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Change format of SYSDB_NAME attribute for users and groups

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Problem statement

Currently the “name” (SYSDB_NAME) attribute for users and groups can be stored in different formats depending on domain configuration, in particular the full_name_format option. If the domain does not require fully-qualified domain names (FQDN), the name in SYSDB_NAME is stored without the domain portion (for example joe). If FQDN is required in the domain, then the domain portion is stored in the SYSDB_NAME attribute (for example The format in which the FQDN is stored is stored is also configurable in sssd.conf.

There are two major problems with this approach:

  • For admins - The format of data in sysdb is dependent on SSSD configuration. Changes in sssd.conf may render the cached data invalid, so admins have to remove the cache. In general, allowing an option that should purely control the output format to also control the database layout is a very bad idea.
  • For code maintainers - The code that deals with SYSDB_NAME attribute often contains conditions and multiple branches to treat the FQDN/non-FQDN names differently. This makes the code less readable and more fragile.

In addition, some features such as using only the name part for subdomain users are very hard to implement with the current code.

Use cases

As an Administrator, I would like an option to only output the short names of trusted AD users without the domain component.

As an Administrator, I would like to change the output name format without having the flush the whole database.

As a code maintainer, I need a predictable way to store user and group entries without special casing the name formats.

Overview of the solution

Always store SYSDB_NAME attribute for users and groups in special internal FQDN format that is not configuration dependent. The options use_fully_qualified_names and full_name_format should only be relevant for code that prepares data for user output. Internally, only the internal FQDN should be used.

Using a fully qualified name (as opposed to a non-qualified name) for all users is better to make it possible to use the memberUid and ghost attributes in our ldb cache for cases where a group stores members from multiple domains.

Implementation details

The new internal FQDN will have the following format: name@domain. The name portion will retain the original case, while the domain portion will be normalized as lower-case. The SYSDB_ALIAS attribute will have the same format, but lowercased. The database will not store the shortname for users and groups at all, but the code would parse the shortname if needed. This is acceptable because the shortname would only be needed during interaction with outside of SSSD, such as creating filters or during output.

The name that SSSD receives from the client libraries would be converted to the internal format when a responder loops over a domain, much like we normalize the case at the moment. The back end would receive the qualified name as part of the be_req structure already and internally would work with the qualified name only except places where we need to use the name portion only (such as when constructing an LDAP filter).

All functions that work with user and/or group names should be modified to accept this format.

When working on the conversion, care must be taken to not tie the code to any particular format, but always use functions to create or parse the internal name. This could be tested by changing the functions to create and parse the format to create the FQDN in a different format and making sure all tests still pass.

A sysdb version upgrade will be necessary. The changes in sysdb will be following:

  • Change the SYSDB_NAME attribute for users and groups to use the new internal format.
  • Use the new internal format for SYSDB_GHOST and SYSDB_MEMBERUID attributes.
  • The member and memberof attributes will have to be changed to use the

sysdb upgrade

The sysdb upgrade is tricky for two reasons:

  1. the amount of data we’ll have to change and write can potentially be huge if the database contains many users and groups. To mitigate the performance impact, we will open the database in a nosync mode, perform all the writes at once and flush when we are done.
  2. the memberof plugin normally prevents the ldb user to write the SYSDB_MEMBERUID, SYSDB_GHOST and SYSDB_MEMBEROF attributes directly. Because there is no way to selectively disable one module when connecting to ldb, we will have to add a way to the memberof plugin to allow the user to bypass the module (maybe when an environment variable is set)

Additionally, because this update is risky, we should perform the update on a copy of the database and only rename the copy when the upgrade finishes successfully. This would allow the admin to downgrade sssd back and still use the original database in the previous format.

Configuration changes

No configuration changes required, this is internal change only.

How To Test

All available tests should still pass. The tests should also pass if the format of the database was changed.


  • Jakub Hrozek <>
  • Michal Židek <>