Remote depots for code drops

Performing a code drop requires coordination between the site receiving the code drop and the site providing the code drop. In most cases:

  • The Helix Server administrator at the site receiving the code drop creates a remote depot on that site's Helix Server that points to the site providing the code drop. See Define a remote depot.

  • The Helix Server administrator at the site providing the code drop configures that site's Helix Server to allow the recipient site’s remote depot to access the providing site’s Helix Server. See Restrict access to remote depots.

  • The configuration manager or integration manager at the receiving site integrates the desired files from the remote depot into a local depot. See Receive a code drop.

Define a remote depot

To define a new remote depot:

  1. Create the depot with p4 depot depotname.
  2. Set the Type: to remote.
  3. Direct your Helix Server to contact the remote Helix Server by providing the remote server’s name and listening port in the Address: field.

    A remote server’s host and port are specified in the Address: field just as though it were a P4PORT setting.

  4. Set the Map: field to map into the desired portion of the remote server’s namespace.

    For remote depots, the mapping contains a subdirectory relative to the remote depot namespace. For example, //depot/outbound/... maps to the outbound subdirectory of the depot named depot hosted on the remote server.

    The Map: field must contain a single line pointing to this subdirectory, specified in depot syntax, and containing the "..." wildcard on its right side.

    If you are unfamiliar with client views and mappings, see Configure workspace views in the Helix Core Command-Line (P4) Guide.

  5. The Suffix: field does not apply to remote depots.

In order for anyone on your site to access files in the remote depot, the administrator of the remote server must grant read access to user remote to the depots and subdirectories within the depots specified in the Map: field.

Example   Define a remote depot

Lisa is coordinating a project and wants to provide a set of libraries to her developers from a third-party development shop. The third-party development shop uses a Helix Server on host pine that listens on port 1818. Their policy is to place releases of their libraries on their server’s single depot depot under the subdirectory outbound.

Lisa creates a new depot from which she can access the code drop; she’ll call this depot from-pine; she’d type p4 depot from-pine and fill in the form as follows:

Depot:       from-pine
Type:        remote
Address:     pine:1818
Map:         //depot/outbound/...

This creates a remote depot called from-pine on Lisa’s Helix Server. This depot (//from-pine) maps to the third party’s depot's namespace under its outbound subdirectory.

Restrict access to remote depots

Remote depots are accessed either by the built-in user named remote, or by the service user of the accessing server’s p4d, if a service user is configured. Service users (including the built-in remote user) do not consume Helix Core licenses.

By default, all files on a Helix Server can be accessed remotely. To limit or eliminate remote access to a particular server, use p4 protect to set permissions for user remote or the remote site’s service user on that server. We recommend that administrators deny access to user remote across all files and all depots by adding the following permission line in the p4 protect table:

list user remote * -//...

Because remote depots can only be used for read access, it is not necessary to remove write or super access to user remote user or the service user. The built-in user remote does not have access to anything unless that access is granted explicitly in the protection table. Nevertheless, it remains good practice to deny access to user remote. If the servers at partner sites are configured to use service users, you can use their service users to further restrict which portions of your server are available for code drops.

Example security configuration with remote or service user

For both for code drops and scenarios with a Centralized changelist server (P4CHANGE), there are use cases for Grant limited read access to remote or service user. In the case of a Centralized changelist server (P4CHANGE), if a service user is configured, that service user is used to contact the centralized change server and obtain the change number. If not, the built-in remote user is used.

In this example, we use the two organizations described in Receive a code drop. The security considerations for each site include:

On the local (oak) site:

  • Deny access to //from-pine to all users. Developers at the oak site have no need to access files on the pine server by means of the remote depot mechanism.
  • Grant read access to //from-pine to your integration or build managers. The only user at the oak site who requires access the //from-pine remote depot is the user (in this example, adm) who performs the integration from the remote depot to the local depot.

    The oak administrator adds the following lines to the p4 protect table:

    list user * * -//from-pine/...
    read user adm * //from-pine/...

On the remote (pine) site, access to code residing on pine is entirely the responsibility of the pine server’s administrator. At a minimum, this administrator should:

  • Preemptively deny access to user remote across all depots from all IP addresses:

    list user remote * -//...

    Adding these lines to the p4 protect table is sound practice for any Helix Server installation, whether its administrator intends to use remote depots or not.

  • Contact the oak site’s administrator and obtain the name of the oak site’s service user.

    In this example, the oak site’s service user is service-oak. When a user of the oak server accesses a remote depot hosted on pine, the oak server will authenticate with the pine server as a user named service-oak.

    Grant limited read access to remote or service user

    As administrator of the pine site, you must:

    1. Create a service user on your site named service-oak. (see "service users" under "Types of users" in the p4 user topic of Helix Core Command-Line (P4) Reference). This user’s name must match the name of the receiving site’s service user.
    2. Assign this user a strong password.
    3. Inform the oak administrator of this password.

      The administrator of the oak site must:

    4. Use the password set by the pine administrator to obtain a ticket valid for pine for the user service-oak (that is, run p4 login service-oak against the pine server).
    5. Place the ticket somewhere where the oak server’s p4d process can access it. (For example, the .p4tickets file in the server’s root directory, with P4TICKETS set to point to the location of the ticket file.)
    6. Configure oak to work with the pine service user, either by starting oak's p4d process with the -u service-oak flag, or configure the server with p4 configure set serviceUser=service-oak.)
    7. Grant read access to user remote (or the oak site’s service user) to only those areas of the pine server into which code drops are to be placed. Service users are used for replication, so you must consider the access rights that replication requires.
    8. Restrict access to requests originating from the IP address of the Helix Server that is authorized to receive the code drop.

    In this example, outgoing code drops reside in //depot/outbound/... on the pine server. If oak's IP address is, the pine site’s protections table looks like:

    list user remote * -//...
    read user remote //depot/outbound/...
  • If the oak server is configured to use service-oak as its service user, the pine site’s protections table looks like:

    list user remote * -//...
    list user service-oak * -//...
    read user service-oak //depot/outbound/...

    Only servers at IP address that have valid tickets for the pine site’s service-oak user can access the pine server through remote depots, and only //depot/outbound/... is accessible.

Receive a code drop

To perform a handoff or code drop between two Helix Server installations:

  1. Developers on pine:1818 complete work on a body of code for delivery.
  2. The build or release manager on pine:1818 branches the deliverable code into an area of pine:1818 intended for outbound code drops. In this example, the released code is branched to //depot/outbound/....
  3. A Helix Server administrator at oak:1234 configures a remote depot called //from-pine on the oak server. This remote depot contains a Map: field that directs the oak server to the //depot/outbound area of pine:1818.
  4. Upon notification of the release’s availability, a build or release manager at oak:1234 performs the code drop by integrating files in the //from-pine/... remote depot into a suitable area of the local depot, such as //depot/codedrops/pine.
  5. Developers at oak:1234 can now use the pine organization’s code, now hosted locally under //depot/codedrops/pine. Should patches be required to pine's code, oak developers can make such patches under //depot/codedrops/pine. The pine group retains control over its code.