Guest post by Charith Ellawala, Co-Founder & CTO at Cerbos
In the world of software development, authorization is one of the most important aspects to consider when designing any application. Without proper authorization, an application can become vulnerable to unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security threats. This is where stateless authorization in general comes into play.
Stateless authorization is an increasingly popular approach to access control in software applications due to its many strengths. One of the main benefits of stateless authorization is its lightweight and easily scalable nature.
Stateless authorization is called “stateless” because it doesn’t maintain any state about a user or the resource they are trying to act on. Instead, it relies on the context provided in each request and evaluates them independently. Having to connect to the data sources separately from your core application can be a big performance and security risk. With stateless authorization the integration remains simple because one does not need to build interfaces for various sources of data and issues like cache invalidation.
Because stateless authorization does not rely on maintaining state from other services, it can also be easily scaled to handle large volumes of requests. Since each request is self-contained, it can be processed by any server in a cluster without the need for shared session state or sticky sessions. This makes it an ideal approach for modern, cloud-native applications that require horizontal scalability and rapid deployment.
Stateless authorization is also highly flexible, as it allows authorization policies to be changed or updated without requiring a change in the existing calls from services checking permissions. Because each request includes all the necessary information to make an access control decision, policies can be easily modified or updated without the need to invalidate existing sessions. This makes it an ideal approach for dynamic or rapidly changing environments, where policies need to be frequently updated.
Finally, stateless authorization is highly performant due to its simplicity and lack of database lookups and the need to actually run and scale the state storage layer along with the rest of your application. With no need to maintain session state or perform expensive database queries, stateless authorization can handle large volumes of requests with minimal overhead. This makes it an ideal approach for high-traffic applications that require fast response times and minimal latency.
In summary, stateless authorization offers a lightweight, easily scalable, flexible, and performant approach to access control that is well-suited to modern, cloud-native applications. Its simplicity and lack of session state make it an ideal approach for rapidly changing environments, where policies need to be frequently updated. Its high scalability and performance make it an ideal approach for high-traffic applications that require fast response times and minimal latency.
Charith is Co-Founder and CTO of Cerbos. He previously worked on large-scale data-processing platforms, distributed systems and API services at Elastic, Qubit and Ocado. He is interested in security, programming languages, optimization and cloud native technologies.