Jan 1, 0001

Enabling TLS between Envoy and Contour

This document describes the steps required to secure communication between Envoy and Contour. The outcome of this is that we will have three Secrets available in the projectcontour namespace:

  • cacert: contains the CA’s public certificate.
  • contourcert: contains Contour’s keypair, used for serving TLS secured gRPC. This must be a valid certificate for the name contour in order for this to work. This is currently hardcoded by Contour.
  • envoycert: contains Envoy’s keypair, used as a client for connecting to Contour.

Ways you can get the certificates into your cluster

  • Deploy the Job from certgen.yaml. This will run contour certgen --kube for you.
  • Run contour certgen --kube locally.
  • Run the manual procedure below.

Caveats and warnings

Be very careful with your production certificates!

This is intended as an example to help you get started. For any real deployment, you should carefully manage all the certificates and control who has access to them. Make sure you don’t commit them to any git repos either.

Manual TLS certificate generation process

Generating a CA keypair

First, we need to generate a keypair:

$ openssl req -x509 -new -nodes \
    -keyout certs/cakey.pem -sha256 \
    -days 1825 -out certs/cacert.pem \
    -subj "/O=Project Contour/CN=Contour CA"

Then, the new CA key will be stored in certs/cakey.pem and the cert in certs/cacert.pem.

Generating Contour’s keypair

Then, we need to generate a keypair for Contour. First, we make a new private key:

$ openssl genrsa -out certs/contourkey.pem 2048

Then, we create a CSR and have our CA sign the CSR and issue a cert. This uses the file _integration/cert-contour.ext, which ensures that at least one of the valid names of the certificate is the bareword contour. This is required for the handshake to succeed, as contour bootstrap configures Envoy to pass this as the SNI for the connection.

$ openssl req -new -key certs/contourkey.pem \
	-out certs/contour.csr \
	-subj "/O=Project Contour/CN=contour"

$ openssl x509 -req -in certs/contour.csr \
    -CA certs/cacert.pem \
    -CAkey certs/cakey.pem \
    -CAcreateserial \
    -out certs/contourcert.pem \
    -days 1825 -sha256 \
    -extfile _integration/cert-contour.ext

At this point, the contour cert and key are in the files certs/contourcert.pem and certs/contourkey.pem respectively.

Generating Envoy’s keypair

Next, we generate a keypair for Envoy:

$ openssl genrsa -out certs/envoykey.pem 2048

Then, we generated a CSR and have the CA sign it:

$ openssl req -new -key certs/envoykey.pem \
	-out certs/envoy.csr \
	-subj "/O=Project Contour/CN=envoy"

$ openssl x509 -req -in certs/envoy.csr \
    -CA certs/cacert.pem \
    -CAkey certs/cakey.pem \
    -CAcreateserial \
    -out certs/envoycert.pem \
    -days 1825 -sha256 \
    -extfile _integration/cert-envoy.ext

Like the contour cert, this CSR uses the file _integration/cert-envoy.ext. However, in this case, there are no special names required.

Putting the certs in the cluster

Next, we create the required secrets in the target Kubernetes cluster:

$ kubectl create secret -n projectcontour generic cacert \

$ kubectl create secret -n projectcontour tls contourcert \
        --key=./certs/contourkey.pem --cert=./certs/contourcert.pem

$ kubectl create secret -n projectcontour tls envoycert \
        --key=./certs/envoykey.pem --cert=./certs/envoycert.pem

Note that we don’t put the CA key into the cluster, there’s no reason for that to be there, and that would create a security problem. That also means that the cacert secret can’t be a tls type secret, as they must be a keypair.

Rotating Certificates

Eventually the certificates that Contour & Envoy use will need to be rotated. The following steps can be taken to change the certificates that Contour / Envoy are using with new ones. The high-level

  1. Delete the secret that holds the gRPC TLS keypair
  2. Generate new secrets
  3. Contour will automatically rotate its certificate
  4. Restart all Envoy pods

Rotate using the contour-cergen job

If using the built-in Contour certificate generation the following steps can be taken:

  1. Delete the secret that holds the gRPC TLS keypair
  • kubectl delete secret cacert contourcert envoycert -n projectcontour
  1. Delete the contour-certgen job
  • kubectl delete job contour-certgen -n projectcontour
  1. Reapply the contour-certgen job from certgen.yaml
  2. Restart all Envoy pods


Once this process is done, the certificates will be present as Secrets in the projectcontour namespace, as required by examples/contour.

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