue a command to enter the configuration shell? You can cast your vote here: https://phabricator.vyos.net/V2 

Second question is more open-ended: we are going to printing the config as the normal VyOS config syntax, and as set commands, but what else should we support? Some considerations: since "show" will be a part of the config API, it can be used by e.g. web GUI to display the config. This means config output of XML or JSON can be a useful thing. But, which one, or perhaps both? And also we need to decide what the XML and/or JSON shouid look like, since we can go for a generic schema that keeps node names in attributes, or we can use custom tags such as <interfaces> (but then every component should provide a schema).

Now, to the "long-awaited" details of the config tree...