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Pinniped Documentation

Using Pinniped for CI/CD cluster operations

This guide shows you how to configure Pinniped so that your CI/CD system of choice can administrate Kubernetes clusters.

Pinniped provides user authentication to Kubernetes clusters. It does not provide service-to-service (non-user) authentication. There are many other systems for service-to-service authentication in Kubernetes.

If an organization prefers to manage CI/CD access with non-human user accounts in their IDP, Pinniped can provide authentication for those non-human user accounts. Humans can also use the same steps below to log into clusters non-interactively.

Note that the guide below assumes that you are using a non-human user account within the IDP of your choice. It is never recommended to use a human’s credentials for CI/CD or other automated processes.


This how-to guide assumes that you have already configured the following Pinniped server-side components within your Kubernetes cluster(s):

  1. Pinniped Supervisor with a working FederationDomain and at least one IdentityProvider (LDAP, AD, or OIDC)
    • The Supervisor installation could be on a completely separate cluster unrelated to your CI/CD
  2. Pinniped Concierge on each cluster that needs to be administrated by your CI/CD system
    • It is possible to use the Pinniped CLI to log into any cluster configured with OIDC authentication, see here. This would not require Concierge to be installed on each cluster.
  3. A CI/CD system that meets the following conditions:
    • It can handle secrets safely and provide them to tasks as environment variables
    • It can run shell scripts, or at least invoke binaries (such as pinniped and kubectl)
    • It can access Pinniped-style kubeconfigs for each cluster
  4. A user account (that does not represent a human) within the IDP of your choice
    • This account should be granted the least amount of privileges necessary
    • This account should likely be single-purposed for CI/CD use


  1. A CI/CD admin should generate the Pinniped-style kubeconfig for each cluster that needs to be administered by CI/CD and make those kubeconfigs available to CI/CD
    • Be sure to use pinniped get kubeconfig with option --upstream-identity-provider-flow=cli_password to authenticate non-interactively (without a browser)
    • When using OIDC, the optional CLI-based flow must be enabled by the administrator in the OIDCIdentityProvider configuration before use (see allowPasswordGrant in the API docs for more details).
  2. A CI/CD admin should make the non-human user account credentials available to CI/CD tasks
  3. Each CI/CD task should set the environment variables PINNIPED_USERNAME and PINNIPED_PASSWORD for the kubectl process to avoid the interactive prompts. The values should be provided from the non-human user account credentials.

At this point, your CI/CD has now authenticated into your kubernetes cluster. Be sure to set up the appropriate IDP groups and Kubernetes roles to enable your non-human user account to perform the necessary operations.