Enabling Sentry Authorization for Impala

Authorization determines which users are allowed to access which resources, and what operations they are allowed to perform. In Impala 1.1 and higher, you use the Sentry open source project for authorization. Sentry adds a fine-grained authorization framework for Hadoop. By default when authorization is not enabled, Impala does all read and write operations with the privileges of the impala user, is suitable for a development/test environment but not for a secure production environment. When authorization is enabled, Impala uses the OS user ID of the user who runs impala-shell or other client program, and associates various privileges with each user.

The Sentry Privilege Model

Privileges can be granted on different objects in the schema. Any privilege that can be granted is associated with a level in the object hierarchy. If a privilege is granted on a container object in the hierarchy, the child object automatically inherits it. This is the same privilege model as Hive and other database systems.

The objects in the Impala schema hierarchy are:


The server name is specified by the -server_name option when impalad starts. Specify the same name for all impalad nodes in the cluster.

URIs represent the file paths you specify as part of statements such as CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE and LOAD DATA. Typically, you specify what look like UNIX paths, but these locations can also be prefixed with hdfs:// to make clear that they are really URIs. To set privileges for a URI, specify the name of a directory, and the privilege applies to all the files in that directory and any directories underneath it.

URIs must start with hdfs://, s3a://, adl://, or file://. If a URI starts with an absolute path, the path will be appended to the default filesystem prefix. For example, if you specify:
The above statement effectively becomes the following where the default filesystem is HDFS.
GRANT ALL ON URI 'hdfs://localhost:20500/tmp';
When defining URIs for HDFS, you must also specify the NameNode. For example:
GRANT ALL ON URI file:///path/to/dir TO <role>
GRANT ALL ON URI hdfs://namenode:port/path/to/dir TO <role>

The table-level privileges apply to views as well. Anywhere you specify a table name, you can specify a view name instead.

In CDH 5.5 / Impala 2.3 and higher, you can specify privileges for individual columns, as described in Column-level Authorization.

The following privileges determines what you can do with each object:

ALL privilege
Lets you create or modify the object. Required to run DDL statements such as CREATE TABLE, ALTER TABLE, or DROP TABLE for a table, CREATE DATABASE or DROP DATABASE for a database, or CREATE VIEW, ALTER VIEW, or DROP VIEW for a view. Also required for the URI of the "location" parameter for the CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE and LOAD DATA statements.
SELECT privilege
Lets you read data from a table or view, for example with the SELECT statement, the INSERT...SELECT syntax, or CREATE TABLE...LIKE. Also required to issue the DESCRIBE statement or the EXPLAIN SELECT statement for a query against a particular table. Only objects for which a user has this privilege are shown in the output for SHOW DATABASES and SHOW TABLES statements. The REFRESH statement and INVALIDATE METADATA statements only access metadata for tables for which the user has this privilege.
INSERT privilege
Lets you write data to a table. Applies to the INSERT, TRUNCATE and LOAD DATA statements.

Originally, privileges were encoded in a policy file, stored in HDFS. This mode of operation is still an option, but the emphasis of privilege management is moving towards being SQL-based. The mode of operation with GRANT and REVOKE statements instead of the policy file requires that a special Sentry service be enabled; this service stores, retrieves, and manipulates privilege information stored inside the metastore database.

Valid privilege types and objects they apply to
Privilege Object

The privilege for the view columns is not supported.

Starting the impalad Daemon with Sentry Authorization Enabled

To run the impalad daemon with authorization enabled, you add the following options to the IMPALA_SERVER_ARGS declaration in the /etc/default/impala configuration file:

  • -server_name: Turns on Sentry authorization for Impala. The authorization rules refer to a symbolic server name, and you specify the name to use as the argument to the -server_name option.

    Starting in Impala 1.4.0 and higher, if you specify just -server_name without -authorization_policy_file, Impala uses the Sentry service for authorization.

  • --sentry_config: Specifies the local path to the sentry-site.xml configuration file. This setting is required to enable authorization.
  • -authorization_policy_file: Specifies the HDFS path to the policy file that defines the privileges on schema objects. Prior to Impala 1.4.0, or if you want to continue storing privilege rules in the policy file, specify the -authorization_policy_file option to make Impala read privilege information from a policy file, rather than from the metastore database.

For example, you might adapt your /etc/default/impala configuration to contain lines like the following. To use the Sentry service rather than the policy file:

-server_name=server1 \

Or to use the policy file, as in releases prior to Impala 1.4:

-authorization_policy_file=/user/hive/warehouse/auth-policy.ini \
-server_name=server1 \

The preceding examples set up a symbolic name of server1 to refer to the current instance of Impala. This symbolic name is used in the following ways:

  • In an environment managed by Cloudera Manager, see Enabling Sentry for Impala in Cloudera Manager for setting up Sentry for Impala in Cloud Manager. The values must be the same for both, so that Impala and Hive can share the privilege rules. Restart the Impala and Hive services after setting or changing this value.

  • In an environment not managed by Cloudera Manager, you specify this value for the sentry.hive.server property in the sentry-site.xml configuration file for Hive, as well as in the -server_name option for impalad.

Now restart the impalad daemons on all the nodes.

Enabling Sentry for Impala in Cloudera Manager

To enable the Sentry service for Impala and Hive:
  1. Navigate to Hive/Impala > Service-Wide, and set the Sentry Service parameters to the Sentry service you specified in the Impala configuration file above.
  2. To set the server name to use when granting server level privileges, navigate to Hive > Service-Wide > Advanced, and set the Server Name for Sentry Authorization parameter.
  3. When using Sentry with the Hive Metastore, you can specify the list of users that are allowed to bypass Sentry Authorization in Hive Metastore. Navigate to Hive > Service-Wide > Security, and specify the users in the Bypass Sentry Authorization Users field. These are usually service users that already ensure all activity has been authorized.
  4. In the Hive/Impala > Service-Wide > Policy File Based Sentry tab, deselect the Enable Sentry Authorization using Policy Files parameter when using the Sentry service. Cloudera Manager throws a validation error if you attempt to configure the Sentry service and policy file at the same time.
  5. Restart Impala and Hive.

Using Impala with the Sentry Service (CDH 5.1 or higher only)

When you use the Sentry service, you set up privileges through the GRANT and REVOKE statements in either Impala or Hive. Then both components use those same privileges automatically. (Impala added the GRANT and REVOKE statements in CDH 5.2 / Impala 2.0.)

For information about using the Impala GRANT and REVOKE statements, see GRANT Statement (CDH 5.2 or higher only) and REVOKE Statement (CDH 5.2 or higher only).

Changing Privileges

If you make a change to privileges in Sentry from outside of Impala, e.g. adding a user, removing a user, modifying privileges, there are two options to propagate the change:

  • Use the catalogd flag, --sentry_catalog_polling_frequency_s to specify how often to do a Sentry refresh. The flag is set to 60 seconds by default.
  • Run the INVALIDATE METADATA statement to force a Sentry refresh. INVALIDATE METADATA forces a Sentry refresh regardless of the --sentry_catalog_polling_fequency_s flag.

If you make a change to privileges within Impala, INVALIDATE METADATA is not required. However, there can be some delay propagating changed privileges from one impalad to other impalads.

Examples of Setting up Authorization for Security Scenarios

The following examples show how to set up authorization to deal with various scenarios.

A User with No Privileges

If a user has no privileges at all, that user cannot access any schema objects in the system. The error messages do not disclose the names or existence of objects that the user is not authorized to read.

This is the experience you want a user to have if they somehow log into a system where they are not an authorized Impala user. Or in a real deployment, a user might have no privileges because they are not a member of any of the authorized groups.

Examples of Privileges for Administrative Users

In this example, the SQL statements grant the entire_server role all privileges on both the databases and URIs within the server.

CREATE ROLE entire_server;
GRANT ROLE entire_server TO GROUP admin_group;
GRANT ALL ON SERVER server1 TO ROLE entire_server;

A User with Privileges for Specific Databases and Tables

If a user has privileges for specific tables in specific databases, the user can access those things but nothing else. They can see the tables and their parent databases in the output of SHOW TABLES and SHOW DATABASES, USE the appropriate databases, and perform the relevant actions (SELECT and/or INSERT) based on the table privileges. To actually create a table requires the ALL privilege at the database level, so you might define separate roles for the user that sets up a schema and other users or applications that perform day-to-day operations on the tables.

CREATE ROLE one_database;
GRANT ROLE one_database TO GROUP admin_group;

CREATE ROLE instructor;
GRANT ROLE instructor TO GROUP trainers;
GRANT ALL ON TABLE db1.lesson TO ROLE instructor;

# This particular course is all about queries, so the students can SELECT but not INSERT or CREATE/DROP.
CREATE ROLE student;
GRANT ROLE student TO GROUP visitors;
GRANT SELECT ON TABLE db1.training TO ROLE student;

Privileges for Working with External Data Files

When data is being inserted through the LOAD DATA statement, or is referenced from an HDFS location outside the normal Impala database directories, the user also needs appropriate permissions on the URIs corresponding to those HDFS locations.

In this example:

  • The external_table role can insert into and query the Impala table, external_table.sample.
  • The staging_dir role can specify the HDFS path /user/cloudera/external_data with the LOAD DATA statement. When Impala queries or loads data files, it operates on all the files in that directory, not just a single file, so any Impala LOCATION parameters refer to a directory rather than an individual file.
CREATE ROLE external_table;
GRANT ROLE external_table TO GROUP cloudera;
GRANT ALL ON TABLE external_table.sample TO ROLE external_table;

CREATE ROLE staging_dir;
GRANT ROLE staging TO GROUP cloudera;
GRANT ALL ON URI 'hdfs://' TO ROLE staging_dir;

Separating Administrator Responsibility from Read and Write Privileges

To create a database, you need the full privilege on that database while day-to-day operations on tables within that database can be performed with lower levels of privilege on specific table. Thus, you might set up separate roles for each database or application: an administrative one that could create or drop the database, and a user-level one that can access only the relevant tables.

In this example, the responsibilities are divided between users in 3 different groups:

  • Members of the supergroup group have the training_sysadmin role and so can set up a database named training.
  • Members of the cloudera group have the instructor role and so can create, insert into, and query any tables in the training database, but cannot create or drop the database itself.
  • Members of the visitor group have the student role and so can query those tables in the training database.
CREATE ROLE training_sysadmin;
GRANT ROLE training_sysadmin TO GROUP supergroup;
GRANT ALL ON DATABASE training1 TO ROLE training_sysadmin;

CREATE ROLE instructor;
GRANT ROLE instructor TO GROUP cloudera;
GRANT ALL ON TABLE training1.course1 TO ROLE instructor;

CREATE ROLE visitor;
GRANT ROLE student TO GROUP visitor;
GRANT SELECT ON TABLE training1.course1 TO ROLE student;

Using Impala with the Sentry Policy File

The policy file is a file that you put in a designated location in HDFS, and is read during the startup of the impalad daemon when you specify both the -server_name and -authorization_policy_file startup options. It controls which objects (databases, tables, and HDFS directory paths) can be accessed by the user who connects to impalad, and what operations that user can perform on the objects.

The location of the policy file is listed in the auth-site.xml configuration file.

When authorization is enabled, Impala uses the policy file as a whitelist, representing every privilege available to any user on any object. That is, only operations specified for the appropriate combination of object, role, group, and user are allowed. All other operations are not allowed. If a group or role is defined multiple times in the policy file, the last definition takes precedence.

To understand the notion of whitelisting, set up a minimal policy file that does not provide any privileges for any object. When you connect to an Impala node where this policy file is in effect, you get no results for SHOW DATABASES, and an error when you issue any SHOW TABLES, USE database_name, DESCRIBE table_name, SELECT, and or other statements that expect to access databases or tables, even if the corresponding databases and tables exist.

The contents of the policy file are cached, to avoid a performance penalty for each query. The policy file is re-checked by each impalad node every 5 minutes. When you make a non-time-sensitive change such as adding new privileges or new users, you can let the change take effect automatically a few minutes later. If you remove or reduce privileges, and want the change to take effect immediately, restart the impalad daemon on all nodes, again specifying the -server_name and -authorization_policy_file options so that the rules from the updated policy file are applied.

Policy File Format

The policy file uses the familiar .ini format, divided into the major sections [groups] and [roles].

There is also an optional [databases] section, which allows you to specify a specific policy file for a particular database, as explained in Using Multiple Policy Files for Different Databases.

Another optional section, [users], allows you to override the OS-level mapping of users to groups; that is an advanced technique primarily for testing and debugging, and is beyond the scope of this document.

In the [groups] section, you define various categories of users and select which roles are associated with each category. The group and usernames correspond to Linux groups and users on the server where the impalad daemon runs.

The group and usernames in the [groups] section correspond to Hadoop groups and users on the server where the impalad daemon runs. When you access Impala through the impalad interpreter, for purposes of authorization, the user is the logged-in Linux user and the groups are the Linux groups that user is a member of. When you access Impala through the ODBC or JDBC interfaces, the user and password specified through the connection string are used as login credentials for the Linux server, and authorization is based on that username and the associated Linux group membership.

In the [roles] section, you a set of roles. For each role, you specify precisely the set of privileges is available. That is, which objects users with that role can access, and what operations they can perform on those objects. This is the lowest-level category of security information; the other sections in the policy file map the privileges to higher-level divisions of groups and users. In the [groups] section, you specify which roles are associated with which groups. The group and usernames correspond to Linux groups and users on the server where the impalad daemon runs. The privileges are specified using patterns like:
For the server_name value, substitute the same symbolic name you specify with the impalad -server_name option. You can use * wildcard characters at each level of the privilege specification to allow access to all such objects. For example:

Using Multiple Policy Files for Different Databases

For an Impala cluster with many databases being accessed by many users and applications, it might be cumbersome to update the security policy file for each privilege change or each new database, table, or view. You can allow security to be managed separately for individual databases, by setting up a separate policy file for each database:

  • Add the optional [databases] section to the main policy file.
  • Add entries in the [databases] section for each database that has its own policy file.
  • For each listed database, specify the HDFS path of the appropriate policy file.

For example:

# Defines the location of the per-DB policy files for the 'customers' and 'sales' databases.
customers = hdfs://ha-nn-uri/etc/access/customers.ini
sales = hdfs://ha-nn-uri/etc/access/sales.ini

To enable URIs in per-DB policy files, add the following string in the Cloudera Manager field Impala Service Environment Advanced Configuration Snippet (Safety Valve):


Setting Up Schema Objects for a Secure Impala Deployment

In your role definitions, you must specify privileges at the level of individual databases and tables, or all databases or all tables within a database. To simplify the structure of these rules, plan ahead of time how to name your schema objects so that data with different authorization requirements is divided into separate databases.

If you are adding security on top of an existing Impala deployment, you can rename tables or even move them between databases using the ALTER TABLE statement.

Debugging Failed Sentry Authorization Requests

Sentry logs all facts that lead up to authorization decisions at the debug level. If you do not understand why Sentry is denying access, the best way to debug is to temporarily turn on debug logging:
  • In Cloudera Manager, add log4j.logger.org.apache.sentry=DEBUG to the logging settings for your service through the corresponding Logging Safety Valve field for the Impala, Hive Server 2, or Solr Server services.
  • On systems not managed by Cloudera Manager, add log4j.logger.org.apache.sentry=DEBUG to the log4j.properties file on each host in the cluster, in the appropriate configuration directory for each service.
Specifically, look for exceptions and messages such as:
FilePermission server..., RequestPermission server...., result [true|false]
which indicate each evaluation Sentry makes. The FilePermission is from the policy file, while RequestPermission is the privilege required for the query. A RequestPermission will iterate over all appropriate FilePermission settings until a match is found. If no matching privilege is found, Sentry returns false indicating "Access Denied" .

The DEFAULT Database in a Secure Deployment

Because of the extra emphasis on granular access controls in a secure deployment, you should move any important or sensitive information out of the DEFAULT database into a named database whose privileges are specified in the policy file. Sometimes you might need to give privileges on the DEFAULT database for administrative reasons; for example, as a place you can reliably specify with a USE statement when preparing to drop a database.