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This controller provides the following functionality:

  • Watch the CSR endpoint for CSR requests
  • Decide if the CSR should be allowed or denied
  • Approve or deny and update CSR status


Kubernetes includes support for TLS bootstrapping for Nodes, which OpenShift makes use of.

Kubelet needs two certificates for its normal operation:

When a new host is provisioned, kubelet will start and communicates to the CSR (Certificate Signing Request) API endpoint to request signed client and server certificates. It issues this request using bootstrap credentials that it finds on its local filesystem.

At this point, these CSRs must be approved. They can be manually approved through the API using kubectl, or kube-controller-manager can be configured to approve them. Alternatively, some custom component could be built to approve CSRs through the API, which is what OpenShift has done.

OpenShift and CSRs

OpenShift includes a custom component to approve CSRs: the cluster-machine-approver. The cluster-machine-approver is used to automatically approve CSRs, but with more strict criteria than what was supported in kube-controller-manager.

Note that the cluster-machine-approver only kicks in post-install. During the cluster bootstrapping phase, the approve-csr service on the bootstrap node automatically approves all CSRs. This bootstrap service will end up approving the CSRs for the control plane nodes, while cluster-machine-approver will take over for future new CSRs from worker nodes.

Understanding node join

The default OCP flow uses CoreOS (e.g. RHEL CoreOS), which is provisioned via Ignition. All the initial node configuration is rendered into Ignition by the MCO. Further, before kubelet even starts, the OS is upgraded to the latest image. For more information on this, see:

And specifically for the initial kubelet config, see cluster_server.go which is part of the "Machine Config Server" that provides Ignition when the node requests it on the first boot.

Disabling Node Client CSR Approvals

It is possible to disable node client CSR approvals completely. This is done using a ConfigMap resource, as shown in this PR comment.

apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
  name: machine-approver-config
  namespace: openshift-cluster-machine-approver
  config.yaml: |-
      disabled: true

This may be useful if you explicitly want to only allow manual CSR approvals for new nodes.

Node Client CSR Approval Workflow

CSR approval details can be found in csr_check.go. Assuming this has not been disabled, the following criteria must be met for the client CSR to be approved:

  • The user must be the node bootstrapper
    • The username in the CSR must be system:serviceaccount:openshift-machine-config-operator:node-bootstrapper
    • The groups in the CSR must be system:serviceaccounts:openshift-machine-config-operator, system:serviceaccounts, and system:authenticated.
  • A Node object must not yet exist for the node that created the CSR.
  • The Machine API is used to do a sanity check. A Machine must exist with a NodeInternalDNS address in its Status that matches the future name of the Node, as found in the CSR.
  • This Machine must not have a NodeRef set.
  • The CSR creation timestamp must be close to the Machine creation timestamp (currently within 2 hours)
  • The CSR is for node client auth.

Node Server CSR Approval Workflow

Details of this workflow can be found in the same file as the client workflow, csr_check.go.

For this workflow, it is assumed that the Node is now up and running, and the Node object exists in the API. Validation for the server CSR is different than the client case and is based primarily on matching addresses between associated Node and Machine objects.

First, there must be a Machine object with a NodeRef field set to the Node that sent this CSR. The NodeRef is set by a Node controller under the machine-api-operator.

Once a Node-Machine pair has been identified, validation is done on all of the Addresses in the Status field of the Machine. The CSR requests a certificate with the SAN (Subject Alternate Names) extension. The resulting certificate will be valid for every address or hostname listed on the Node resource to validate this request, the cluster-machine-approver ensures that every DNS name or IP address in the CSR matches a (NodeInternalDNS, NodeExternalDNS, NodeHostName) or (NodeInternalIP, NodeExternalIP) address on the corresponding Machine object.

Requirements for Cluster API Providers

As discussed in previous sections, cluster-machine-approver imposes some requirements on each Cluster API provider used with the machine-api-operator. This section serves as a summary of those requirements.

  • A Machine must have a NodeInternalDNS set in Status.Addresses that matches the name of the Node. The NodeInternalDNS entry must be present, even before the Node resource is created.
  • A Machine must also have matching NodeInternalDNS, NodeExternalDNS, NodeHostName, NodeInternalIP, and NodeExternalIP addresses as those listed on the Node resource. All of these addresses are placed in the CSR and are validated against the addresses on the Machine object.


The cluster-machine-approver validates and approves CSRs for nodes attempting to join the cluster.



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