cert-manager makes use of extending the Kubernetes API server using a Webhook server to provide dynamic admission control over cert-manager resources. This means that cert-manager benefits from most of the same behavior that core Kubernetes resource have. The webhook has three main functions:

  • ValidatingAdmissionWebhook: Ensures that when cert-manager resources are created or updated, they conform to the rules of the API. This validation is more in depth than for example ensuring resources conform to the OpenAPI schema, but instead contains logic such as not allowing to specify more than one Issuer type per Issuer resource. The validating admission is always called and will respond with a success or failed response.
  • MutatingAdmissionWebhook: Changes the contents of resources during create and update operations, for example to set default values.
  • CustomResourceConversionWebhook: The webhook is also responsible for implementing a conversion over versions in the cert-manager CustomResources (cert-manager.io). This means that multiple API versions can be supported simultaneously; from v1alpha2 through to v1. This makes it possible to rely on a particular version of our configuration schema.

The webhook component is deployed as another pod that runs alongside the main cert-manager controller and CA injector components.

In order for the API server to communicate with the webhook component, the webhook requires a TLS certificate that the apiserver is configured to trust. This is created by the cainjector and is implemented by the following two Secrets:

  • secret/cert-manager-webhook-ca: A self-signed root CA certificate which is used to sign certificates for the webhook pod.
  • secret/cert-manager-webhook-tls: A TLS certificate issued by the root CA above, served by the webhook.

Known Problems and Solutions

Webhook connection problems on GKE private cluster

If errors occur around the webhook but the webhook is running then the webhook is most likely not reachable from the API server. In this case, ensure that the API server can communicate with the webhook by following the GKE private cluster explanation.

Webhook connection problems on AWS EKS

When using a custom CNI (such as Weave or Calico) on EKS, the webhook cannot be reached by cert-manager. This happens because the control plane cannot be configured to run on a custom CNI on EKS, so the CNIs differ between control plane and worker nodes. The solution is to run the webhook in the host network so it can be reached by cert-manager.

Webhook connection problems shortly after cert-manager installation

When you first install cert-manager, it will take a few seconds before the cert-manager API is usable. This is because the cert-manager API requires the cert-manager webhook server, which takes some time to start up. Here’s why:

  • The webhook server performs a leader election at startup which may take a few seconds.
  • The webhook server may take a few seconds to start up and to generate its self-signed CA and serving certificate and to publish those to a Secret.
  • cainjector performs a leader election at start up which can take a few seconds.
  • cainjector, once started, will take a few seconds to update the caBundle in all the webhook configurations.

For these reasons, after installing cert-manager and when performing post-installation cert-manager API operations, you will need to check for temporary API configuration errors and retry.

You could also add a post-installation check which performs kubectl --dry-run operations on the cert-manager API. Or you could add a post-installation check which automatically retries the Installation Verification steps until they succeed.

Diagnosing Other Webhook Problems

Check the webhook TLS certificates

The Kubernetes API server will load the CA content from the webhook configuration and use that to verify the serving certificate presented by the webhook server, when the TLS connection is established.

Get the webhook configuration and check the caBundle value. For example, to check the ValidatingWebhookConfiguration:

kubectl get validatingwebhookconfigurations cert-manager-webhook -o yaml | grep caBundle

NOTE: If the value is empty there may be a problem with cainjector. The caBundle value is set by cainjector Injecting CA data from a Secret resource. Check that the cainjector Pod is running and check the cainjector logs for errors.

Next check that the caBundle has a valid CA certificate.

echo <CA BUNDLE VALUE> | base64 -d  | openssl x509 -in - -noout -text

Then compare that with the certificates that are being used by the webhook server:

kubectl -n cert-manager get secrets cert-manager-webhook-ca  -o yaml

You should be able to decode the ca.crt x509 content from that secret and see that the CA matches that which we saw in the webhook configuration.

You should also find that the tls.crt content has a certificate signed by that same CA.

NOTE: This process can also be repeated for the caBundle field in MutatingWebhookConfiguration and CustomResourceDefinition resources.

Temporarily work around webhook TLS problems

If necessary, you can manually add / update the TLS certificates in the ValidatingWebhookConfiguration, MutatingWebhookConfiguration, and in each of the cert-manager CustomResourceDefinition resources. Add the caBundle value, copied from the ca.crt field of the cert-manager-webhook-ca Secret.

NOTE: This should only be used as a temporary measure, while you investigate the root cause of cainjector failing to update the fields automatically.

Last modified January 1, 0001