Version 1.5

Audit logging


GKE on-prem makes use of Kubernetes Audit Logging, which keeps a chronological record of calls made to a cluster's Kubernetes API server. Audit logs are useful for investigating suspicious API requests and for collecting statistics.

Prior to Anthos 1.2, GKE on-prem wrote audit logs only to disk. Anthos 1.2 introduces an alpha feature that enables audit logs to be written to Cloud Audit Logs in a Google Cloud project. Writing to Cloud Audit Logs has several benefits over writing to disk, or even capturing logs in an on-premises logging system:

  • Audit logs for all Anthos clusters can be centralized.
  • Log entries written to Cloud Audit Logs are immutable.
  • Cloud Audit Logs entries are retained for 400 days.
  • Cloud Audit Logs is included in the price of Anthos.

You can configure GKE on-prem to write logs to disk or to Cloud Audit Logs.

Disk-based audit logging

By default, audit logs in GKE on-prem are written to a persistent disk so that VM restarts and upgrades don't cause the logs to disappear. GKE on-prem retains up to 12 GB of audit log entries.

Cloud Audit Logs

If Cloud Audit Logs is enabled, then Admin Activity audit log entries from all Kubernetes API servers are sent to Google Cloud, using the project and location that you specify when you create a user cluster.

GKE on-prem deploys an audit-proxy Pod to the admin cluster and is available as a sidecar container on user clusters. This Pod buffers and writes log entries to Cloud Audit Logs.


Cloud Audit Logs for GKE on-prem is an alpha feature. This alpha release has several limitations:

  • Data access logging is not supported.

  • Modifying the Kubernetes audit policy is not supported.

  • Audit Logging is currently not resilient to network outages. If the log entries cannot be exported to Google Cloud, they are dropped.

Enabling Anthos GKE API and Anthos Audit API

To use Cloud Audit Logs with GKE on-prem, do the following:

  1. If you are on Anthos 1.4.x or earlier, enable the Anthos GKE API.

  2. If you are on Anthos 1.5 or later, enable the Anthos Audit API.

  3. If you are not sure, or you're planning to upgrade to Anthos 1.5, enable both.

Enable the Anthos GKE API

Enable the Anthos Audit API

Creating a service account for audit logging

You already have several service accounts that you created to use with GKE on-prem. For this alpha feature, you need to create an additional service account and have it allowlisted.

  1. Create your Cloud Audit Logs service account:

    gcloud iam service-accounts create audit-logging-service-account
  2. Create a JSON key file for your Cloud Audit Logs service account:

    gcloud iam service-accounts keys create audit-logging-key.json \

    where AUDIT_LOGGING_SERVICE_ACCOUNT_EMAIL is the email address of your service account.

  3. Save audit-logging-key.json on the admin workstation in the same location as your other service account keys.

Allowlisting your service account

To request that your Cloud Audit Logs service account be added to the allowlist, fill in the Cloud Audit Logs for GKE on-prem Alpha form. You will receive a notification email when the allowlisting is done. Your service account must be allowlisted before you create a user cluster that enables Cloud Audit Logs.

Creating a user cluster with Cloud Audit Logs enabled

  1. If you have not yet created an admin cluster, create new admin and user clusters by following the instructions in Installing using static IP addresses or Installing using DHCP.

    If you already have an admin cluster, create a new user cluster by following the instructions in Creating additional user clusters.

  2. After you run gkectl create-config, fill in your configuration file as usual, but also fill in the new cloudauditlogging section under usercluster.

  3. Set cloudauditlogging.projectid to the project ID of the Google Cloud project where you want to view audit logs that pertain to your user cluster.

  4. Set cloudauditlogging.clusterlocation to a Google Cloud region where you want to store audit logs. It is a good idea to choose a region that is near your on-premises data center.

  5. Set cloudauditlogging.serviceaccountkeypath to the path of the JSON key file for your Cloud Audit Logs service account.

For example:

  projectid: "my-project"
  clusterlocation: "us-west1"
  serviceaccountkeypath: "/my-key-folder/audit-logging-key.json"

Continue the cluster creation as usual.

Enabling Cloud Audit Logs on an existing user cluster

Audit Logging can be enabled on an existing user cluster via the gkectl update cluster command.

Fill in the cloudauditlogging section of your user-cluster.yaml file. (See Creating a user cluster with Cloud Audit Logs enabled for details on the individual fields.)

Then run:

gkectl update cluster --config [USER_CLUSTER_YAML] --kubeconfig [ADMIN_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG]

Accessing GKE on-prem audit logs

Disk-based audit logging

  1. View the Kubernetes API servers running in your admin cluster and all of its associated user clusters:

    kubectl --kubeconfig [ADMIN_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG] get pods --all-namespaces -l component=kube-apiserver

    where [ADMIN_CLUSTER_KUBECONFIG] is the kubeconfig file of your admin cluster.

  2. Download the API server's audit logs:

    kubectl cp -n [NAMESPACE] [APISERVER_POD_NAME]:/var/log/kube-audit/kube-apiserver-audit.log /tmp/kubeaudit.log

    This command fetches the latest log file, which can contain up to 1GB of data for the admin cluster and up to 850GB for user clusters.

    Older audit records are kept in separate files. To view those files:

    kubectl exec -n [NAMESPACE] [APISERVER_POD_NAME] -- ls /var/log/kube-audit -la

    Each audit log's filename has a timestamp that indicates when the file was rotated. A file contains audit logs up to that time and date.

Cloud Audit Logs


  1. In the Cloud Console, go to the Logs page in the Logging menu.

    Go to the Logs page

  2. In the Filter by label or text search box, just above the drop-down menus discussed above, click the down arrow to open the drop-down menu. From the menu, choose Convert to advanced filter.

  3. Fill the text box with the following filter:

  4. Click Submit Filter to display all audit logs from GKE on-prem clusters that were configured to log in to this project.


List the first two log entries in your project's Admin Activity log that apply to the k8s_cluster resource type:

gcloud logging read \
    'logName="projects/[PROJECT_ID]/logs/" \
    AND resource.type="k8s_cluster" \
    AND protoPayload.serviceName="" ' \
    --limit 2 \
    --freshness 300d

where [PROJECT_ID] is your project ID.

The output shows two log entries. Notice that for each log entry, the logName field has the value projects/[PROJECT_ID]/logs/ and protoPayload.serviceName is equal to

Audit policy

Audit logging behavior is determined by a statically-configured Kubernetes audit logging policy. Changing this policy is currently not supported, but will be available in a future release.