csi-driver is a Container Storage Interface (CSI) driver plugin for Kubernetes to work along cert-manager. The goal for this plugin is to seamlessly request and mount certificate key pairs to pods. This is useful for facilitating mTLS, or otherwise securing connections of pods with guaranteed present certificates whilst having all of the features that cert-manager provides.

Why a CSI Driver?

  • Ensure private keys never leave the node and are never sent over the network. All private keys are stored locally on the node.
  • Unique key and certificate per application replica with a grantee to be present on application run time.
  • Reduce resource management overhead by defining certificate request spec in-line of the Kubernetes Pod template.
  • Automatic renewal of certificates based on expiry of each individual certificate.
  • Keys and certificates are destroyed during application termination.
  • Scope for extending plugin behavior with visibility on each replica's certificate request and termination.

Requirements and Installation

This CSI driver plugin makes use of the 'CSI inline volume' feature - Alpha as of v1.15 and beta in v1.16. Kubernetes versions v1.16 and higher require no extra configuration however v1.15 requires the following feature gate set:


You must have a working installation of cert-manager present on the cluster. Instructions on how to install cert-manager can be found on cert-manager.io.

To install the csi-driver, use helm install:

helm repo add jetstack https://charts.jetstack.io --force-update
helm upgrade -i -n cert-manager cert-manager-csi-driver jetstack/cert-manager-csi-driver --wait

Or apply the static manifests to your cluster:

helm repo add jetstack https://charts.jetstack.io --force-update
helm template jetstack/cert-manager-csi-driver | kubectl apply -n cert-manager -f -

You can verify the installation has completed correctly by checking the presence of the CSIDriver resource as well as a CSINode resource present for each node, referencing csi.cert-manager.io.

$ kubectl get csidrivers
csi.cert-manager.io 2019-09-06T16:55:19Z
$ kubectl get csinodes -o yaml
apiVersion: v1
- apiVersion: storage.k8s.io/v1beta1
kind: CSINode
name: kind-control-plane
- apiVersion: v1
kind: Node
name: kind-control-plane
- name: csi.cert-manager.io
nodeID: kind-control-plane
topologyKeys: null

The CSI driver is now installed and is ready to be used for pods in the cluster.

Requesting and Mounting Certificates

To request certificates from cert-manager, simply define a volume mount where the key and certificate will be written to, along with a volume with attributes that define the cert-manager request. The following is a dummy app that mounts a key certificate pair to /tls and has been signed by the ca-issuer with a DNS name valid for my-service.sandbox.svc.cluster.local.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
name: my-csi-app
namespace: sandbox
app: my-csi-app
- name: my-frontend
image: busybox
- mountPath: "/tls"
name: tls
command: [ "sleep", "1000000" ]
- name: tls
driver: csi.cert-manager.io
csi.cert-manager.io/issuer-name: ca-issuer
csi.cert-manager.io/dns-names: ${POD_NAME}.${POD_NAMESPACE}.svc.cluster.local

Once created, the CSI driver will generate a private key locally, request a certificate from cert-manager based on the given attributes, then store both locally to be mounted to the pod. The pod will remain in a pending state until this process has been completed.

For more information on how to set up issuers for your cluster, refer to the cert-manager documentation here. Note it is not possible to use SelfSigned Issuers with the CSI Driver. In order for cert-manager to self sign a certificate, it needs access to the secret containing the private key that signed the certificate request to sign the end certificate. This secret is not used and so not available in the CSI driver use case.

Supported Volume Attributes

The csi-driver driver aims to have complete feature parity with all possible values available through the cert-manager API however currently supports the following values;

csi.cert-manager.io/issuer-nameThe Issuer name to sign the certificate request.ca-issuer
csi.cert-manager.io/issuer-kindThe Issuer kind to sign the certificate request.IssuerClusterIssuer
csi.cert-manager.io/issuer-groupThe group name the Issuer belongs to.cert-manager.ioout.of.tree.foo
csi.cert-manager.io/common-nameCertificate common name (supports variables).my-cert.foo
csi.cert-manager.io/dns-namesDNS names the certificate will be requested for. At least a DNS Name, IP or URI name must be present (supports variables).a.b.foo.com,c.d.foo.com
csi.cert-manager.io/ip-sansIP addresses the certificate will be requested for.,
csi.cert-manager.io/uri-sansURI names the certificate will be requested for (supports variables).spiffe://foo.bar.cluster.local
csi.cert-manager.io/durationRequested duration the signed certificate will be valid for.720h1880h
csi.cert-manager.io/is-caMark the certificate as a certificate authority.falsetrue
csi.cert-manager.io/key-usagesSet the key usages on the certificate request.digital signature,key enciphermentserver auth,client auth
csi.cert-manager.io/key-encodingSet the key encoding format (PKCS1 or PKCS8).PKCS1PKCS8
csi.cert-manager.io/certificate-fileFile name to store the certificate file at.tls.crtfoo.crt
csi.cert-manager.io/ca-fileFile name to store the ca certificate file at.ca.crtfoo.ca
csi.cert-manager.io/privatekey-fileFile name to store the key file at.tls.keyfoo.key
csi.cert-manager.io/fs-groupSet the FS Group of written files. Should be paired with and match the value of the consuming container runAsGroup.2000
csi.cert-manager.io/renew-beforeThe time to renew the certificate before expiry. Defaults to a third of the requested duration.$CERT_DURATION/372h
csi.cert-manager.io/reuse-private-keyRe-use the same private when when renewing certificates.falsetrue
csi.cert-manager.io/keystore-pkcs12-enableEnable writing the signed certificate chain and private key as a PKCS12 file.true
csi.cert-manager.io/keystore-pkcs12-fileFile location to write the PKCS12 file. Requires csi.cert-manager.io/keystore-pkcs12-enable be set to true.keystore.p12tls.p12
csi.cert-manager.io/keystore-pkcs12-passwordPassword used to encode the PKCS12 file. Required when PKCS12 is enabled (csi.cert-manager.io/keystore-pkcs12-enable: true).my-password


The following attributes support variables that are evaluated when a request is made for the mounting Pod. These variables are useful for constructing requests with SANs that contain values from the mounting Pod.


Variables follow the go os.Expand structure, which is generally what you would expect on a UNIX shell. The CSI driver has access to the following variables:


Example Usage

csi.cert-manager.io/issuer-name: ca-issuer
csi.cert-manager.io/dns-names: "${POD_NAME}.${POD_NAMESPACE}.svc.cluster.local"
csi.cert-manager.io/uri-sans: "spiffe://cluster.local/ns/${POD_NAMESPACE}/pod/${POD_NAME}/${POD_UID}"
csi.cert-manager.io/common-name: "${SERVICE_ACCOUNT_NAME}.${POD_NAMESPACE}"

Requesting Certificates using the mounting Pod's ServiceAccount

If the flag --use-token-request is enabled on the csi-driver DaemonSet, the CertificateRequest resource will be created by the mounting Pod's ServiceAccount. This can be pared with approver-policy to enable advanced policy on a per ServiceAccount basis.

Ensure to give permissions to Pod ServiceAccounts to create CertificateRequests with this flag enabled, i.e:

# WARNING: This RBAC will enable any identiy in the cluster to create
# CertificateRequests. This may or may not be problimatic based on your security
# model. It is likely worth scoping the set of identities in the
# `ClusterRoleBinding` `subjects` stanza.
kind: ClusterRole
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
name: cert-manager-csi-driver-all-cr-create
- apiGroups: ["cert-manager.io"]
resources: ["certificaterequests"]
verbs: [ "create" ]
kind: ClusterRoleBinding
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
name: cert-manager-csi-driver-all-cr-create
apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
kind: ClusterRole
name: cert-manager-csi-driver-all-cr-create
- apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
kind: Group
name: system:authenticated