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Roberto Carratalá

Linux Geek. Devops & Kubernetes enthusiast. Architect @ Red Hat.

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How generate certificates for our apps and sign them with a free and trusted Certificate Authority? And the most important, how I can automate this process for generate and renew this certificates?

Let’s start!

First of all we will use for this purpose, Let’s Encrypt certificates for this purpose. Let’s Encrypt is a automated, and open Certificate Authority and that can be used for sign our certificates without expend a dime (or euro in my case :D).

But for sign the certificate with the let’s encrypt CA some steps must be executed. That’s were the magic of the cert-manager operator can be very helpful.

Installation of the cert-manager

  • Create a namespace to run cert-manager in:
# oc create namespace cert-manager
namespace/cert-manager created
  • Disable resource validation on the cert-manager namespace
# oc label namespace cert-manager
namespace/cert-manager labeled

NOTE: The –validate=false flag is added to the oc apply command above else you will receive a validation error relating to the caBundle field of the ValidatingWebhookConfiguration resource.

  • Install the cert-manager components (CRDs, cert-manager and webhook component):
    # oc apply --validate=false -f created created created created created
  • Check the resources generated by the installation:
# oc get pod -n cert-manager
NAME                                       READY   STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
cert-manager-68cfd787b6-cz27g              1/1     Running   0          68s
cert-manager-cainjector-5975fd64c5-4wpxs   1/1     Running   0          69s
cert-manager-webhook-5c7f95fd44-tdrpt      1/1     Running   0          68s

# oc get clusterrole | grep cert-manager
cert-manager                                                           3m50s
cert-manager-cainjector                                                3m50s
cert-manager-edit                                                      3m50s
cert-manager-view                                                      3m50s
cert-manager-webhook:webhook-requester                                 3m50s

# oc get deployment -n cert-manager
NAME                      READY   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
cert-manager              1/1     1            1           4m10s
cert-manager-cainjector   1/1     1            1           4m11s
cert-manager-webhook      1/1     1            1           4m11s
  • Patch the certmanager deployment for allow resolv an external DNS (

Due to the cert-manager deployment have the spec of dnsPolicy: ClusterFirst, can not reach an External DNS for perform the DNS Challenge and communicate with Lets Encrypt API (one of the reasons for deploy the cert-manager).

For this reason, a patch for the Deployment of the cert-manager must to be performed:


# oc get deploy cert-manager -n cert-manager -o yaml | grep dnsPolicy
dnsPolicy: ClusterFirst


# oc get deploy cert-manager -n cert-manager -o yaml
        terminationMessagePolicy: File
      dnsPolicy: None
      restartPolicy: Always

NOTE: dnsPolicy to None allows Pod to ignore DNS settings from the Kubernetes environment. All DNS settings are supposed to be provided using the dnsConfig field in the Pod Spec.

For more information, check the DNS Pod Service Kubernetes Guide

# oc get pod -n cert-manager
NAME                                       READY   STATUS              RESTARTS   AGE
cert-manager-679fd5459-868cs               0/1     ContainerCreating   0          11s
cert-manager-68cfd787b6-cz27g              1/1     Running             0          61m
cert-manager-cainjector-5975fd64c5-4wpxs   1/1     Running             0          61m
cert-manager-webhook-5c7f95fd44-tdrpt      1/1     Running             0          61m
# oc exec -ti cert-manager-679fd5459-868cs -n cert-manager /bin/sh
~ $ nc -zv 443 ( open

Setting up Issuers

Before you can begin issuing certificates, you must configure at least one Issuer or ClusterIssuer resource in your cluster.

These represent a certificate authority from which signed x509 certificates can be obtained, such as Let’s Encrypt, or your own signing key pair stored in a Kubernetes Secret resource. They are referenced by Certificate resources in order to request certificates from them.

  • Issuer: scoped to a single namespace, and can only fulfill Certificate resources within its own namespace. Useful in a multi-tenant environment where multiple teams or independent parties operate within a single cluster.

  • ClusterIssuer: cluster wide version of an Issuer. It is able to be referenced by Certificate resources in any namespace.

NOTE: cert-manager supports a number of different issuer backends, each with their own different types of configuration. In our case, ACME issuer backend will be used due to Let’s Encrypt certificates will be generated.

ACME issuers in Cert-Manager

Cert-manager can be used to obtain certificates from a CA using the ACME protocol. The ACME protocol supports various challenge mechanisms which are used to prove ownership of a domain so that a valid certificate can be issued for that domain.

One such challenge mechanism is DNS-01. With a DNS-01 challenge, you prove ownership of a domain by proving you control its DNS records. This is done by creating a TXT record with specific content that proves you have control of the domains DNS records.

NOTE: Let’s Encrypt does not support issuing wildcard certificates with HTTP-01 challenges. To issue wildcard certificates, you must use the DNS-01 challenge.

Generate required IAM Policy and User for ACME Cert-Manager Issuer

The ACME Issuer type represents a single Account registered with the ACME server.

When you create a new ACME Issuer, cert-manager will generate a private key which is used to identify you with the ACME server.

To set up a basic ACME issuer, you should create a new Issuer or ClusterIssuer resource.

But first of all, cert-manager requires an IAM Policy that must to be defined.

  • First generate an IAM policy with the permissions related below:
# aws iam list-policies | grep acme
            "PolicyName": "acme-route53",
            "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::920348280276:policy/acme-route53"
    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "route53:GetChange",
            "Resource": "arn:aws:route53:::change/*"
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "route53:ChangeResourceRecordSets",
            "Resource": "arn:aws:route53:::hostedzone/*"
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "route53:ListHostedZonesByName",
            "Resource": "*"
  • Generate an IAM Role User and attach the new brand IAM Policy:
# aws iam  list-users | grep cert
            "UserName": "cert-manager-iam",
            "Arn": "arn:aws:iam::920348280276:user/cert-manager-iam"

# aws iam list-attached-user-policies --user-name cert-manager-iam
    "AttachedPolicies": [
            "PolicyName": "acme-route53",
            "PolicyArn": "arn:aws:iam::920348280276:policy/acme-route53"
  • Generate a secret with the secret-access-key of the new user generated:
# oc create secret generic --from-literal=secret-access-key=xxxxxxxxxx-n cert-manager acme-route53
secret/acme-route53 created

# oc get secret acme-route53 -n cert-manager -o yaml
apiVersion: v1
  secret-access-key: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
kind: Secret
  creationTimestamp: "2019-08-09T10:17:56Z"
  name: acme-route53
  namespace: cert-manager
  resourceVersion: "1493413"
  selfLink: /api/v1/namespaces/cert-manager/secrets/acme-route53
  uid: f4dc42b9-ba8e-11e9-9ee8-06221c570820
type: Opaque

Generating ACME Issuers for AWS Route 53

  • Generate the ClusterIssuer resource:
apiVersion: v1
- apiVersion:
  kind: ClusterIssuer
    name: apps-ocp4-dev-opentlc-com
        - name: dns
            accessKeyID: yyyy
            hostedZoneID: zzzz
            region: eu-central-1
              key: secret-access-key
              name: acme-route53
        name: cluster-issuer
kind: List
  resourceVersion: ""
  selfLink: ""
  • Check that the clusterissuer is generated properly:
# oc get clusterissuer
NAME                        AGE
apps-ocp4-dev-opentlc-com   2m12s

Issuing Certificates

The Certificate resource type is used to request certificates from different Issuers.

A Certificate resource specifies fields that are used to generated certificate signing requests which are then fulfilled by the issuer type you have referenced.

# oc get certificates -n openshift-ingress -o yaml
apiVersion: v1
- apiVersion:
  kind: Certificate
    name: apps-ocp4-dev-xbyorange-com
    namespace: openshift-ingress
      - dns01:
          provider: dns
        - '*'
    commonName: '*'
    - '*'
      kind: ClusterIssuer
      name: apps-ocp4-dev-opentlc-com
    secretName: apps-ocp4
    duration: 2160h #90d
    renewBefore: 360h #15d
kind: List
  resourceVersion: ""
  selfLink: ""

A Certificate resource specifies fields that are used to generated certificate signing requests which are then fulfilled by the issuer type you have referenced.

Certificates specify which issuer will be used to obtain the certificate from by specifying the spec.issuerRef field (in our case the cluster issuer created in the step above).

Furhtermore, the Certificate resource will generate the certificate for the wildcard domain (the route *.apps in our cluster) with an specific duration (90d) and will be renewed automatically 15d before their expiration.

The signed certificate (Let’s Encrypt) for the default ingress controller exposing *.apps routes, will be generated automatically into the namespace of openshift-ingress and stored un a Secret resource named apps-ocp4, once the issuer has successfully issued the requested certificate.

The Certificate will be issued using the issuer named ca-issuer in the openshift-ingress namespace.

# oc logs -f cert-manager-679fd5459-868cs
I0809 12:08:41.656962       1 dns.go:101] Presenting DNS01 challenge for domain
I0809 12:09:14.982797       1 dns.go:112] Checking DNS propagation for
"" using name servers: []
I0809 12:09:15.959388       1 dns.go:124] Waiting DNS record TTL (60s) to allow propagation of DNS
record for domain ""
I0809 12:10:15.959599       1 dns.go:126] ACME DNS01 validation record propagated for
  • After wait some minutes for the DNS Challenge between the cert-manager operator and the ACME API, a Certificate is generate and stored into a Secret (check SecretName value into the Certificate CRD before):
# oc get secrets -n openshift-ingress
NAME                           TYPE                                  DATA   AGE
apps-ocp4                                 3      5m51s

# oc get certificates -n openshift-ingress
NAME                        READY   SECRET      AGE
apps-ocp4-dev-opentlc-com   True    apps-ocp4   8m33s

Patching the Openshift Routers with the new certificates

  • Update the Ingress Controller configuration with the newly created secret:
# oc patch ingresscontroller.operator default --type=merg
e -p '{"spec":{"defaultCertificate": {"name": "apps-ocp4"}}}' -n openshift-ingress-operator patched

# oc get pod -n openshift-ingress
NAME                              READY   STATUS              RESTARTS   AGE
router-default-79998d9946-lllvj   0/1     ContainerCreating   0          12s
router-default-84ff5bdcb8-ktmk9   1/1     Running             0          3d19h
  • After couple of minutes, the default Certificate exposed is updated and now serves the certificate generated by the Cert-Manager:
# oc get ingresscontroller -n openshift-ingress-operator -o yaml | grep -A1 defaultCertificate
      name: apps-ocp4

Check the Certificated expose by the OCP routers

If we check the certificated exposed by the Openshift Routers with openssl, we can realized that the certificated exposed is the Let’s Encrypt generated:

# openssl s_client -showcerts -servername  -connect </dev/null | grep Issuer
depth=2 O = Digital Signature Trust Co., CN = DST Root CA X3
verify return:1
depth=1 C = US, O = Let's Encrypt, CN = Let's Encrypt Authority X3
verify return:1
depth=0 CN = *
verify return:1

Happy Openshifting!!!