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Maypole::Plugin::Authorization - Provide role-based authorization for Maypole applications


  # In your main application driver class ...

  package BeerDB;
  use Maypole::Application qw(
  use Maypole::Constants;

  # Configuration will depend on the database design, which loader is
  # used etc, so this is just one possibility ...
    user_class => 'BeerDB::Users',
    # other keys may be needed as well for the authentication module

  sub authenticate {
    my ($self, $r) = @_;
    if ($self->authorize($r)) {
        return OK;
    } else {
        # take application-specific authorization failure action

  # make web page show just tables for this user
  sub additional_data {
    my $r = shift;
        [ map { $_->table } $r->get_authorized_classes ]

  # meanwhile in a template somewhere ...

  [% ok_methods = request.get_authorized_methods %]
  Can be used to decide whether to display an edit button, for example


This module provides simple role-based authorization for Maypole. It uses the database to store permissions, which fits well with Maypole.

It determines whether users are authorized to invoke specific methods in classes. Normally these will be actions in model classes. Permission to invoke methods is not granted directly; it is assigned to roles, and each user may be assigned one or more roles.

The methods made available in your request object are described next, followed by an example database schema. Then we explain how you can customize the schema using configuration. Finally there are some hints on how to administer the database tables and a list of the various use cases associated with authorization.

As well as this description there are a few other files shipped in the distribution that you may want to look at:


A sqlite database containing tables and data for the example beer database, along with authorization tables and data.


A file containing SQL to create and load the sqlite database


A file containing SQL to create and load a MySQL InnoDB version of the database.


An example of a Maypole driver class that uses authorization. It may get you started towards your own application.

Note that there is a different in the t directory that is just designed to make the tests run, not to help you!



The authorize method is called in the driver's authenticate method, though it is explicitly passed the request object and so can be called from elsewhere if desired.

    package BeerDB;

    sub authenticate {
        my ($self, $r) = @_;
        if ($self->authorize($r)) {
            return OK;
        } else {
            # take application-specific auth failure action

It returns a true value if authorization is granted and undef if not.

authenticate needs to deal with requests with no model class before calling this method because the response is application-specific. If such a request gets this far, we just turn it down. Similarly, authenticate needs to handle requests with no user without calling authorize.

Normally, authorize() uses information in the request ($r) to decide whether to grant authorization. In particular, it checks whether the permissions table has a record matching the request's model class and action with the user. It is possible to vary this scheme and store different information in the permissions table instead of the model class, perhaps the class's moniker or the name of its associated database table. To do this, make sure that you have the right values in the permissions table, and pass the value to be tested explicitly to authorize(). For example:

  $authorized = $self->authorize($r, $r->model_class->moniker);


  $authorized = $self->authorize($r, $r->table);


  $r->get_authorized_classes;           # current user
  $r->get_authorized_classes($user_id); # specific user

get_authorized_classes returns the list of classes for which the current user has some permissions. This can be used to build the list of tabs in the navbar, for instance. If called with a user id as argument, it returns the list of classes for which that user has some permissions.


  # methods current user can execute in current model class

  # methods specific user can execute in current model class

  $r->get_authorized_methods($user_id, $class_name);
  # methods specific user can execute in nominated model class
  # (or use moniker or table name etc in place of the model class)

  $r->get_authorized_methods(undef, $class_name);
  # methods current user can execute in nominated model class
  # (or use moniker or table name etc in place of the model class)

get_authorized_methods finds the list of methods that the current user is entitled to invoke on the current model class. This can be used to build a menu of permitted actions, for example. If called with a user id as an argument it returns the list of methods that the given user can execute in the current model class. Similarly, if called with a class name, it returns the list of methods that the current user can execute in that class, while if called with both as arguments, it returns the list of methods the given user is allowed to call in the stated class.

Like authorize(), it is possible to use some other value instead of the model class, provided that the permissions has matching values.

Here is an example of a possible way to use this method in templates to decide whether to display buttons for various actions that a user may or may not be authorized to use:

  [% MACRO if_auth_button(obj, action, permitted_method) BLOCK ;
         IF permitted_method == '*' OR permitted_method == action ;
             button(obj, action) ;
         END ;
     END ;

  # ... and in other templates ...

  [% ok_methods = request.get_authorized_methods ;
     FOR meth = ok_methods ;
          if_auth_button(item, 'edit', meth) ;
          if_auth_button(item, 'delete', meth) ;
     END ;


The module depends on four database tables to store the necessary data.


The users table records details of each individual who has an account on the system. It is not used by this module; only the id values are used as foreign keys in the role_assignments table. This table is used by Maypole::Plugin:Authentication::UserSessionCookie to do user authentication and session management. Refer to that module to understand the columns in this table. Additional columns can be added to suit whatever other needs you have.


Users are not given permissions directly because that causes an explosion in the table size and an administrative headache. Instead roles are given permissions and users acquire those permissions by being assigned to roles. The auth_roles table just records the name of the role. You could add things like a description if you wish. The table is not called roles in case your application wants to use that name for its own purposes.


role_assignments is a classic many-many link table. Records contain the id of a user and of a role which the user has been assigned.


The permissions table authorizes a specific role to execute a particular method in a particular class. The classes are expected to be the model subclasses and the methods will be the actions, but the scheme will also work in other situations. To reduce administrative burden and table size, it is allowed to use a '*' wildcard instead of a method name; this grants permission to all methods in the class. It would be possible to add a similar wildcard for classes but there's probably no action that you want to allow on all classes!

One possible set of table definitions (DDL) to implement this scheme are shown below. The DDL uses various MySQL features and you may need to adapt it for other databases. The DDL also uses the InnoDB table type, because this supports foreign key checks within the database and it allows us to show how these constraints should be set up. You can use other table types and rely on Class::DBI to maintain integrity. If you do this, remove 'TYPE=InnoDB' from the end of each table definition.

Note that in some Linux distributions InnoDB support is in a different package to the base MySQL release. So if you have trouble, use your distribution's package manager to check that InnoDB support is installed.

  CREATE TABLE users (
        id              INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
        name            VARCHAR(100) NOT NULL,
        UID             VARCHAR(20) NOT NULL,
        password        VARCHAR(20) NOT NULL,
        PRIMARY KEY (id),
        UNIQUE (UID)
  ) TYPE=InnoDB;

  CREATE TABLE auth_roles (
        id              INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
        name            VARCHAR(40) NOT NULL,
        PRIMARY KEY (id)
  ) TYPE=InnoDB;

  CREATE TABLE role_assignments (
        id              INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
        user_id         INT NOT NULL,
        auth_role_id    INT NOT NULL,
        PRIMARY KEY (id),
        UNIQUE (user_id, auth_role_id),
        INDEX (auth_role_id),
        FOREIGN KEY (user_id) REFERENCES users (id),
        FOREIGN KEY (auth_role_id) REFERENCES auth_roles (id)
  ) TYPE=InnoDB;

  CREATE TABLE permissions (
        id              INT NOT NULL AUTO_INCREMENT,
        auth_role_id    INT NOT NULL,
        model_class     VARCHAR(100) NOT NULL,
        method          VARCHAR(100) NOT NULL,
        PRIMARY KEY (id),
        UNIQUE (auth_role_id, model_class, method),
        INDEX (model_class(20)),
        INDEX (method(20)),
        FOREIGN KEY (auth_role_id) REFERENCES auth_roles (id)
  ) TYPE=InnoDB;


Maypole::Plugin::Authorization runs without any configuration, sharing the auth component of your Maypole configuration with whichever authentication plugin you are using. You can also customize some aspects of it with explicit configuration:


The name of the model subclass that represents the users table. It defaults to BeerDB::User, where BeerDB is the name of your application driver class. This subclass is used to execute the authorization SQL queries.


The name of the permissions table. It defaults to permissions.


The name of the table that assigns users to roles. It defaults to role_assignments.


The name of the foreign key column in the role assignment table that identifies the user. It defaults to user_id.


The permissions database can be maintained by any person who is assigned to the admin role. Most administration is performed using normal Maypole actions and templates such as list, search, addnew, view, edit and delete.

User administration is separated out to a user-admin role. I don't yet know whether this will prove beneficial but these people are the only ones who can access passwords and personal details.

There needs to be special code to allow users to edit their own passwords, since that is a data-dependent permission as opposed to the metadata-dependent nature of the authorizations scheme. Such code is part of the application's authentication scheme.

There is a default role that should be assigned to every user. Perhaps it should be hardwired in the SQL so that users don't have to be actually added to the role?


Create new user

User administration mechanisms belong in the domain of the authentication system, though this authorization module imposes a few additional requirements. This action should be permitted to the user-admin role. Newly created users should automatically be assigned to the 'default' role.

User changes password

Should be permitted to the individual user only and perhaps to the user-admin role.

Grant/change/revoke user privileges
Create/delete role
Alter actions permitted to role

People assigned to the admin role can edit the role_assignments, permissions and auth_roles tables in the normal Maypole way.

Update list of classes
Update list of methods

Presently, administrators need to type in the names of the model subclasses and the actions. The methods get_authorized_classes and get_authorized_methods could be used to build a specialized template to populate the relevant form elements.

Determine list of classes

This is the get_authorized_classes method. Given a user ID, find the list of classes for which s/he has some permissions. This can be used to build the list of tabs in the navbar.

Determine list of methods

This is the get_authorized_methods method. Given a user ID and class name, find the list of methods that the user is entitled to invoke. This can be used to build a menu of permitted actions.


There are several alternative possibilities for authorizable entities and permission checking in addition to the example implementation provided. You can consider them if you have special requirements:

1/ Authorize all actions (i.e. methods with the Exported attribute). Permission could be enforced in the model's process method just before calling the action. PRO: simple to implement, uniform and easy-to-understand CON: not as flexible as alternatives

2/ Explicit call to authorize() at the beginning of every method that needs to be authorized. PRO: Flexible. Very simple to implement initially. Obvious in code where auth occurs. Auth can be done at points other than method entry if needed. CON: Error-prone and awkward to maintain. Increases code complexity.

3/ Provide some other attribute that can be attached to methods to require them to be authorized, or perhaps in combination with Exported. For example, the Exported attribute could automatically invoke authorization as would a new 'Auth' attribute, while a new 'NoAuth' attribute would declare that the action could proceed without authorization.


Dave Howorth,

Please ask any questions on the Maypole mailing list and monitor that list for any announcements.


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Copyright (c) 2004-2005 Dave Howorth. You may distribute this code under the same terms as Perl itself.