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Authorization in a microservices world

ยท 26 min read

Authorization? How hard can it be? I am pretty sure that others have already solved it. We are not the first ones doing microservices. It should be easy to integrate what's already out there.

- Everybody when they started designing their microservices, before they cried

Fine-grained authorization in microservices is hard. Definitely not impossible, but hard. You would expect that a more standardized, all-around, full-proof solution is out there, but I am afraid there isn't. It's a complex matter and depending on what you are building, implementation varies.

You will probably start with a boolean admin flag in your User model and then you will replace it with a role field, as we all did. However, as things progress and the business model becomes more and more complex, so do the solutions that we need to implement in order to deal with that complexity.

But how do you actually go from a simple flag to Role Based Access Control (RBAC) and then to Attribute Based Access Control (ABAC), especially in a microservices environment? In the following post I hope to help you get there.

(UPDATE: 02/04/2022): This article made it to the HackerNews frontpage and some interesting comments can be found here. Feel free to participate!