Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Open Sourcing a NetworkManager VPN Plugin

It's not every day I find myself publishing a new project to open source and even less so when that requires release approval at work.  I hope, over the years, I've written some useful bits and pieces and this time around I was keen to publish my work on the Internet rather than internally within the company.  This requires following due process of course and seeking the relevant approval for the publication to take place.

Fortunately, in the right circumstances, IBM are very amenable to releasing code to open source.  I was convinced enough that a NetworkManager plugin to add to the existing list of VPN plugins would not conflict with the business that an open source approval would be fairly trivial.  Happily, I was correct, and going through the process wasn't too arduous with a few forms to fill in.  These were, of course, designed much more for bigger releases than I planned so vastly over-engineered for this particular release but at least due diligence was applied.

On to the project and the code.  It's not a world-changer but a small VPN plugin for NetworkManager to drive Cisco AnyConnect and made available as NetworkManager-anyconnect on GitHub.  So I now know more than I'd care to mention about the inner workings of NetworkManager VPN plugins.  They're not very well documented (hardly documented at all in fact) so they're quite hard work to produce by looking over existing code in available plugins.  I started off from the OpenVPN plugin which turned out to be a mistake as the code base is vastly bigger than that required for a plugin as simple as the one I wanted to write.  Were I to start again, I would recommend starting from the SSH VPN plugin instead as this is actually very nicely set out and doesn't include a lot of the shared bloat that comes with other plugins that are formally a part of NetworkManager.

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