Last modified 18 months ago Last modified on 11/07/12 16:00:04


SSSD provides a set of daemons to manage access to remote directories and authentication mechanisms, it provides an NSS and PAM interface toward the system and a pluggable backend system to connect to multiple different account sources. It is also the basis to provide client auditing and policy services for projects like FreeIPA.

SSSD takes advantage of the common set of tools. More information about those tools can be found here.

This page is intended to outline a series of steps needed to install and configure SSSD. It is aimed at Fedora primarily in terms of commands and config file placement, but in general, things should work on other distributions, too.

More information about SSSD can be found on its project page.

This document is being updated for the development version of SSSD.


On Fedora (since F11), all that is needed is:

yum install sssd

If you're using another distribution or want to get the latest bits from the git repository, clone the SSSD repository:

git-clone git:// sssd.git
cd sssd.git

You can now build and install SSSD locally. The complete process is described into great detail in a text file BUILD.txt in sssd's source tree.

Another option is to build and install RPMs from the git tree, issue:

make rpms

For this to work, you'll also need to have git, and all the build requirements of SSSD installed. The built RPMs will be in the rpmbuild/RPMS subdirectory.

Upgrading from a previous version

Starting from version 0.6.0, SSSD uses a different and simplified configuration file format. Existing config files need to be migrated to the new format and SSSD provides a script to automate the migration process.

If you are using RPMs, the script will be run automatically when upgrading the package to the new version. Your /etc/sssd/sssd.conf config file will be upgraded in-place, copying the old one to /etc/sssd/sssd.conf.bak.

If you need to run the script manually, perhaps when using SSSD built from source, the synopsis is as follows: [-f FILE] [-o OUTFILE] [--verbose] [--no-backup]

When not given, both FILE and OUTFILE default to /etc/sssd/sssd.conf, performing the conversion in-place and copying the original to /etc/sssd/sssd.conf.bak. Adding the --no-backup option would turn off producing the backup files.


The configuration of the deamon itself is done via editing /etc/sssd/sssd.conf. The file has a ini-style syntax - the file consists of sections that in turn consist of key=value pairs. If you need to use more values, separate them with commas. For example:

key = value
key2 = val,val2

A comment starts with a hash sign (#) or a semicolon (;). The data types used are string, integer and bool (with values of TRUE/FALSE).

It is also possible to use an alternate config file by using the -c/--config parameter of sssd.

For more information on configuring SSSD, see the sssd.conf(5) man page that comes with SSSD.

Configure NSS for fetching user and group information

In order to configure your system to use sssd for user information, SSSD provides a new nss_sss NSS module. To use it, you need to configure NSS to use the sss name database along with the classic UNIX file database. Edit your /etc/nsswitch.conf:

passwd:     files sss
group:      files sss

Configure PAM for authentication

Configuring PAM should be done with extreme care. A mistake or typo in the PAM config file can lock you out of the system completely. Always backup your config files before doing any changes and keep a session open in order to be able to revert changes you do.

Enable the use of the SSSD for PAM. If you are changing the default PAM config on Fedora, it should look like:

# This file is auto-generated.
# User changes will be destroyed the next time authconfig is run.
auth        required
auth        sufficient nullok try_first_pass
auth        requisite uid >= 500 quiet
auth        sufficient use_first_pass
auth        required

account     required broken_shadow
account     sufficient
account     sufficient uid < 500 quiet
account     [default=bad success=ok user_unknown=ignore]
account     required

password    requisite try_first_pass retry=3
password    sufficient sha512 shadow nullok try_first_pass use_authtok
password    sufficient use_authtok
password    required

session     optional revoke
session     required
session     [success=1 default=ignore] service in crond quiet use_uid
session     required
session     optional

Recent PAM implementations allow to include PAM configurations, e.g.

session     include      system-auth
session     optional

If you use includes please note that in the example above is not executed if a sufficient condition from system-auth returns PAM_SUCCESS.

Some of the later examples use a proxy auth provider between pam_sss and other PAM modules using the pam-target configuration directive that references a file in /etc/pam.d. It is important not to include modules in these proxied targets, otherwise the PAM stack may go into a loop.

SSSD daemon configuration

I suggest that you start with the /etc/sssd/sssd.conf file that comes with the Fedora RPMs as it contains comments to aid you. The source distribution contains an example config file in the server/examples subdirectory.

Running SSSD

To start the daemon, just start the sssd service:

service sssd start

For debugging, it may be more comfortable to run the daemon in foreground:

/usr/sbin/sssd -i

Another option that might be of interest especially for testing a configuration is -d/--debug-level, that tells sssd to print more debug information according to debug level specified. The debug level can also be specified per-service (see below). Timestamps can be added to the debug information by specifying '--debug-timestamps'

Making sure it works

Services must now be made aware that SSSD is active, this is done by restarting them. The simplest way to ensure all services are notified is to reboot. If you would like to verify before rebooting you can try these tests:

[root@localhost ~]$ getent passwd <ldapuser>
ldapuser:*:9000:501:User Name:/home/ldapuser:/bin/bash
[root@localhost ~]$ getent group <ldapgroup>
[root@localhost ~]$ service sshd restart
[root@localhost ~]$ ssh <ldapuser>@localhost
ldapuser@localhost's password: 
Creating directory '/home/ldapuser'.
[ldapuser@localhost ~]

Configuring services

Individual pieces of SSSD functionality are provided by special SSSD services that are started and stopped together with SSSD. The services provided by SSSD have their own configuration sections. The [sssd] section also lists the services that are active and should be started when sssd starts within the services directive.

At present, we use three services in this HOWTO - NSS, PAM and a service called monitor that watches over other services, starts or restarts them as needed.

  • An NSS provider service that answers NSS requests from the nss_sss module
  • A PAM provider service that manages a PAM conversation through the pam_sss PAM module
  • The monitor service maintains the other processes and restarts them if they die. Its options are specified in the [sssd] section
services = nss, pam
sbus_timeout = 30

filter_users = root
filter_groups = root

The following subsections list only the most important configuration optiosn. See the sssd.conf(5) manual page that is shipped with SSSD for all the configuration options available.

General configuration options

debug_level (integer)
This is a per-service setting (that is, it can appear in any of the service sections and sets the debug level for that service.
reconnection_retries (integer)
Number of times services should attempt to reconnect in the event of a Data Provider Backend crash or restart before they give up

NSS configuration options

enum_cache_timeout (integer)
How long should nss_sss cache enumerations (requests for info about all users)
entry_cache_nowait_timeout (integer)
How long should nss_sss return cached entries before initiating an out-of-band cache refresh (0 disables this feature)
entry_negative_timeout (integer)
How long should nss_sss cache negative cache hits (that is, queries for invalid database entries, like nonexitent ones) before asking the backend again
filter_users, filter_groups (string)
Exclude certain users from being fetched from the sss NSS database. This is particularly useful for system accounts like root.
filter_users_in_groups (bool)
If you want filtered user still be group members set this option to false.

Configuring domains

A domain is a database containing user information. SSSD can use more domains at the same time, but at least one must be configured or SSSD won't start. Using SSSD domains, it is possible to use several LDAP servers providing several unique namespaces.

Add new domains configurations into [domain/<NAME>] sections. Then add the list of domains (in the order you want them to be queried) in the 'domains' attribute of the domains section. For example, to use only LOCAL domain:

domains = LOCAL

The following subsections will list examples of configuring different types of domains.

Domain configuration options

These configuration options can be present in a domain configuration section, that is, in a section called [domain/<NAME>].

min_id, max_id (integer)
UID limits for the domain. If a domain contains entry that is outside these limits, it is ignored
enumerate (bool)
Determines if a domain can be enumerated. This parameter affects enumerating of both users and groups.
timeout (integer)
Timeout in seconds for this particular domain. Raising this timeout might prove useful for slower backends like distant LDAP servers. The default is 0 (no timeout).
cache_credentials (bool)
Determines if user credentials are also cached in the local LDB cache
store_legacy_passwords (bool)
Whether to also store passwords in a legacy domain
id_provider (string)
The Data Provider identity backend to use for this domain. Currently supported identity backends are:
  • proxy: Support a legacy NSS provider (e.g. nss_nis)
  • local: SSSD internal local provider
  • ldap: ldap provider
entry_cache_timeout (integer)
How long should the domain's Data Provider cache positive cache hits (that is, queries for valid database entries) before asking the database again
use_fully_qualified_names (bool)
If set to TRUE, all requests to this domain must use fully qualified names. For example, if used in LOCAL domain that contains a "test" user, getent passwd test wouldn't find the user while getent passwd test@LOCAL would
auth_provider (string)
The authentication provider used for the domain. Supported auth providers are:
  • ldap for native LDAP authentication. See sssd-ldap(5) for more information on configuring LDAP.
  • krb5 for Kerberos authentication. See sssd-krb5(5) for more information on configuring Kerberos.
  • proxy for relaying authentication to some other PAM target.

Options valid for proxy identity domains

proxy_pam_target (string)
The proxy target PAM proxies to. If not set, a default setting of sssd_pam_proxy_default is used.
proxy lib_name (string)
The name of NSS library. The NSS functions searched for in the library are in the form of _nss_$(libName)_$(function), for example _nss_nis_getpwent.

The LOCAL provider

There is a special identity and authentication provider in SSSD named local. Its backend is stored on disk in a format called LDB, an on-disk LDAP-like database.

One difference in comparison with the classic files is that groups in the LOCAL backend can be nested. The LOCAL domain is also meant to contain additional user information such as user picture or keyboard settings.

Instead of using User Private Groups (where a group is created for every user), which is usually the default in files-based scheme, the LOCAL domain uses a concept called Magic Private Groups. By using the Magic Private Groups option, you are imposing two limitations to the ID space and name space:

  1. users and groups share a common name space, there can never be a separate group with a same name as a user
  2. users and groups share a common ID space, there can never be a group with a same ID as a user

Using Magic Private groups bring the benefit of better Windows Interoperability (in Windows, the ID and name spaces are unique) and also avoids creating a group for every user, thus cluttering the group space. Also, for NSS calls, every user is actually returned a user's private group without having to explicitly create the group, thus having the same effect as User Private Groups

To manage users in the LOCAL backend, SSSD comes with a set of tools that resemble their shadow-utils counterparts in names as well as parameters. The tools include sss_useradd, sss_groupadd for adding users and groups, sss_userdel, sss_groupdel for removing them and sss_usermod, sss_groupmod for changing their attributes. You can see details about tools usage by running them with the --help argument.

Domain configuration examples

Example 1: A standalone LOCAL domain

Put the following definition of LOCAL domain into your sssd config file:

# LOCAL Users domain
enumerate = TRUE
min_id = 500
max_id = 999
id_provider = local
auth_provider = local

Now, add a LOCAL user using sssd management tools:

sss_useradd testuser1

A home directory for the new user will be created. Refer to sss_useradd and sssd.conf manual pages for more documentation on the subject.

If you configured NSS to use the SSS domain, you should be able to request the user information now:

getent passwd testuser1@LOCAL

Changing the user's password and logging in should be also possible now:

passwd testuser1
ssh testuser1@localhost

Example 2: Authenticating against a native LDAP domain

A native LDAP domain requires a running LDAP server to authenticate against. The client configuration is done in /etc/sssd/sssd.conf.

If you want to authenticate against an LDAP server TLS/SSL is required. sssd does not support authentication over an unencrypted channel. If the LDAP server is used only as an identify provider, an encrypted channel is not needed.

The domain configuration in sssd config would look like this:

# A native LDAP domain
enumerate = true
cache_credentials = TRUE

id_provider = ldap
auth_provider = ldap
chpass_provider = ldap

ldap_uri = ldap://
ldap_search_base = dc=mydomain,dc=org
tls_reqcert = demand
ldap_tls_cacert = /etc/pki/tls/certs/ca-bundle.crt

All the parameters for a native LDAP domain are described in the sssd-ldap(5) manual page.

Example 3: Authenticating against a Kerberos server

In order to set up Kerberos authentication, you need to know the address of your KDC and the Kerberos realm. Using these parameters, the configuration is very simple:

# A domain with identities provided by LDAP and authentication by Kerberos
enumerate = false
id_provider = ldap
chpass_provider = krb5
ldap_uri = ldap://
ldap_search_base = dc=mydomain,dc=org
tls_reqcert = demand
ldap_tls_cacert = /etc/pki/tls/certs/ca-bundle.crt

auth_provider = krb5
krb5_kdcip =
krb5_realm = EXAMPLE.COM
krb5_ccachedir = /tmp
krb5_ccname_template = FILE:%d/krb5cc_%U_XXXXXX
krb5_auth_timeout = 15

All the parameters for a configuring Kerberos authentication are described in the sssd-krb5(5) manual page.