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Kerberos in HTCondor

Kerberos plays an important role while launching jobs in our HTCondor cluster. It is used at different stages of the job life-cycle for two main purposes:

  • To authenticate users against the cluster while doing operations.
  • When the job is running, to allow access to external services from within the job. External services such as AFS or EOS are accessed with Kerberos.

Authentication against the cluster

Authenticating against the cluster to perform operations is trivial and it doesn't differ from any other standard kerberos protected service. Users must ensure valid kerberos credentials are present before invoking the commands. The validity of the credentials can be checked with klist.

fernandl@aiadm51:~$ klist
Ticket cache: FILE:/tmp/krb5cc_107352_TE4huqx3Gs
Default principal: fernandl@CERN.CH

Valid starting     Expires            Service principal
08/01/18 11:46:46  09/01/18 12:46:35  krbtgt/CERN.CH@CERN.CH
        renew until 12/01/18 19:11:29
08/01/18 11:46:46  09/01/18 12:46:35  afs/
        renew until 12/01/18 19:11:29
fernandl@aiadm51:~$ condor_q

-- Schedd: : < @ 01/08/18 11:59:47

0 jobs; 0 completed, 0 removed, 0 idle, 0 running, 0 held, 0 suspended

If the credentials are not valid authentication won't pass and operations will fail. This can be solved by running kinit to renew the current invalid credentials:

fernandl@aiadm51:~$ condor_q

Extra Info: You probably saw this error because the condor_schedd is not 
running on the machine you are trying to query. If the condor_schedd is not 
running, the Condor system will not be able to find an address and port to 
connect to and satisfy this request. Please make sure the Condor daemons are 
running and try again.

Extra Info: If the condor_schedd is running on the machine you are trying to 
query and you still see the error, the most likely cause is that you have 
setup a personal Condor, you have not defined SCHEDD_NAME in your 
condor_config file, and something is wrong with your SCHEDD_ADDRESS_FILE 
setting. You must define either or both of those settings in your config 
file, or you must use the -name option to condor_q. Please see the Condor 
manual for details on SCHEDD_NAME and SCHEDD_ADDRESS_FILE. 

fernandl@aiadm51:~$ kinit
Password for fernandl@CERN.CH: 

fernandl@aiadm51:~$ condor_q

-- Schedd: : < @ 01/08/18 12:07:04

0 jobs; 0 completed, 0 removed, 0 idle, 0 running, 0 held, 0 suspended

Authentication within the job

Authentication from within the jobs is more complex as the cluster must ensure the credentials are valid while the job is running.

CERN HTCondor instance is configured to keep Kerberos tokens up to date, as well as AFS tokens (via aklog) and EOS FUSE auhtentication using eosfusebind command.

The following picture shows the main interactions between all the components to ensure these credentials are always valid in the jobs:

Kerberos in HTCondor

  • The submit machines (lxplus, aiadm,...) are configured to automatically call batch_krb5_credential. This command generates a block of information containing user's credentials and a special token provided by This token allows HTCondor to generate the kerberos ticket on behalf of the user.

  • HTCondor schedds use the credentials received to initialize the job log in AFS. Additionally, the credentials are stored while the user has jobs running on the system. The credentials are stored as they will be required by the workers when the job is running. To ensure credentials are valid during the job life-cycle, a service called condor_credmon renews credentials periodically and, if not possible, talks to with the token provided in submission time to issue a new Kerberos ticket.

  • Finally, when the job runs on the worker, the schedd sends the credentials to the worker, who stores them in a similar fashion. Again, condor_credmon is responsible for keeping them up to date as well as requesting AFS & EOS tokens.

In order to debug if all these mechanics are working as expected, a user can run commands like tokens or klist -f from the jobs to ensure that the AFS and Kerberos environment is properly set.

Last update: January 13, 2020