Access control model

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Docker Universal Control Plane (UCP), the UI for Docker EE, lets you authorize users to view, edit, and use cluster resources by granting role-based permissions against resource sets.

To authorize access to cluster resources across your organization, UCP administrators might take the following high-level steps:

  • Add and configure subjects (users, teams, and service accounts).
  • Define custom roles (or use defaults) by adding permitted operations per type of resource.
  • Group cluster resources into resource sets of Swarm collections or Kubernetes namespaces.
  • Create grants by combining subject + role + resource set.

For an example, see Deploy stateless app with RBAC.


A subject represents a user, team, organization, or service account. A subject can be granted a role that defines permitted operations against one or more resource sets.

  • User: A person authenticated by the authentication backend. Users can belong to one or more teams and one or more organizations.
  • Team: A group of users that share permissions defined at the team level. A team can be in one organization only.
  • Organization: A group of teams that share a specific set of permissions, defined by the roles of the organization.
  • Service account: A Kubernetes object that enables a workload to access cluster resources that are assigned to a namespace.

Learn to create and configure users and teams.


Roles define what operations can be done by whom. A role is a set of permitted operations against a type of resource, like a container or volume, that’s assigned to a user or team with a grant.

For example, the built-in role, Restricted Control, includes permission to view and schedule nodes but not to update nodes. A custom DBA role might include permissions to r-w-x volumes and secrets.

Most organizations use multiple roles to fine-tune the appropriate access. A given team or user may have different roles provided to them depending on what resource they are accessing.

Learn to define roles with authorized API operations.

Resource sets

To control user access, cluster resources are grouped into Docker Swarm collections or Kubernetes namespaces.

  • Swarm collections: A collection has a directory-like structure that holds Swarm resources. You can create collections in UCP by defining a directory path and moving resources into it. Also, you can create the path in UCP and use labels in your YAML file to assign application resources to the path. Resource types that users can access in a Swarm collection include containers, networks, nodes, services, secrets, and volumes.

  • Kubernetes namespaces: A namespace is a logical area for a Kubernetes cluster. Kubernetes comes with a default namespace for your cluster objects, plus two more namespaces for system and public resources. You can create custom namespaces, but unlike Swarm collections, namespaces can’t be nested. Resource types that users can access in a Kubernetes namespace include pods, deployments, network policies, nodes, services, secrets, and many more.

Together, collections and namespaces are named resource sets. Learn to group and isolate cluster resources.


A grant is made up of subject, role, and resource set.

Grants define which users can access what resources in what way. Grants are effectively Access Control Lists (ACLs), and when grouped together, they provide comprehensive access policies for an entire organization.

Only an administrator can manage grants, subjects, roles, and access to resources.

About administrators

An administrator is a user who creates subjects, groups resources by moving them into collections or namespaces, defines roles by selecting allowable operations, and applies grants to users and teams.

Where to go next

ucp, grant, role, permission, authentication, authorization, resource, namespace, Kubernetes