Lessons Learned writing a certmonger helper for Anchor

Guang Yee has been trying to get certmonger talking to Anchor — an ephemeral CA, worth a post by itself. His attitude went from “this is easy” to “I’m about to give up on certmonger” to “Got it.” Here is his post-mortem:

Finally got the basic flow working. I am now able to run Anchor and getting the server certs with certmonger. Running certmonger-session in debug mode was really beneficial. Your blogs on younglogic helped out quite a bit as well. Next stop, put them all together and submit a patch for devstack.

Lessons learned so far:

  1. Documentation does not match reality. For example, the “getcert add-ca” command is not available on the version I got. I did my work on Ubuntu Trusty LTS. My understanding is that the LTS, like RHEL, tend to carry old (but stable?) packages?
  2. There isn’t a whole lot of example on certmonger helper. I had to learn as I go.
  3. Certmonger-session tend to overwrite my changes in ~/.config/certmonger/cas/ dir. I have to do “killall certmonger-session” before making any changes.
  4. Troubleshooting wasn’t easy at the beginning. There were a bunch of dbus interactions in the logs which I don’t know what to do with them. The “org.fedorahosted.certmonger.ca.get_nickname” logs concerned me at the beginning. I thought this is supposed to be a generic cert monitoring daemon. I was concerned it may be making calls outside of my box.
  5. If the script fail to load, nothing show up in syslog. Best way would be to run the script independently before hooking it up with certmonger. I screwed up on the exit code, that’s why I kept getting NEED_GUILDANCE status. In this case, running certmonger-session manually in debug level 15 helps a lot.
  6. I had trouble with Anchor at the beginning as I was running an outdated version of Pecan. But once I got that fixed, I did encounter any more issues with Anchor.

We’ll take this input back to the Certmonger team. Some are due to the older version of Certmonger, which is motivation to get an updated on available for Trusty. I’d like to get a Python shell defined that other Certmonger helper apps can use as a starting point: something that deals with the Env Vars, but then allows a developer to register a class that does the CA specific code.

Thanks to Guang for battling through this and again to Nalin Dahyabhai for helping to debug.

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