Client table

The ERMrest_Client table in the public schema is created automatically in newly created catalogs and is also added to existing catalogs when ermrest-deploy upgrades a system.

The rows of this table are automatically maintained by ERMrest, recording basic client information as each new authenticated client is encountered. No attempt is made to purge records.

At time of writing, this contains these columns:

  • ID: The text unique identifier of the client (possibly a URI).
  • Display_Name: A more human-readable text representation of the client identity (possibly a domain-qualified username which looks similar to an email address).
  • Full_Name: The human-readable text name of the client.
  • Email: A text email address to contact the client.
  • Client_Object: A jsonb object containing client metadata.

The ID field is the primary key and cannot be NULL. Each of the other fields MAY be NULL, depending on what information is available from the configured webauthn2 identity provider.

The set of columns is a pragmatic choice, intended to reflect stable client information which may be helpful when interpreting provenance metadata and which is usually present in deployed systems. For performance reasons, we do not wish to have high-resolution temporal information such as access or expiration times, as these would cause too many database updates in what are otherwise read-only ERMrest requests.

Extensibility and Localization

The DBA is allowed to add additional human-managed columns to the ERMrest_Client table. These columns MUST have a properly configured default value and/or allow NULL values so that ERMrest can insert newly discovered clients while only configuring the subset of columns which it understands. Failure to do so may render the service inoperative until this problem is rectified.

The DBA is also allowed to customize access control policies for this table. It is impossible to hide the table from catalog owners, but less privileged users need not be aware of it.

Conservative default policy

When the table is introduced into a catalog, it is assigned a default table-level policy:

  "insert": [],
  "update": [],
  "delete": [],
  "select": [],
  "enumerate": []

This effectively hides the table from clients who are not owners of the whole catalog or the public schema. A catalog administrator MAY subsequently modify these policies to make content visible to clients where appropriate.

Interface Guarantees

The set of columns included in the table are based on the currently known information from webauthn. ERMrest requires the columns to be present for correct function.

A future version of ERMrest MAY:

  1. Change the set of properties in the Client_Object field
  2. Extend the list of client metadata columns
    • Include additional columns when creating the table
    • Add columns to existing table instances in ermrest-deploy
  3. Shorten the list of client metadata columns
    • Omit obsolete columns when creating the table
    • Ignore obsolete columns when operating on existing tables

The DBA is also allowed to mutate the ERMrest_Client table contents to import knowledge about clients who have not yet been discovered by the ERMrest service logic. However, when ERMrest encounters a client corresponding to such an entry, it will automatically mutate the columns it understands to reflect all the latest client metadata obtained from the webauthn identity providers.

Therefore, it is not recommended that users be given access to modify those fields, as they will become confused or frustrated when values revert to the webauthn-established values.

Likewise, the DBA is allowed to purge stale entries from the ERMrest_Client table, but catalog access by a purged client will automatically reinsert their information. If a DBA wishes to hide certain clients’ information from the userbase, a dynamic ACL binding should be defined to control access to individual rows while allowing corresponding rows to be present for each active client.