Implementation of the Autopilot Pattern for HashiCorp's Vault
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Autopilot Pattern Vault

Hashicorp Vault deployment designed for automated operation using the Autopilot Pattern. This repo serves as a blueprint demonstrating the pattern that can be reused as part of other application stacks.


This application blueprint consists of Vault running in the same Docker container as its Consul storage backend. We run Consul with ContainerPilot, with Hashicorp Vault running as a ContainerPilot co-process. Vault is running under HA mode. The Consul configuration is the same as that in the HA Consul blueprint; this container image's Dockerfile extends that image.

Bootstrapping Consul

Bootstrapping Consul is identical to autopilotpattern/consul. All Consul instances start with the -bootstrap-expect flag. This option tells Consul how many nodes we expect and automatically bootstraps when that many servers are available. We use ContainerPilot's health check to check if the node has been joined to peers and attempt to join its peers at the A-record associated with the Triton Container Name Service (CNS) name.

When run locally for testing, we don't have access to Triton CNS. The local-compose.yml file uses the v2 Compose API, which automatically creates a user-defined network and allows us to use Docker DNS for the service.

Encrypted communications

Consul provides a mechanism to encrypt both the gossip protocol (via symmetric encryption with a token) and the RPC protocol (via TLS certificates). These shared key and certificate must be present at the time we start Consul. This precludes us from using the ContainerPilot preStart to configure the encryption unless we embed the keys within the image or as environment variables. Instead, after the cluster is launched but before we initialize Vault, we'll use docker exec to install all the appropriate key material, update the configuration to use it, and restart the cluster.

Key Sharing

When the Vault is first initialized it is in a sealed state and a number of keys are created that can be used to unseal it. Vault uses Shamir Secret Splitting so that -key-shares number of keys are created and -key-theshold number of those keys are required to unseal the Vault. If vault init is used without providing the -pgp-keys argument these keys are presented to the user in plaintext. This blueprint expects that the the -pgp-keys argument will be passed. An encrypted secret will be provided for each PGP key provided, and only the holder of the PGP private key will be able to unseal or reseal the Vault.


The Vault health check will check to make sure that we're unsealed and not advertise itself to Consul for client applications until it is unsealed.

The operator will then initialize one of the Vault nodes. To do so, the operator provides a PGP public key file for each user and a script will take these files and initialize the vault with -key-shares equal to the number of keys provided and -key-threshold=2 (so that any two of the operators can unseal or force it to be rekeyed -- this is the minimum). The script will then decrypt the operator's own Vault key and use it to unseal all the Vault nodes. The script will also provide the operator with the root key, which will get used to set up ACLs for client applications (see below).

High Availability

Vault elects a primary via locks in Consul. If the primary fails, a new node will become the primary. Other nodes will automatically forward client requests to the primary. If a node is restarted or a new node created it will be sealed and unable to enter the pool until it's manually unsealed.

Run the demo!

This repo provides a tool (./ to launch and manage the Vault cluster. You'll need the following to get started:

  1. Get a Joyent account and add your SSH key.
  2. Install the Docker Toolbox (including docker and docker-compose) on your laptop or other environment, as well as the Joyent Triton CLI.

If you want to see how a completed stack looks, try the demo first. demo: Runs a demonstration of the entire stack on Triton, creating a 3-node cluster with RPC over TLS. The demo includes initializing the Vault and unsealing it with PGP keys. You can either provide the demo with PGP keys and TLS certificates or allow the script to generate them for you. Parameters:

-p, --pgp-key        use this PGP key in lieu of creating a new one
-k, --tls-key        use this TLS key file in lieu of creating a CA and cert
-c, --tls-cert       use this TLS cert file in lieu of creating a CA and cert
-f, --compose-file   use this Docker Compose manifest
-o, --openssl-conf   use this OpenSSL config file demo clean: Cleans up the demo PGP keys and CA.

The Vault cluster runs as Docker containers on Triton, so you can use your Docker client and Compose to explore the cluster further.

$ docker-compose ps
Name                      Command                 State       Ports
vault_vault_1   /usr/local/bin/containerpilot...   Up   53/tcp, 53/udp,
                                                        8200/tcp, 8300/tcp
                                                        8301/tcp, 8301/udp,
                                                        8302/tcp, 8302/udp,
vault_vault_2   /usr/local/bin/containerpilot...   Up   53/tcp, 53/udp,
                                                        8200/tcp, 8300/tcp
                                                        8301/tcp, 8301/udp,
                                                        8302/tcp, 8302/udp,
vault_vault_3   /usr/local/bin/containerpilot...   Up   53/tcp, 53/udp,
                                                        8200/tcp, 8300/tcp
                                                        8301/tcp, 8301/udp,
                                                        8302/tcp, 8302/udp,

$ docker exec -it vault_vault_3 consul info | grep num_peers
    num_peers = 2

$ docker exec -it vault_vault_3 vault write secret/hello value=world
Success! Data written to: secret/hello

Run it in production!

Once you've seen the demo, you'll want to run the stack as you will in production. check: Checks that your Triton and Docker environment is sane and configures an environment file _env with a CNS record for Consul. We'll use this CNS name to bootstrap the Consul cluster. up: Starts the Vault cluster via Docker Compose and waits for all instances to be up. Once instances are up, it will poll Consul's status to ensure the raft has been created. secure: Generates a token for gossip encryption and uploads the TLS cert for RPC encryption to the Consul cluster, updates the Consul configuration file to use these keys, and SIGHUPs all the instances. This should be run before the Vault is initialized and unsealed. Use the following options:

--tls-key/-k <val>:
	The file containing the TLS key (in PEM format) used to encrypt RPC.

--tls-cert/-c <val>:
	The file containing the TLS cert (in PEM format) used to encrypt RPC.

--ca-cert/-a <val>:
	The file containing the CA cert (in PEM format) used to sign the TLS
	cert. If the cert is self-signed or signed by a CA found in the
	container's certificate chain, this argument may be omitted. init: Initializes a started Vault cluster. Creates encrypted keyfiles for each operator's public key, which should be redistributed back to operators out-of-band. Use the following options:

--keys/-k "<val>,<val>":
	List of public keys used to initialize the vault. These keys
	must be base64 encoded public keys without ASCII armoring.
--threshold/-t <val>:
	Optional number of keys required to unseal the vault. Defaults
	to 1 if a single --keys argument was provided, otherwise 2. unseal [keyfile]: Unseals a Vault with the provided operator's key. Requires access to all Vault nodes via docker exec. A number of operator keys equal to the --threshold parameter (above) must be used to unseal the Vault. policy [policyname] [policyfile]: Adds an ACL to the Vault cluster by uploading a policy HCL file and writing it via vault policy-write.