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PKI certificates and requirements

Kubernetes requires PKI certificates for authentication over TLS. If you install Kubernetes with kubeadm, the certificates that your cluster requires are automatically generated. You can also generate your own certificates -- for example, to keep your private keys more secure by not storing them on the API server. This page explains the certificates that your cluster requires.

How certificates are used by your cluster

Kubernetes requires PKI for the following operations:

  • Client certificates for the kubelet to authenticate to the API server
  • Kubelet server certificates for the API server to talk to the kubelets
  • Server certificate for the API server endpoint
  • Client certificates for administrators of the cluster to authenticate to the API server
  • Client certificates for the API server to talk to the kubelets
  • Client certificate for the API server to talk to etcd
  • Client certificate/kubeconfig for the controller manager to talk to the API server
  • Client certificate/kubeconfig for the scheduler to talk to the API server.
  • Client and server certificates for the front-proxy

etcd also implements mutual TLS to authenticate clients and peers.

Where certificates are stored

If you install Kubernetes with kubeadm, most certificates are stored in /etc/kubernetes/pki. All paths in this documentation are relative to that directory, with the exception of user account certificates which kubeadm places in /etc/kubernetes.

Configure certificates manually

If you don't want kubeadm to generate the required certificates, you can create them using a single root CA or by providing all certificates. See Certificates for details on creating your own certificate authority. See Certificate Management with kubeadm for more on managing certificates.

Single root CA

You can create a single root CA, controlled by an administrator. This root CA can then create multiple intermediate CAs, and delegate all further creation to Kubernetes itself.

Required CAs:

path Default CN description
ca.crt,key kubernetes-ca Kubernetes general CA
etcd/ca.crt,key etcd-ca For all etcd-related functions
front-proxy-ca.crt,key kubernetes-front-proxy-ca For the front-end proxy

On top of the above CAs, it is also necessary to get a public/private key pair for service account management, sa.key and The following example illustrates the CA key and certificate files shown in the previous table:


All certificates

If you don't wish to copy the CA private keys to your cluster, you can generate all certificates yourself.

Required certificates:

Default CN Parent CA O (in Subject) kind hosts (SAN)
kube-etcd etcd-ca server, client <hostname>, <Host_IP>, localhost,
kube-etcd-peer etcd-ca server, client <hostname>, <Host_IP>, localhost,
kube-etcd-healthcheck-client etcd-ca client
kube-apiserver-etcd-client etcd-ca system:masters client
kube-apiserver kubernetes-ca server <hostname>, <Host_IP>, <advertise_IP>, [1]
kube-apiserver-kubelet-client kubernetes-ca system:masters client
front-proxy-client kubernetes-front-proxy-ca client

[1]: any other IP or DNS name you contact your cluster on (as used by kubeadm the load balancer stable IP and/or DNS name, kubernetes, kubernetes.default, kubernetes.default.svc, kubernetes.default.svc.cluster, kubernetes.default.svc.cluster.local)

where kind maps to one or more of the x509 key usage, which is also documented in the .spec.usages of a CertificateSigningRequest type:

kind Key usage
server digital signature, key encipherment, server auth
client digital signature, key encipherment, client auth

Certificate paths

Certificates should be placed in a recommended path (as used by kubeadm). Paths should be specified using the given argument regardless of location.

Default CN recommended key path recommended cert path command key argument cert argument
etcd-ca etcd/ca.key etcd/ca.crt kube-apiserver --etcd-cafile
kube-apiserver-etcd-client apiserver-etcd-client.key apiserver-etcd-client.crt kube-apiserver --etcd-keyfile --etcd-certfile
kubernetes-ca ca.key ca.crt kube-apiserver --client-ca-file
kubernetes-ca ca.key ca.crt kube-controller-manager --cluster-signing-key-file --client-ca-file, --root-ca-file, --cluster-signing-cert-file
kube-apiserver apiserver.key apiserver.crt kube-apiserver --tls-private-key-file --tls-cert-file
kube-apiserver-kubelet-client apiserver-kubelet-client.key apiserver-kubelet-client.crt kube-apiserver --kubelet-client-key --kubelet-client-certificate
front-proxy-ca front-proxy-ca.key front-proxy-ca.crt kube-apiserver --requestheader-client-ca-file
front-proxy-ca front-proxy-ca.key front-proxy-ca.crt kube-controller-manager --requestheader-client-ca-file
front-proxy-client front-proxy-client.key front-proxy-client.crt kube-apiserver --proxy-client-key-file --proxy-client-cert-file
etcd-ca etcd/ca.key etcd/ca.crt etcd --trusted-ca-file, --peer-trusted-ca-file
kube-etcd etcd/server.key etcd/server.crt etcd --key-file --cert-file
kube-etcd-peer etcd/peer.key etcd/peer.crt etcd --peer-key-file --peer-cert-file
etcd-ca etcd/ca.crt etcdctl --cacert
kube-etcd-healthcheck-client etcd/healthcheck-client.key etcd/healthcheck-client.crt etcdctl --key --cert

Same considerations apply for the service account key pair:

private key path public key path command argument
sa.key kube-controller-manager --service-account-private-key-file kube-apiserver --service-account-key-file

The following example illustrates the file paths from the previous tables you need to provide if you are generating all of your own keys and certificates:


Configure certificates for user accounts

You must manually configure these administrator account and service accounts:

filename credential name Default CN O (in Subject)
admin.conf default-admin kubernetes-admin system:masters
kubelet.conf default-auth system:node:<nodeName> (see note) system:nodes
controller-manager.conf default-controller-manager system:kube-controller-manager
scheduler.conf default-scheduler system:kube-scheduler
  1. For each config, generate an x509 cert/key pair with the given CN and O.

  2. Run kubectl as follows for each config:

KUBECONFIG=<filename> kubectl config set-cluster default-cluster --server=https://<host ip>:6443 --certificate-authority <path-to-kubernetes-ca> --embed-certs
KUBECONFIG=<filename> kubectl config set-credentials <credential-name> --client-key <path-to-key>.pem --client-certificate <path-to-cert>.pem --embed-certs
KUBECONFIG=<filename> kubectl config set-context default-system --cluster default-cluster --user <credential-name>
KUBECONFIG=<filename> kubectl config use-context default-system

These files are used as follows:

filename command comment
admin.conf kubectl Configures administrator user for the cluster
kubelet.conf kubelet One required for each node in the cluster.
controller-manager.conf kube-controller-manager Must be added to manifest in manifests/kube-controller-manager.yaml
scheduler.conf kube-scheduler Must be added to manifest in manifests/kube-scheduler.yaml

The following files illustrate full paths to the files listed in the previous table:

Last modified December 17, 2022 at 5:21 PM PST: Normalize the markdown for the page (227cb354a9)