Authenticating with OIDC and ADFS

This page shows how to use OpenID Connect (OIDC) with Active Directory Federated Services (ADFS) to configure authentication for GKE On-Prem user clusters.

For an overview of the authentication flow, see Authentication.


GKE On-Prem supports OpenID Connect (OIDC) as one of the authentication mechanisms for interacting with a user cluster's Kubernetes API server. To make the authentication flow automatic for cluster users, GKE On-Prem provides the Kubectl Plugin for OIDC, a kubectl plugin.

In this exercise, you use a set of ADFS management wizards to configure a relationship between the kubectl command-line tool, your ADFS server, and your AD employee database.

Before you begin

This topic assumes you are familiar with OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect. This topic assumes you are familiar with OpenID scopes and claims.

This topics applies to enterprises that have the following infrastructure:

  • The enterprise uses Active Directory (AD) for its employee database.
  • The enterprise runs an Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) server.
  • The ADFS server acts as an OpenID provider.

Downloading the Kubectl Plugin for OIDC

Download the plugin and set access permissions:


gsutil cp gs://gke-on-prem-release/oidc-plugin/v1.1alpha/linux_amd64/kubectl-oidc .
chmod +x kubectl-oidc


gsutil cp gs://gke-on-prem-release/oidc-plugin/v1.1alpha/windows_amd64/kubectl-oidc .


gsutil cp gs://gke-on-prem-release/oidc-plugin/v1.1alpha/darwin_amd64/kubectl-oidc .
chmod +x kubectl-oidc

Installing the plugin

Install the plugin by moving the executable file to any location on your PATH. The executable file must be named kubectl-oidc. To learn more, see Installing kubectl plugins.

Creating a redirect URI

You must provide a redirect URI that the OpenID provider can use to return ID tokens. The tokens go to the Kubectl Plugin for OIDC, which runs on each employee's local machine and listens on a port of your choice. Choose a port number greater than 1024 that is suitable for this purpose. Then, the redirect URI is:


where [PORT] is your port number.

Configuring ADFS

The following sections explain how to configure ADFS for GKE On-Prem.

Setting the redirect URI

  1. Open the ADFS management pane.

  2. Select Application Groups > Actions > Add an Application Group.

  3. Select Server Application. Enter a name and description of your choice. Click Next.

  4. Enter your redirect URI. You are given a client ID. This is how the OpenID provider identifies the kubectl application. Save the client ID for later.

  5. Select Generate a shared secret. The kubectl application uses this secret to authenticate to the OpenID provider. Save the secret for later.

Configuring security groups (optional)

  1. In ADFS management, select Relying party trusts > Add a new relying party trust.

  2. Select Claims aware, and click Start.

  3. Select Enter data about relying party manually.

  4. Enter a display name.

  5. Skip the next two steps.

  6. Enter a Relying party trust identifier. Suggestion: token-groups-claim.

  7. For Access control policy, select Permit everyone. This means that all employees share their security group information with kubectl oidc.

  8. Click Finish.

Mapping LDAP attributes to claim names

  1. In ADFS management, select Relying party trusts > Edit claim issuance policy.

  2. Select Send LDAP Attributes as Claims, and click Next.

  3. For Claim rule name, enter groups.

  4. For Attribute store, select Active Directory.

  5. In the table, for LDAP Attribute, select Token Groups - Qualified Names. For Outgoing Claim Type, select groups.

  6. Click Finish, and click Apply.

Registering kubectl with ADFS

Open a PowerShell window in Administrator mode, and enter this command:

Grant-AdfsApplicationPermission `
    -ClientRoleIdentifier "[CLIENT_ID]" `
    -ServerRoleIdentifier [SERVER_ROLE_IDENTIFIER] `
    -ScopeName "allatclaims", "openid"


  • [CLIENT_ID] is the kubectl client ID that you obtained previously.

  • [SERVER_ROLE_IDENTIFIER] is the claim identifier you entered previously. Recall that the suggested identifier was token-groups-claim.

Populating the oidc specification in GKE On-Prem configuration file

During an installation, you generate a GKE On-Prem configuration file using gkectl create-config. The configuration includes the following oidc specification. You populate `oidc` with values specific to your provider:

  • issuerurl: URL of your OpenID provider, such as Client applications, like the Kubectl Plugin for OIDC, send authorization requests to this URL. The Kubernetes API server uses this URL to discover public keys for verifying tokens. Must use HTTPS. This field is required.
  • kubectlredirecturl: localhost redirect URL for the Kubectl Plugin for OIDC. You need to register the redirect URL with your OpenID provider for use by the client ID assigned to this cluster. This field is required.
  • clientid: ID for the client application, such as the Kubectl Plugin for OIDC, that makes authentication requests to the OpenID provider. This field is required.
  • clientsecret: Secret for the client application. This field is required.
  • usehttpproxy: Choose whether to deploy a reverse-proxy in the cluster to allow Connect Agent access to the on-premises OIDC provider for authenticating users. Value must be a string: "true" or "false". This field is required.
  • username: JWT claim to use as the username. Default is sub, which is expected to be a unique identifier of the end user. You can choose other claims, such as email or name, depending on the OIDC provider. However, claims other than email are prefixed with the issuer URL to prevent naming clashes with other plugins.
  • usernameprefix: Prefix prepended to username claims to prevent clashes with existing names. If this flag is not provided and username is a value other than email, the prefix defaults to issueruri#. The value - can be used to disable all prefixing.
  • group: JWT claim to use as the user's group. If the claim is present it must be an array of strings.
  • groupprefix: Prefix prepended to group claims to prevent clashes with existing names. For example, given a group foobar and a prefix gid-, gid-foobar.
  • scopes: Additional scopes to send to the OpenID provider as a comment-delimited list.
  • extraparams: Additional key-value parameters to send to the OpenID provider.
  • capath: Path to certificate for the certificate authority (CA) that signed your identity provider's web certificate.

    GKE On-Prem clusters use TLS to secure communication between their components. For Kubernetes to automatically generate client certificates during installation and node bootstrapping, GKE On-Prem must be installed with a CA.

    By default, GKE On-Prem creates a new CA during installation which generates TLS certificates. The CA and generated certificates are stored locally within the admin cluster.

Example: Authenticating and authorizing a group

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.
  • Emails can create both an availability risk (if a user changes their primary email) and potentially a security risk (if an email can be re-assigned).

Therefore, it's a best practice to use group policies, as GID can be both persistent and easier to audit.

Suppose your provider creates OpenID 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:
issueruri: ''
username: 'sub'
usernameprefix: 'uid-'
group: 'groupList'
groupprefix: 'gid-'

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


  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"]


  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

Creating the server certificate authority (CA) certificate

Your user cluster's kubeconfig stores its host's CA data in its certificate-authority-data field. You need decode this value and store it in a local file, like server-ca-cert:

cat [USER_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG]  | grep certificate-authority-data | awk '{ print $2}' | base64 --decode > server-ca-cert

Generating the client authentication configuration file

After you configure your user cluster for OpenID and create it, a user can log in to the cluster by passing a client authentication configuration file to kubectl oidc login. You generate a client authentication configuration file by entering this command:


kubectl oidc client-config `
--issuer-uri [ISSUER_URI] `
--redirect-uri [REDIRECT_URI] `
--client-id [CLIENT_ID] `
--client-secret [CLIENT_SECRET] `
--scopes "allatclaims" `
--cluster-name [USER_CLUSTER_NAME] `
--server [CLUSTER_URL] `
--server-ca-file server-ca-cert `
--issuer-ca-file [ADFS_CA_CERT] `
--extra-params "resource=token-groups-claim"
> client-config.yaml
  • [ISSUER_URI] is your issuer URI.
  • [REDIRECT_URI] is your redirect URI.
  • [CLIENT_ID] is the client ID for the `kubectl` application.
  • [CLIENT_SECRET] is the client secret that was generated for you.
  • [USER_CLUSTER_NAME] is your user cluster's name.
  • [CLUSTER_URL] is the URL of your cluster's Kubernetes API server.
  • --server-ca-file accepts the path to the CA file that you created in the previous section.
  • [ADFS_CA_CERT] is the path to the public certificate file for the ADFS CA.
  • --extra-param sends a key-value pair with the authentication request to the OIDC provider.


kubectl oidc client-config \
--issuer-uri [ISSUER_URI] \
--redirect-uri [REDIRECT_URI] \
--client-id [CLIENT_ID] \
--client-secret [CLIENT_SECRET] \
--scopes "allatclaims" \
--cluster-name [USER_CLUSTER_NAME] \
--server [CLUSTER_URL] \
--server-ca-file server-ca-cert \
--issuer-ca-file [ADFS_CA_CERT] \
--extra-params "resource=token-groups-claim"
> client-config.yaml
  • [ISSUER_URI] is your issuer URI.
  • [REDIRECT_URI] is your redirect URI.
  • [CLIENT_ID] is the client ID for the `kubectl` application.
  • [CLIENT_SECRET] is the client secret that was generated for you.
  • [USER_CLUSTER_NAME] is your user cluster's name.
  • [CLUSTER_URL] is the URL of your cluster's Kubernetes API server.
  • --server-ca-file accepts the path to the CA file that you created in the previous section.
  • [ADFS_CA_CERT] is the path to the public certificate file for the ADFS CA.
  • --extra-param sends a key-value pair with the authentication request to the OIDC provider.

This command produces a client authentication file called client-config.yaml. Do not manually edit this file. Each employee that needs to authenticate against the user cluster should be given client-config.yaml.

Authenticating against a user cluster using the Kubectl Plugin for OIDC

To authenticate against a user cluster using the client authentication file, perform the following steps from your local machine or VM:

  1. Initialize the plugin using the client-config.yaml file:

    kubectl oidc login --clientconfig-file=client-config.yaml --user [NAME] \
    --kubeconfig [KUBECONFIG_OUTPUT_PATH]


    • [NAME] is your chosen username.
    • [KUBECONFIG_OUTPUT_PATH] is the output location of the kubeconfig file where credentials are stored.

    kubectl oidc login launches a browser where the user or employee can enter their credentials.

    The kubeconfig file provided now contains an ID token that kubectl can use to authenticate to the Kubernetes API server on the user cluster.

  2. You should now be authenticated. To see if you have authenticated successfully, enter any kubectl command. For example:

    kubectl get nodes --kubeconfig [KUBECONFIG_OUTPUT_PATH]


Your enterprise runs an ADFS server that acts as your OpenID provider. Your OpenID provider knows about the kubectl application and knows that kubectl can request the openid and allatclaims scopes.

The Token-Groups Qualified Names LDAP attribute in your AD database is mapped to the groups claim in your OpenID provider. The provider returns tokens that include the employee's ID, the issuer ID, the openid claim and groups claim. The groups claim lists the security groups that an employee belongs to.

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