Migrating to a Git Deployment User

At work we have a couple of different user account that a number of older applications are deployed under. These different users each have full rights to the various repositories that run under that user account. For the sake of example, we will say the user’s account is alice.

As anybody who is familiar with making changes in a work environment, you can’t always just stop the world to make updates, but have to take baby steps, to get to your end goal. Ideally we would like the app to be deployed under dan, a deployment user with “read-only” permissions to the git repository. (I say read-only, even though there is no such thing in git, but the point is we don’t want the dan user to be able to push back to the source-of-truth repository, and shouldn’t really be making changes on the box to begin with.)

There are a couple of different git repositories that run under alice, but for this example we are going to be working to migrate the repository etudes_for_erlang [1] to be fetched as the deploy user dan.

I am assuming you have already done the work of setting up access control list policy, either through server-side hooks, or github permissions, and we will be focusing on changing the way we pull the repositories down under alice, to look like she is dan.

First step will be to create a new ssh key for “dan”, and get the new public ssh key added as an authorized key for dan on the git server. We will refer to the public key as dan_rsa.

As alice, edit her ssh config file found at ~alice/.ssh/config. We will be adding two new entries to that config. The first entry is to allow alice to connect to the remote server, in this case, github.com, as herself.

Host github.com
HostName github.com
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa

We use alice’s normal ssh key, id_rsa, and just connect to github.com as normal. We specify that when we refer to github.com by itself, we are going to use alice’s id_rsa key to connect to the actual host github.com. This allows alice to fetch, push, and all the other good stuff for those repositories under her that we are not yet deciding to convert over to the deployment dan account.

We also add another Host entry for working as dan.

Host deploy.github.com
HostName github.com
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/dan_rsa

In this case, we specify that the host is deploy.github.com. What this does is that when we refer to that deploy.github.com we want to connect to github.com but use the ssh key for dan, by specifying the identity file as dan_rsa.

At this point you should be able to ssh into both github.com and deploy.github.com successfully, and github should be identifying you as the correct user:

ssh -T git@github.com
# Attempt to SSH in to github
# Hi alice! You've successfully authenticated, but GitHub does not provide
# shell access.
ssh -T git@deploy.github.com
# Attempt to SSH in to github
# Hi dan! You've successfully authenticated, but GitHub does not provide
# shell access.

We then go into the etudes_for_erlang repository and issue the following commands:

git remote set-url origin git@deploy.github.com:dfw-erlang/etudes_for_erlang.git
git remote set-url --push origin "DO NOT PUSH!!!"

We set the origin url to connect to deploy.github.com instead of github.com, so that we will be connecting as dan.

The second git remote set-url command is a trick to set the push url to something invalid, in this case the string DO NOT PUSH!!!, so that when we try to push we get an error saying we could not connect to the remote repository “DO NOT PUSH!!!”, and that helps to tell us that we should not be pushing back to the source repository.

There you have it, the first steps towards migrating git repositories to be accessed as a deployment user.

If you would like to find out more about the tricks used in the ssh config file, make sure to check out the man page for ssh_config.

Hope you find this useful,
–Proctor


Footnotes:
[1] This was the resulting code of going through the book Études for Erlang as part of the DFW Erlang User Group. back

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