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Reference implementation of OpenID Connect integration for NGINX Plus
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Reference implementation of NGINX Plus as relying party for OpenID Connect authentication


This repository describes how to enable OpenID Connect integration for NGINX Plus. The solution depends on the auth_jwt module and as such is not suitable for open source NGINX.

OpenID Connect components

Figure 1. High level components of an OpenID Connect environment

This implementation assumes the following environment:

  • The identity provider (IdP) supports OpenID Connect 1.0
  • The authorization code flow is in use
  • NGINX Plus is configured as a relying party
  • The IdP knows NGINX Plus as a confidential client

With this environment, both the client and NGINX Plus communicate directly with the IdP at different stages during the initial authentication event.

OpenID Connect protocol diagram Figure 2. OpenID Connect authorization code flow protocol

NGINX Plus is configured to perform OpenID Connect authentication. Upon a first visit to a protected resource, NGINX Plus initiates the OpenID Connect authorization code flow and redirects the client to the OpenID Connect provider (IdP). When the client returns to NGINX Plus with an authorization code, NGINX Plus exchanges that code for a set of tokens by communicating directly with the IdP.

The ID Token received from the IdP is then validated. NGINX Plus then issues a session cookie to the client using either the ID Token or the Access Token and is redirected to the original URI requested prior to authentication.

Subsequent requests to protected resources are authenticated using the session cookie by performing JWT validation.

For more information on OIDC and NGINX Plus JWT support, see Authenticating Users to Existing Applications with OpenID Connect and NGINX Plus.


OpenID Connect integration requires NGINX Plus R15 or later to be installed. See Installing NGINX Plus.

In addition, the njs module is required for handling the interaction between NGINX Plus and the OpenID Connect provider (IdP). Install the njs module after installing NGINX Plus by running one of the following:

$ sudo apt install nginx-plus-module-njs for Debian/Ubuntu

$ sudo yum install nginx-plus-module-njs for CentOS/RedHat

The njs module needs to be loaded by adding the following configuration directive near the top of nginx.conf.

load_module modules/;

Finally, create a clone of the GitHub repository.

$ git clone

N.B. There is a branch for each NGINX Plus release. Switch to the correct branch to ensure compatibility with the features and syntax of each release.

All files can be copied to /etc/nginx/conf.d

N.B. The GitHub repository contains include files for NGINX configuration and JavaScript code for token exchange and initial token validation. These files are referenced with a relative path (relative to /etc/nginx). If NGINX Plus is running from a non-standard location then copy the files from the GitHub repository to /path/to/conf/conf.d and use the -p flag to start NGINX with a prefix path that specifies the location where the configuration files are located.

nginx -p /path/to/conf -c /path/to/conf/nginx.conf

Configuring your IdP

  • Create an OpenID Connect client to represent your NGINX Plus instance

    • Choose the authorization code flow
    • Set the redirect URI to the address of your NGINX Plus instance (including the port number), with /_codexch as the path, e.g.
    • Ensure NGINX Plus is configured as a confidential client (with a client secret)
    • Make a note of the client ID and client secret
  • If your IdP supports OpenID Connect Discovery (usually at the URI /.well-known/openid-configuration) then use the script to complete configuration. In this case you can skip the frontend.conf configuration. Otherwise:

    • Download the jwks_uri JWK file to your NGINX Plus instance
    • Obtain the URL for the authorization endpoint
    • Obtain the URL for the token endpoint

Configuring NGINX Plus

Review the following files copied from the GitHub repository so that they match your IdP configuration.

  • frontend.conf - this is the reverse proxy configuration and where the IdP is configured. This file can be automatically configured by using the script.

    • Modify the upstream group to match your backend site or app
    • Modify the resolver directive to match a DNS server that is capable of resolving the IdP defined in $oidc_token_endpoint
    • Configure the preferred listen port and enable SSL/TLS configuration
    • Set the value of $oidc_jwt_keyfile to match the downloaded JWK file from the IdP and ensure that it is readable by the NGINX worker processes
    • Modify all of the set $oidc_ directives to match your IdP configuration
    • Set a unique value for $oidc_hmac_key to ensure nonce values are unpredictable
  • openid_connect.server_conf - this is the NGINX configuration for handling the various stages of OpenID Connect authorization code flow

    • No changes are usually required here
    • If using auth_jwt_key_request to automatically fetch the JWK file from the IdP then modify the validity period and other caching options to suit your IdP
    • Modify the add_header Set-Cookie directives with appropriate cookie flags to control the scope of single sign-on and security options, e.g. Domain; Path; Secure;
  • openid_connect.js - this is the JavaScript code for performing the authorization code exchange and nonce hashing

    • No changes are required unless modifying the code exchange or validation process


Any errors generated by the OpenID Connect flow are logged in a separate file, /var/log/nginx/oidc_error.log. Check the contents of this file as it may include error responses received by the IdP.

  • 400 error from IdP

    • This is typically caused by incorrect configuration related to the client ID and client secret.
    • Check the values of the $oidc_client and $oidc_client_secret variables against the IdP configuration.
  • Authentication is successful but browser shows too many redirects

    • This is typically because the JWT sent to the browser cannot be validated, resulting in 'authorization required' 401 response and starting the authentication process again. But the user is already authenticated so is redirected back to NGINX, hence the redirect loop.
    • Check the error log /var/log/nginx/oidc_error.log for JWT/JWK errors.
    • Ensure that the JWK file ($oidc_jwt_keyfile variable) is correct and that the nginx workers have permission to read it.


All reference OpenID Connect implementations within the GitHub repository are supported for NGINX Plus subscribers.

Other use cases

Subdirectories within the GitHub repository contain variations of the reference implementation for alternative OpenID Connect use cases.

  • opaque_session_token - Uses the NGINX Plus key-value store to hold the ID Token, sending a random string to the client as the session token. The session token is then exchanged for the ID Token on each request. This use case is valuable when the ID Token contains sensitive information that should not reach the client.


  • R15 Initial release of OpenID Connect reference implmentation
  • R16 Added support for opaque session tokens using key-value store
  • R17 Configuration now supports JSON Web Key (JWK) set to be obtained by URI
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