Authenticating with OpenID Connect (OIDC)

Learn how to configure GKE on AWS to use OpenID Connect (OIDC) for authentication to user clusters. This topic covers the process to configure GKE on AWS with any OpenID provider.

To upgrade a cluster that uses OIDC authentication to Kubernetes 1.21, see Upgrade to 1.21.

For an overview of the GKE on AWS authentication flow, see Authentication.


GKE on AWS supports OIDC as one of the authentication mechanisms for interacting with a user cluster's Kubernetes API server. With OIDC, you can manage access to Kubernetes clusters by using the standard procedures in your organization for creating, enabling, and disabling user accounts.

Before you begin

  • This topic assumes you are familiar with the following authentication and OpenID concepts:

  • The Google Cloud CLI must be installed on each developer's local machine.

  • Headless systems are unsupported. To authenticate, you must open a browser on the local machine running the gcloud CLI. The browser then prompts you to authorize your user account.

  • To authenticate through the Google Cloud console, each cluster that you want to configure for OIDC authentication must be registered with Google Cloud.


This topic refers to three personas:

  • Organization administrator: This person chooses an OpenID provider and registers client applications with the provider.

  • Cluster administrator: This person creates one or more user clusters and creates authentication configuration files for developers who use the clusters.

  • Developer: This person runs workloads on one or more clusters and uses OIDC to authenticate.

Choose an OpenID provider

This section is for organization administrators.

You can use any OpenID provider of your choice. For a list of certified providers, see OpenID Certification.

Create redirect URLs

This section is for organization administrators.

The OpenID provider uses redirect URLs to return ID tokens. You must create redirect URLs for both the gcloud CLI and the Google Cloud console.

Set the gcloud CLI redirect URL

When you configure your OpenID provider, specify your CLI redirect URL as http://localhost:PORT/callback

Replace PORT with your port number greater than 1024.

Set the Google Cloud console redirect URL

The redirect URL for the Google Cloud console is:

When you configure your OIDC provider, specify as one of your redirect URLs.

Register your client applications with the OpenID provider

This section is for organization administrators.

Before your developers can use the Google Cloud CLI or the Google Cloud console with your OpenID provider, you need to register those two clients with the OpenID provider. Registration includes these steps:

  • Learn your provider's issuer URI. The gcloud CLI or Google Cloud console sends authentication requests to this URI.

  • Configure your provider with the redirect URL, including your port number, for the gcloud CLI.

  • Configure your provider with the redirect URL for the Google Cloud console,

  • Create a single client ID that your provider uses to identify both the Google Cloud CLI and the Google Cloud console.

  • Create a single client secret that the gcloud CLI and the Google Cloud console use to authenticate to the OpenID provider.

  • Create a custom scope that the gcloud CLI or Google Cloud console can use to request the user's security groups.

  • Create a custom claim name that the provider uses to return the user's security groups.

Configure your cluster

This section is for cluster administrators.

To configure OIDC authentication, you need to configure your user cluster's AWSCluster resource with authentication details for a cluster. Details from the AWSCluster are used to configure OIDC for both the Google Cloud console and the Authentication Plugin for GKE Enterprise. The configuration includes the following OIDC information:

      - AWS_IAM_ARN
  -   certificateAuthorityData: CERTIFICATE_STRING
      clientID: CLIENT_ID
      clientSecret: CLIENT_SECRET 
      extraParams:  EXTRA_PARAMS
      groupsClaim:  GROUPS_CLAIM
      groupPrefix:  GROUP_PREFIX
      issuerURI:  ISSUER_URI
      kubectlRedirectURI:  KUBECTL_REDIRECT_URI
      scopes:  SCOPES
      userClaim:  USER_CLAIM
      userPrefix:  USER_PREFIX

Authentication fields

The following table describes the fields of the authentication.awsIAM.adminIdentityARNs object.

The following table describes the fields of the `oidc` object.
Field Required Description Format
adminIdentityARNs Yes, if configuring OIDC. Amazon Resource Name (ARN) of the AWS IAM identities (users or roles) granted cluster administrator access by GKE on AWS. Example: arn:aws:iam::123456789012:group/Developers String
Field Required Description Format
certificateAuthorityData No A base64-encoded PEM-encoded certificate for the OIDC provider. To create the string, encode the certificate, including headers, into base64. Include the resulting string in certificateAuthorityData as a single line. Example: certificateAuthorityData: LS0tLS1CRUdJTiBDRVJUSUZJQ0FURS0tLS0tC...k1JSUN2RENDQWFT== String
clientID Yes ID for the client application that makes authentication requests to the OpenID provider. String
clientSecret No Shared secret between OIDC client application and OIDC provider. String
extraParams No Additional key-value parameters to send to the OpenID provider. If you are authorizing a group, pass in resource=token-groups-claim.

If your authorization server prompts for consent, for authentication with Microsoft Azure and Okta, set extraParams to prompt=consent. For Cloud Identity, set extraParams to prompt=consent,access_type=offline.

Comma-delimited list
groupsClaim No JWT claim that the provider uses to return your security groups. String
groupPrefix No Prefix prepended to group claims to prevent clashes with existing names. For example, If you have two groups named foobar add a prefix gid-, the result group is gid-foobar. String
issuerURI Yes URL where authorization requests are sent to your OpenID, such as The Kubernetes API server uses this URL to discover public keys for verifying tokens. The URI must use HTTPS. URL String
kubectlRedirectURI Yes The redirect url `kubectl` uses for authorization. URL String
scopes Yes Additional scopes to send to the OpenID provider. Microsoft Azure and Okta require the offline_access scope. Comma-delimited list
userClaim No JWT claim to use as the username. You can choose other claims, such as email or name, depending on the OpenID provider. However, claims other than email are prefixed with the issuer URL to prevent naming clashes. String
userPrefix No Prefix prepended to username claims to prevent clashes with existing names. String

Example: Authorizing users and groups

Many providers encode user-identifying properties, such as email and user IDs, in a token. However, these properties have implicit risks for authentication policies:

  • User IDs can make policies difficult to read and audit.
  • Using email addresses can create both an availability risk (if a user changes their primary email) and a security risk (if an email can be re-assigned).

Instead of assigning user IDs, we recommend group policies, which can be both persistent and easier to audit.

Suppose your provider creates identity tokens that include the following fields:

  'iss': ''
  'sub': 'u98523-4509823'
  'groupList': ['developers@example.corp', 'us-east1-cluster-admins@example.corp']

Given this token format, you'd populate your configuration file's oidc specification like so:

issuerURL: ''
username: 'sub'
usernamePrefix: 'uid-'
group: 'groupList'
groupPrefix: 'gid-'
extraParams: 'resource=token-groups-claim'

After you've created your user cluster, you use Kubernetes role-based access control (RBAC) to grant privileged access to the authenticated users.

In the following example, you create a ClusterRole that grants its users read- only access to the cluster's Secrets, and create a ClusterRoleBinding resource to bind the role to the authenticated group.

  1. Define a ClusterRole. Copy the following YAML into a file named secret-reader-role.yaml.

    kind: ClusterRole
      name: secret-reader
    - apiGroups: [""]
      # The resource type for which access is granted
      resources: ["secrets"]
      # The permissions granted by the ClusterRole
      verbs: ["get", "watch", "list"]
  2. Define a ClusterRoleBinding. Copy the following YAML into a file named secret-reader-admins.yaml.

    kind: ClusterRoleBinding
      name: read-secrets-admins
      # Allows anyone in the "us-east1-cluster-admins" group to
      # read Secrets in any namespace within this cluster.
    - kind: Group
      name: gid-us-east1-cluster-admins # Name is case sensitive
      # Allows this specific user to read Secrets in any
      # namespace within this cluster
    - kind: User
      name: uid-u98523-4509823
      kind: ClusterRole
      name: secret-reader
  3. Apply secret-reader-role.yaml and secret-reader-admins.yaml to your cluster with kubectl.

    env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
      kubectl apply -f secret-reader-role.yaml && \
      kubectl apply -f secret-reader-admins.yaml

    Users granted access in read-secrets-admins now have access to read Secrets in your cluster.

Create a login config

This section is for cluster administrators.

After you create a user cluster, you need to generate a configuration file for the cluster using gcloud anthos create-login-config.

  1. From your anthos-aws directory, use anthos-gke to switch context to your user cluster.

    cd anthos-aws
    env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
      anthos-gke aws clusters get-credentials CLUSTER_NAME
    Replace CLUSTER_NAME with your user cluster name.

  2. Create the configuration with gcloud anthos.

    gcloud anthos create-login-config --kubeconfig usercluster-kubeconfig

    Replace usercluster-kubeconfig with the path to your user cluster's kubeconfig file. On Linux and macOS, by default this file is at ~/.kube/config.

This command generates a file (kubectl-anthos-config.yaml) containing the configuration information your developers use to authenticate to the cluster with the gcloud CLI. You should not modify this file.

To understand more about the contents of kubectl-anthos-config.yaml, see the appendix.

Distribute the login config

Distribute the config file to users that need to authenticate to your user clusters. You can distribute the config by:

  • Placing the file in the default directory.
  • Securely distributing the file.
  • Hosting the file on an HTTPS server.

Login config default directories

The default locations for storing the configuration file for each OS are as follows:

$HOME/.config/google/anthos/kubectl-anthos-config.yaml, where $HOME is the user's home directory.
$HOME/Library/Preferences/google/anthos/kubectl-anthos-config.yaml, where $HOME is the user's home directory.
%APPDATA%/google/anthos/kubectl-anthos-config.yaml, where %APPDATA% is the user's application data directory.

After the login config has been distributed, your developers are ready to configure the gcloud CLI to access the cluster.

Modify your cluster after upgrading to Kubernetes 1.21

After you upgrade your cluster to Kubernetes 1.21, you need to configure GKE Identity Service and remove your OIDC information from your cluster's configuration. To update the configuration, perform the following steps:

  1. Follow the steps in Upgrade your cluster.

  2. From your anthos-aws directory, use anthos-gke to switch context to your user cluster.

    cd anthos-aws
    env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
      anthos-gke aws clusters get-credentials CLUSTER_NAME
    Replace CLUSTER_NAME with your user cluster name.

  3. Open the manifest that contains the AWSCluster in a text editor. Keep the file open and use the values of the oidc object to follow the steps in Configuring clusters for GKE Identity Service.

  4. From your anthos-aws directory, use anthos-gke to switch context to your management service.

    cd anthos-aws
    anthos-gke aws management get-credentials

  5. Open the YAML file that created your AWSCluster in a text editor. If you do not have your initial YAML file, you can use kubectl edit.

    Edit YAML

    If you followed the instructions in Creating a user cluster, your YAML file is named cluster-0.yaml. Open this file in a text editor.

    kubectl edit

    To use kubectl edit to edit your AWSCluster, run the following command:

    env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
      kubectl edit awscluster cluster-name

    Replace cluster-name with your AWSCluster. For example, to edit the default cluster, cluster-0, run the following command:

    env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
      kubectl edit awscluster cluster-0
  6. Delete the oidc object from your cluster's manifest.

  7. Save the file. If you are using kubectl edit, kubectl applies the changes automatically. If you are editing the YAML file, apply it to your management service with the following command:

    env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
      kubectl apply -f cluster-0.yaml

    The management service then updates your AWSCluster.

Configuring gcloud to access your cluster

This section is for developers or cluster administrators.


To complete this section, you must complete the following:

  • A login config.
  • An updated version of the gcloud CLI with the anthos-auth components.

    gcloud components update
    gcloud components install anthos-auth
  • Verify that the gcloud CLI was installed successfully by running the following command, which should respond with details about the required arguments and available options.

    gcloud anthos auth

Authenticate to you cluster

You can authenticate to your cluster the following ways:

  • With the gcloud CLI on your local machine.
  • With the gcloud CLI on a remote machine using an SSH tunnel.
  • With Connect on the Google Cloud console.

gcloud local

Use gcloud anthos auth login to authenticate to your cluster with your login config.

If you placed the login config in the default location and have the cluster name configured, you can use gcloud anthos auth login with no options. You can also configure the cluster, user, and other authentication details with optional parameters.


gcloud anthos auth login --cluster CLUSTER_NAME

Replace CLUSTER_NAME with a fully qualified cluster name. For example, projects/my-gcp-project/locations/global/memberships/cluster-0-0123456a.

Optional parameters

gcloud anthos auth login supports the following optional parameters:

gcloud anthos auth login --cluster CLUSTER_NAME \
--user USERNAME --login-config ANTHOS_CONFIG_YAML \
--login-config-cert LOGIN_CONFIG_CERT_PEM \
--kubeconfig=KUBECONFIG --dry-run

The parameters are described in the following table.

Parameter Description
cluster The name of the cluster to authenticate to. Defaults to the cluster in `kubectl-anthos-config.yaml`.
user Username for credentials in kubeconfig. Defaults to {cluster-name}-anthos-default-user.
login-config Either the path to the configuration file generated by the cluster admin for the developer or a URL hosting the file. Defaults to kubectl-anthos-config.yaml.
login-config-cert If using a URL for login-config, the path to the CA certificate file for making HTTPS connections.
kubeconfig Path to the kubeconfig file that contains tokens. Defaults to $HOME/.kube/config`.
dry-run Test your command-line options without changing your configuration or cluster.

The gcloud anthos login command launches a browser that asks the user to log in with their enterprise credentials, performs the OIDC credential exchange, and acquires the relevant tokens. The gcloud CLI then writes the tokens to a kubeconfig file. kubectl uses this file to authenticate to the user cluster.

To verify that the authentication was successful, run any kubectl command with your kubeconfig file:

env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
  kubectl get nodes --kubeconfig my.kubeconfig

gcloud tunnel

If you want to authenticate to a user cluster from a remote machine, you can perform the authentication using an SSH tunnel. To use a tunnel, your authentication configuration file must be on the remote machine, and you must be able to reach your Open ID provider from your local machine.

On your local machine, run the following command:


Replace the following:

  • USERNAME with a user that has SSH access to the remote machine.

  • REMOTE_MACHINE with the remote machine's hostname or IP address.

  • LOCAL_PORT is an available port on your local machine that ssh uses to tunnel to the remote machine.

  • REMOTE_PORT is the port that you configured for your OIDC redirect URL. The port number is part of the kubectlRedirectURI field of your authentication configuration file.

In your SSH shell, run the following command to initiate authentication:

gcloud anthos auth login --login-config AUTH_CONFIG_FILE

Replace AUTH_CONFIG_FILE with the path of your authentication configuration file on the remote machine. The gcloud CLI runs a web server on the remote machine.

On your local machine, in a browser, go to http://localhost:LOCAL_PORT/login and follow the OIDC login flow.

The kubeconfig file on your remote machine now has the token to access the user cluster.

In your SSH shell, verify that you have access to the user cluster:

kubectl --kubeconfig USER_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG get nodes


You can authenticate with the Google Cloud console, initiate the authentication flow from the Kubernetes clusters page in the Google Cloud console:

  1. Open the Google Cloud console:

    Visit the Kubernetes clusters page

  2. Locate your GKE on AWS cluster in the list and then click Login.

  3. Select Authenticate with the Identity Provider configured for the cluster, and then click LOGIN.

    You are redirected to your identity provider, where you might need to log in or consent to the Google Cloud console accessing your account. You are then redirected back to the Kubernetes clusters page on the Google Cloud console.

Updating OIDC configuration

To update the OIDC configuration on your cluster, use the kubectl edit command.

env HTTPS_PROXY=http://localhost:8118 \
  kubectl edit clientconfigs -n kube-public default

The kubectl tool loads the ClientConfig resource in your default editor. To update the configuration, save the file. The kubectl tool updates the ClientConfig resource on your cluster.

For information on the contents of the ClientConfig resource, see the following section.

Appendix: Example login config

An example kubectl-anthos-config.yaml follows. This example is included for understanding its contents. You should always generate the file with gcloud anthos create-login-config.

kind: ClientConfig
 name: default
 namespace: kube-public
  - name: oidc
      clientID: CLIENT_CONFIG
      clientSecret: CLIENT_SECRET
      extraParams: resource=k8s-group-claim,domain_hint=consumers
      certificateAuthorityData:   CERTIFICATE_STRING
      scopes: allatclaim,group
      userClaim: "sub"
      groupsClaim: "groups"
    proxy: PROXY_URL #Optional
  certificateAuthorityData: CERTIFICATE_AUTHORITY_DATA
  name: projects/my-project/locations/global/membership/cluster-0
  preferredAuthentication: oidc

For explanations of the field contents, see Authentication fields.

What's next

Deploy your first workload to GKE on AWS.