Architecture & Deployment
Permify is a infrastructure for ease the process of creating and managing scalable authorization systems in your environment.
This section shows where and how does Permify fit into your environment with examining Permify's high level design, internal architecture, deployment patterns and the usage with the authentication and identity providers.
High Level Design
You can model your authorization logic with Permify's domain specific language and your applications can interpolate with Permify API over REST API or GRPC Service to perform access control checks, read or query authorization-related data and more!
Permify stores access control relations in a database of your choice, and each API request evaluates and takes into account access decisions based on the stored relations.
So this preferred database behaves as a centralized data source for your authorization system.
Permify vs Authentication
Authentication involves verifying that the person actually is who they purport to be, while authorization refers to what a person or service is allowed to do once inside the system.
To clear out, Permify doesn't handle authentication or user management. Permify behave as you have a different place to handle authentication and store relevant data. Authentication or user management solutions (AWS Cognito, Auth0, etc) only can feed Permify with user information (attributes, identities, etc) to provide more consistent authorization across your stack.
Permify with Identity Providers
Identity providers help you store and control your users’ and employees’ identities in a single place.
Let’s say you build a project management application. And a client wants to connect this application via SSO. You need to connect your app to Okta. And your client can control who can access the application, and which group of authorization types they can have. But as a maker of this project management app. You need to build the permissions and then map to Okta.
What we do is, help you build these permissions and eventually map anywhere you want.
Permify supports both HTTP and GRPC. HTTP requests are converted to GRPC and then transferred to Permify servers.
There are 4 servers in a Permify Instance: Permission, Relationship, Schema, and Watch.
- Permission Server: The permission server forwards the request to the invoker. The invoker checks for any missing parts of the query, let’s say if no snapshot is provided, it finds the head snapshot. It then hashes the request (with snapshot and schema version) and forwards it to the most convenient Permify instance. If the hash matches its own, it directs it to the local cache. If the cache does not contain the request, it proceeds to the engine. The engine breaks down the query into sub-queries and returns it to the invoker. This process continues until a final decision is made.
- Relationship Server: After validating the request, it passes it to the database access layer.
- Schema Server: After validating the request, it passes it to the database access layer.
- Watch Server: It broadcasts changes in relationships based on their snapshots.
Database abstractions for the reader and writer can use a database like Aurora Postgres.
When deploying, separate hosts can be used in the Permify config for the reader and writer. This way, different Permify instances can read from different read replicas.
Note: we are using serf (https://github.com/hashicorp/serf) agent for node discovery on hashring.
There are two main deployment patterns that you can follow, integrate Permify into your applications as a sidecar or using Permify as a service across your applications. Despite for both of these deployment patterns implementation is same - running Permify API in a environment you choose - the architectural aspects and usages differs. So let's examine them both.
Permify As A Service
Permify can be deployed as a sole service that abstracts authorization logic from core applications and behaves as a single source of truth for authorization.
Gathering authorization logic in a central place offers important advantages over maintaining separate access control mechanisms for individual applications.
See the What is Authorization Service Section for a detailed explanation of those advantages.
Since multiple applications could interact with the Permify Service on that pattern, preventing bottleneck for Permify endpoints and providing high availability is important.
As shown from above schema, you can horizontally scale Permify Service with positioning Permify instances behind of a load balancer.
Using Permify as a Sidecar
Permify can be used as a sidecar as well. In this deployment model, each application uses its own Permify instance and manages its own specific authorization.
Although unified authorization offers many advantages, using the sidecar model ensures high performance and availability plus avoids the risk of a single point of failure of the centered authorization mechanism.