Cluster TLS using OpenSSL

This guide will walk you through generating Kubernetes TLS assets using OpenSSL.

This is provided as a proof-of-concept guide to get started with Kubernetes client certificate authentication.

Deployment Options

The following variables will be used throughout this guide. The default for K8S_SERVICE_IP can safely be used, however MASTER_HOST will need to be customized to your infrastructure.

MASTER_HOST=no default

The address of the master node. In most cases this will be the publicly routable IP or hostname of the node. Worker nodes must be able to reach the master node(s) via this address on port 443. Additionally, external clients (such as an administrator using kubectl) will also need access, since this will run the Kubernetes API endpoint.

If you will be running a highly-available control-plane consisting of multiple master nodes, then MASTER_HOST will ideally be a network load balancer that sits in front of them. Alternatively, a DNS name can be configured to resolve to the master IPs. In either case, the certificates generated below must have the appropriate CommonName and/or SubjectAlternateNames.


The IP address of the Kubernetes API Service. The K8S_SERVICE_IP will be the first IP in the SERVICE_IP_RANGE discussed in the deployment guide. The first IP in the default range of will be If the SERVICE_IP_RANGE was changed from the default, this value must be updated as well.

WORKER_IP=no default

WORKER_FQDN=no default

The IP addresses and fully qualifed hostnames of all worker nodes will be needed. The certificates generated for the worker nodes will need to reflect how requests will be routed to those nodes. In most cases this will be a routable IP and/or a routable hostname. These will be unique per worker; when you see them used below, consider it a loop and do that step for each worker.

Create a Cluster Root CA

First, we need to create a new certificate authority which will be used to sign the rest of our certificates.

$ openssl genrsa -out ca-key.pem 2048
$ openssl req -x509 -new -nodes -key ca-key.pem -days 10000 -out ca.pem -subj "/CN=kube-ca"

You need to store the CA keypair in a secure location for future use.

Kubernetes API Server Keypair

OpenSSL Config

This is a minimal openssl config which will be used when creating the api-server certificate. We need to create a configuration file since some of the options we need to use can't be specified as flags. Create openssl.cnf on your local machine and replace the following values:

  • Replace ${K8S_SERVICE_IP}
  • Replace ${MASTER_HOST}


req_extensions = v3_req
distinguished_name = req_distinguished_name
[ v3_req ]
basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = nonRepudiation, digitalSignature, keyEncipherment
subjectAltName = @alt_names
DNS.1 = kubernetes
DNS.2 = kubernetes.default
DNS.3 = kubernetes.default.svc
DNS.4 = kubernetes.default.svc.cluster.local

If deploying multiple master nodes in an HA configuration, you may need to add more TLS subjectAltNames (SANs). Proper configuration of SANs in each certificate depends on how worker nodes and kubectl users contact the master nodes: directly by IP address, via load balancer, or by resolving a DNS name.



Generate the API Server Keypair

Using the above openssl.cnf, create the api-server keypair:

$ openssl genrsa -out apiserver-key.pem 2048
$ openssl req -new -key apiserver-key.pem -out apiserver.csr -subj "/CN=kube-apiserver" -config openssl.cnf
$ openssl x509 -req -in apiserver.csr -CA ca.pem -CAkey ca-key.pem -CAcreateserial -out apiserver.pem -days 365 -extensions v3_req -extfile openssl.cnf

Kubernetes Worker Keypairs

This procedure generates a unique TLS certificate for every Kubernetes worker node in your cluster. While unique certificates are less convenient to generate and deploy, they do provide stronger security assurances and the most portable installation experience across multiple cloud-based and on-premises Kubernetes deployments.

OpenSSL Config

We will use a common openssl configuration file for all workers. The certificate output will be customized per worker based on environment variables used in conjunction with the configuration file. Create the file worker-openssl.cnf on your local machine with the following contents.


req_extensions = v3_req
distinguished_name = req_distinguished_name
[ v3_req ]
basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = nonRepudiation, digitalSignature, keyEncipherment
subjectAltName = @alt_names

Generate the Kubernetes Worker Keypairs

Run the following set of commands once for every worker node in the planned cluster. Replace WORKER_FQDN and WORKER_IP in the following commands with the correct values for each node. If the node does not have a routeable hostname, set WORKER_FQDN to a unique, per-node placeholder name like kube-worker-1, kube-worker-2 and so on.

$ openssl genrsa -out ${WORKER_FQDN}-worker-key.pem 2048
$ WORKER_IP=${WORKER_IP} openssl req -new -key ${WORKER_FQDN}-worker-key.pem -out ${WORKER_FQDN}-worker.csr -subj "/CN=${WORKER_FQDN}" -config worker-openssl.cnf
$ WORKER_IP=${WORKER_IP} openssl x509 -req -in ${WORKER_FQDN}-worker.csr -CA ca.pem -CAkey ca-key.pem -CAcreateserial -out ${WORKER_FQDN}-worker.pem -days 365 -extensions v3_req -extfile worker-openssl.cnf

Generate the Cluster Administrator Keypair

$ openssl genrsa -out admin-key.pem 2048
$ openssl req -new -key admin-key.pem -out admin.csr -subj "/CN=kube-admin"
$ openssl x509 -req -in admin.csr -CA ca.pem -CAkey ca-key.pem -CAcreateserial -out admin.pem -days 365

You are now ready to return to the deployment guide and configure your master node(s), worker nodes, and kubectl on your local machine.