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Version: 3.27 (latest)

Manage TLS certificates used by Calico

Big picture

Enable custom workflows for issuing and signing certificates used to secure communication between Calico components.


Some deployments have security requirements that strictly minimize or eliminate the access to private keys and/or requirements to control the trusted certificates throughout clusters. Using the Kubernetes Certificates API that automates certificate issuance, Calico provides a simple configuration option that you add to your installation.

Before you begin

Supported algorithms

  • Private Key Pair: RSA (size: 2048, 4096, 8192), ECDSA (curve: 256, 384, 521)
  • Certificate Signature: RSA (sha: 256, 384, 512), ECDSA (sha: 256, 384, 512)

How to

Enable certificate management

  1. Modify your the installation resource resource and add the certificateManagement section. Apply the following change to your cluster.
kind: Installation
name: default
caCert: <Your CA Cert in Pem format>
signerName: <your-domain>/<signer-name>
signatureAlgorithm: SHA512WithRSA
keyAlgorithm: RSAWithSize4096

Done! If you have an automatic signer and approver, there is nothing left to do. The next section explains in more detail how to verify and monitor the status.

Verify and monitor

  1. Monitor your pods as they come up:
kubectl get pod -n calico-system -w
calico-system calico-node-5ckvq 0/1 Pending 0 0s
calico-system calico-typha-688c9957f5-h9c5w 0/1 Pending 0 0s
calico-system calico-node-5ckvq 0/1 Init:0/3 0 1s
calico-system calico-typha-688c9957f5-h9c5w 0/1 Init:0/1 0 1s
calico-system calico-node-5ckvq 0/1 PodInitializing 0 2s
calico-system calico-typha-688c9957f5-h9c5w 0/1 PodInitializing 0 2s
calico-system calico-node-5ckvq 1/1 Running 0 3s
calico-system calico-typha-688c9957f5-h9c5w 1/1 Running 0 3s

During the Init phase a certificate signing request (CSR) is created by an init container of the pod. It will be stuck in the Init phase. Once the CSR has been approved and signed by the certificate authority, the pod continues with PodInitializing and eventually Running.

  1. Monitor certificate signing requests:
kubectl get csr -w
calico-system:calico-node-5ckvq:9a3a10 0s system:serviceaccount:calico-system:calico-node Pending
calico-system:calico-node-5ckvq:9a3a10 0s system:serviceaccount:calico-system:calico-node Pending,Issued
calico-system:calico-node-5ckvq:9a3a10 0s system:serviceaccount:calico-system:calico-node Approved,Issued
calico-system:typha-688c9957f5-h9c5w:2b0d82 0s system:serviceaccount:calico-system:calico-typha Pending
calico-system:typha-688c9957f5-h9c5w:2b0d82 0s system:serviceaccount:calico-system:calico-typha Pending,Issued
calico-system:typha-688c9957f5-h9c5w:2b0d82 0s system:serviceaccount:calico-system:calico-typha Approved,Issued

A CSR will be Pending until it has been Issued and Approved. The name of a CSR is based on the namespace, the pod name and the first 6 characters of the pod's UID. The pod will be Pending until the CSR has been Approved.

  1. Monitor the status of this feature using the TigeraStatus:
kubectl get tigerastatus
calico True False False 2m40s

Implement your own signing and approval process

Required steps

This feature uses api version for certificate signing requests. To automate the signing and approval process, run a server that performs the following actions:

  1. Watch CertificateSigningRequests resources with status Pending and spec.signerName=<your-signer-name>.


    You can skip this step if you are using a version before Kubernetes v1.18; (the signerName field was not available).

  2. For each Pending CSR perform (security) checks (see next heading)

  3. Issue a certificate and update .spec.status.certificate

  4. Approve the CSR and update .spec.status.conditions

Security requirements

Based on your requirements you may want to implement custom checks to make sure that no certificates are issued for a malicious user. When a CSR is created, the kube-apiserver adds immutable fields to the spec to help you perform checks:

  • .spec.username: username of the requester
  • .spec.groups: user groups of the requester
  • .spec.request: certificate request in pem format

Verify that the user and/or group match with the requested certificate subject (alt) names.

Implement your signer and approver using golang

  • Use client-go to create a clientset
  • To watch CSRs, use clientset.CertificatesV1().CertificateSigningRequests().Watch(..)
  • To issue the certificate use clientset.CertificatesV1().CertificateSigningRequests().UpdateStatus(...)
  • To approve the CSR use clientset.CertificatesV1().CertificateSigningRequests().UpdateApproval(...)

Additional resources