Open Policy Agent with Torin Sandall

Policies define which users and applications can access and modify resources in a computer system.

In a file system, a user might have permission to read or write to a file. In a cloud infrastructure deployment, a user might have the rights to deploy a new server. One microservice may or may not have the necessary permissions to talk to another microservice. All of these are use cases where a “policy” defines the behavior within a computer system.

Policies in a company can be managed in a range of ways: configuration files, dashboards, and centralized permissions databases. A policy engine is a system for managing and automating the policy creation and deployment within an organization.

Microservices need to verify each request that comes in to ensure that the request has the correct permissions. To check those permissions, a microservice can contact the policy engine. The policy engine has all the information from the whole organization about who is allowed to do what. However, talking to the policy engine over the network can be a slow process.

Open Policy Agent is a deployable agent that can run as a sidecar next to a service, and check policies by looking inside of a cache. Torin Sandall is a core committer to the Open Policy Agent project, and he joins the show to talk about policy management, the Open Policy Agent, and the Kubernetes ecosystem (and surprisingly, WebAssembly).

Transcript

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