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How to guide on running HashiCorp's Vault on Google Kubernetes Engine
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Vault on Google Kubernetes Engine

This tutorial walks you through provisioning a multi-node HashiCorp Vault cluster on Google Kubernetes Engine.

Cluster Features

  • High Availability - The Vault cluster will be provisioned in multi-server mode for high availability.
  • Google Cloud Storage Storage Backend - Vault's data is persisted in Google Cloud Storage.
  • Production Hardening - Vault is configured and deployed based on the guidance found in the production hardening guide.
  • Auto Initialization and Unsealing - Vault is automatically initialized and unsealed at runtime. Keys are encrypted using Cloud KMS and stored on Google Cloud Storage.


Create a New Project

In this section you will create a new GCP project and enable the APIs required by this tutorial.

Generate a project ID:

PROJECT_ID="vault-$(($(date +%s%d)/1000000))"

Create a new GCP project:

gcloud projects create ${PROJECT_ID} \
  --name "${PROJECT_ID}"

Enable billing on the new project before moving on to the next step.

Enable the GCP APIs required by this tutorial:

gcloud services enable \ \ \ \ \ \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID}

Set Configuration


Create KMS Keyring and Crypto Key

In this section you will create a Cloud KMS keyring and cryptographic key suitable for encrypting and decrypting Vault master keys and root tokens.

Create the vault kms keyring:

gcloud kms keyrings create vault \
  --location global \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID}

Create the vault-init encryption key:

gcloud kms keys create vault-init \
  --location global \
  --keyring vault \
  --purpose encryption \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID}

Create a Google Cloud Storage Bucket

Google Cloud Storage is used to persist Vault's data and hold encrypted Vault master keys and root tokens.

Create a GCS bucket:

gsutil mb -p ${PROJECT_ID} gs://${GCS_BUCKET_NAME}

Create the Vault IAM Service Account

An IAM service account is used by Vault to access the GCS bucket and KMS encryption key created in the previous sections.

Create the vault service account:

gcloud iam service-accounts create vault-server \
  --display-name "vault service account" \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID}

Grant access to the vault storage bucket:

gsutil iam ch \
  serviceAccount:vault-server@${PROJECT_ID} \
gsutil iam ch \
  serviceAccount:vault-server@${PROJECT_ID} \

Grant access to the vault-init KMS encryption key:

gcloud kms keys add-iam-policy-binding \
  vault-init \
  --location global \
  --keyring vault \
  --member serviceAccount:vault-server@${PROJECT_ID} \
  --role roles/cloudkms.cryptoKeyEncrypterDecrypter \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID}

Provision a Kubernetes Cluster

In this section you will provision a three node Kubernetes cluster using Google Kubernetes Engine with access to the vault-server service account across the entire cluster.

Create the vault Kubernetes cluster:

gcloud container clusters create vault \
  --enable-autorepair \
  --cluster-version 1.11.2-gke.9 \
  --machine-type n1-standard-2 \
  --service-account vault-server@${PROJECT_ID} \
  --num-nodes 3 \
  --zone ${COMPUTE_ZONE} \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID}

Warning: Each node in the vault Kubernetes cluster has access to the vault-server service account. The vault cluster should only be used for running Vault. Other workloads should run on a different cluster and access Vault through an internal or external load balancer.

Provision IP Address

In this section you will create a public IP address that will be used to expose the Vault server to external clients.

Create the vault compute address:

gcloud compute addresses create vault \
  --region ${COMPUTE_REGION} \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID}

Store the vault compute address in an environment variable:

VAULT_LOAD_BALANCER_IP=$(gcloud compute addresses describe vault \
  --region ${COMPUTE_REGION} \
  --project ${PROJECT_ID} \

Generate TLS Certificates

In this section you will generate the self-signed TLS certificates used to secure communication between Vault clients and servers.

Create a Certificate Authority:

cfssl gencert -initca ca-csr.json | cfssljson -bare ca

Generate the Vault TLS certificates:

cfssl gencert \
  -ca=ca.pem \
  -ca-key=ca-key.pem \
  -config=ca-config.json \
  -hostname="vault,vault.default.svc.cluster.local,localhost,,${VAULT_LOAD_BALANCER_IP}" \
  -profile=default \
  vault-csr.json | cfssljson -bare vault

Deploy Vault

In this section you will deploy the multi-node Vault cluster using a collection of Kubernetes and application configuration files.

Create the vault secret to hold the Vault TLS certificates:

cat vault.pem ca.pem > vault-combined.pem
kubectl create secret generic vault \
  --from-file=ca.pem \
  --from-file=vault.pem=vault-combined.pem \

The vault configmap holds the Google Cloud Platform settings required bootstrap the Vault cluster.

Create the vault configmap:

kubectl create configmap vault \
  --from-literal api-addr=https://${VAULT_LOAD_BALANCER_IP}:8200 \
  --from-literal gcs-bucket-name=${GCS_BUCKET_NAME} \
  --from-literal kms-key-id=${KMS_KEY_ID}

Create the Vault StatefulSet

In this section you will create the vault statefulset used to provision and manage two Vault server instances.

Create the vault statefulset:

kubectl apply -f vault.yaml
service "vault" created
statefulset "vault" created

At this point the multi-node cluster is up and running:

kubectl get pods
vault-0   2/2       Running   0          1m
vault-1   2/2       Running   0          1m

Automatic Initialization and Unsealing

In a typical deployment Vault must be initialized and unsealed before it can be used. In our deployment we are using the vault-init container to automate the initialization and unseal steps.

kubectl logs vault-0 -c vault-init
2018/11/03 22:37:35 Starting the vault-init service...
2018/11/03 22:37:35 Get dial tcp connect: connection refused
2018/11/03 22:37:45 Vault is not initialized. Initializing and unsealing...
2018/11/03 22:37:53 Encrypting unseal keys and the root token...
2018/11/03 22:37:53 Unseal keys written to gs://vault-1541283682815-vault-storage/unseal-keys.json.enc
2018/11/03 22:37:53 Root token written to gs://vault-1541283682815-vault-storage/root-token.enc
2018/11/03 22:37:53 Initialization complete.
2018/11/03 22:37:55 Unseal complete.
2018/11/03 22:37:55 Next check in 10s
2018/11/03 22:38:05 Vault is initialized and unsealed.
2018/11/03 22:38:05 Next check in 10s

The vault-init container runs every 10 seconds and ensures each vault instance is automatically unsealed.

Health Checks

A readiness probe is used to ensure Vault instances are not routed traffic when they are sealed.

Sealed Vault instances do not forward or redirect clients even in HA setups.

Expose the Vault Cluster

In this section you will expose the Vault cluster using an external network load balancer.

Generate the vault service configuration:

cat > vault-load-balancer.yaml <<EOF
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: vault-load-balancer
  type: LoadBalancer
    - name: http
      port: 8200
    - name: server
      port: 8201
    app: vault

Create the vault-load-balancer service:

kubectl apply -f vault-load-balancer.yaml

Wait until the EXTERNAL-IP is populated:

kubectl get svc vault-load-balancer
NAME                  TYPE           CLUSTER-IP      EXTERNAL-IP   PORT(S)
vault-load-balancer   LoadBalancer   XX.XX.XXX.XXX   <pending>     8200:31805/TCP,8201:32754/TCP

Smoke Tests

Source the vault.env script to configure the vault CLI to use the Vault cluster via the external load balancer:

source vault.env

Get the status of the Vault cluster:

vault status
Key                    Value
---                    -----
Seal Type              shamir
Initialized            true
Sealed                 false
Total Shares           5
Threshold              3
Version                0.11.4
Cluster Name           vault-cluster-46821b83
Cluster ID             dcd56552-27d0-fa18-4ccc-25b252464971
HA Enabled             true
HA Cluster             https://XX.XX.X.X:8201
HA Mode                standby
Active Node Address    https://XX.XXX.XXX.XX:8200

Logging in

Download and decrypt the root token:

export VAULT_TOKEN=$(gsutil cat gs://${GCS_BUCKET_NAME}/root-token.enc | \
  base64 --decode | \
  gcloud kms decrypt \
    --project ${PROJECT_ID} \
    --location global \
    --keyring vault \
    --key vault-init \
    --ciphertext-file - \
    --plaintext-file - 

Working with Secrets

The following examples assume Vault 0.11 or later.

vault secrets enable -version=2 kv
vault kv enable-versioning secret/
vault kv put secret/my-secret my-value=s3cr3t
vault kv get secret/my-secret

Clean Up

Ensure you are working with the right project ID:


Delete the project:

gcloud projects delete ${PROJECT_ID}
You can’t perform that action at this time.