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Re: Destination header syntax (Bug 211) and how WebDAV works with reverse proxies

From: Lisa Dusseault <lisa@osafoundation.org>
Date: Sat, 21 Jan 2006 16:05:38 -0800
Message-Id: <9D8ECBCB-E422-46B2-9E4E-E3DCB6E6FB3F@osafoundation.org>
Cc: WebDav <w3c-dist-auth@w3.org>
To: Julian Reschke <julian.reschke@gmx.de>

I support extending the Destination header and all other locations  
that take URLs, such that servers MUST accept absolute paths.

lisa

On Jan 21, 2006, at 12:40 PM, Julian Reschke wrote:

>
> Hi,
>
> we've got an open issue with the format of the Destination header  
> (see <http://ietf.cse.ucsc.edu:8080/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=211>).  
> Investigating this one showed that there's a bigger issue behind  
> it, and I was asked to summarize...
>
>
> 1. Status Quo
>
> In RFC2518, the Destination header is defined to take a full URL,  
> so no relative references or absolute paths are allowed (<http:// 
> greenbytes.de/tech/webdav/rfc2518.html#HEADER_Destination>). At  
> first glance, this seems to be unambiguous and no reason whatsoever  
> for further discussion.
>
> However, the problem here is that it means that client and server  
> need to agree about what the HTTP authority (server + port) are.  
> Why would that be a problem? The client did send the correct Host:  
> header, after all, right?
>
> The issue here are setups where a reverse proxy sits between client  
> and server (such as with <http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.0/mod/ 
> mod_proxy.html>). In a reverse proxy setup, the client addresses  
> the reverse proxy, not the origin server, and it's up to the  
> reverse proxy to rewrite and forward the request to the end point.  
> One use case for this would be a web site that uses Apache on port  
> 80 as a base server, but also uses this to delegate calls to  
> certain URLs to a servlet engine running on a different port (or  
> machine).
>
> In cases like these, clients and server do not agree upon what the  
> actual end point is. For plain HTTP, this usually is not a problem,  
> unless the server constructs URLs on it's own and sends them back  
> inside content (in which case there are additional modules trying  
> to rewrite content).
>
> Regarding the Host request header, the reverse proxy generally has  
> two choices. Leaving it as is (lying to the origin server), or  
> rewriting it (putting in the actual address of the origin server).  
> The latter seems to be the default both in Apache as in IIS scenarios.
>
> This isn't a problem, unless there is *other* information in the  
> request that also identifies the origin server, such as the  
> Destination header. Consider
>
>   MOVE /a HTTP/1.1
>   Host: www.example.com
>   Destination: http://www.example.com/b
>
> sent to a reverse proxy running on port 80 of www.example.com,  
> which in turn forwards the request to port 8080, rewriting the host  
> header, but not touching the Destination header:
>
>   MOVE /a HTTP/1.1
>   Host: www.example.com:8080
>   Destination: http://www.example.com/b
>
> A compliant WebDAV server will detect that the target of MOVE is on  
> a different server, and fail the request.
>
> So if this is a real-world problem, why haven't people been  
> complaining more about it?
>
> - The most widely deployed WebDAV servers (Apache/moddav and IIS  
> 5.5) in fact are not compliant. They just ignore the authority part  
> in the destination header, and happily execute the MOVE operation  
> (see <http://ietf.cse.ucsc.edu:8080/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=211#c3>).
>
> - The most widely used WebDAV client (MS Webfolders) in fact has  
> fallback behaviour: when the server returns a 502 status, it  
> silently GETs the content from the source URL and PUTs it to the  
> Destination (but watch out for lost WebDAV properties; it doesn't  
> do PROPFIND/PROPPATCH as far as I can tell).
>
>
>
> 2. RFC2518bis history
>
> So at some point, this working group concluded that it would be  
> good if clients would be able to stick just absolute paths into the  
> Destination header, and the problem would go away, see <http:// 
> lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-dist-auth/2004JulSep/0025.html>.   
> But this wouldn't really have been sufficient, as there are other  
> places where we require full URLs in a request, such as in tagged  
> lists in the If header. After short discussion, the change was  
> backed out fearing that existing servers would become non- 
> compliant. This history still reflects in awkward language in  
> <http://greenbytes.de/tech/webdav/draft-ietf-webdav- 
> rfc2518bis-10.html#destination-header>.
>
>
> 3. What now?
>
> I think the fact that both Apache and IIS ignore the spec is a  
> clear indicator that we need to fix something. Servers just  
> ignoring part of the Destination URL because clients may get them  
> wrong, or because they may not pass properly through reverse  
> proxies, certainly is a bad thing.
>
> As RFC2518bis already requires changes in servers, I think asking  
> for a few more changes should be ok. In particular, requiring  
> servers to accept absolute paths in requests seems to be an easy-to- 
> implement and backwards compatible change (before, servers would  
> reject these request with 4xx).
>
> This would include:
>
> a) the destination header and
> b) coded-URLs in Tagged lists in the If header
>
> At a minimum, we should *allow* servers to accept these. Smart  
> clients could then fall back to sending just the paths in case the  
> request using full URLs would fail.
>
> We also should try to get conformance tests for proper evaluation  
> of the Destination header into Neon (the Apache problem already has  
> been reported (as <http://issues.eu.apache.org/bugzilla/ 
> show_bug.cgi?id=38182>).
>
> Alternatively, we could decide that this problem isn't big enough  
> to warrant such a late spec change (in which case I'd recommend to  
> move this into a future activity, making WebDAV more robust for  
> setups like these).
>
> Feedback appreciated,
>
> Julian
>
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Received on Sunday, 22 January 2006 00:05:50 GMT

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