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Pinniped Documentation

Learn to use the Pinniped Supervisor alongside the Concierge


  1. A Kubernetes cluster of a type supported by Pinniped Concierge as described in architecture.

    Don’t have a cluster handy? Consider using kind on your local machine. See below for an example of using kind.

  2. A Kubernetes cluster of a type supported by Pinniped Supervisor (this can be the same cluster as the first, or different).

  3. A kubeconfig that has administrator-like privileges on each cluster.

  4. An external OIDC identity provider to use as the source of identity for Pinniped.


Installing and trying Pinniped on any cluster consists of the following general steps. See the next section below for a more specific example, including the commands to use for that case.

  1. Install the Supervisor.
  2. Create a FederationDomain via the installed Pinniped Supervisor.
  3. Create an OIDCIdentityProvider via the installed Pinniped Supervisor.
  4. Install the Pinniped Concierge. See deploy/concierge/
  5. Create a JWTAuthenticator via the installed Pinniped Concierge.
  6. Install the Pinniped command-line tool.
  7. Generate a kubeconfig using the Pinniped command-line tool. Run pinniped get kubeconfig --help for more information.
  8. Run kubectl commands using the generated kubeconfig. The Pinniped Supervisor and Concierge are automatically used for authentication during those commands.

Example of deploying on multiple kind clusters

kind is a tool for creating and managing Kubernetes clusters on your local machine which uses Docker containers as the cluster’s nodes. This is a convenient way to try out Pinniped on local non-production clusters.

The following steps deploy the latest release of Pinniped on kind. They deploy the Pinniped Supervisor on one cluster, and the Pinniped Concierge on another cluster. A multi-cluster deployment strategy is typical for Pinniped. The Pinniped Concierge uses a JWTAuthenticator to authenticate federated identities from the Supervisor.

  1. Install the tools required for the following steps.

    • Install kind, if not already installed. For example, brew install kind on macOS.

    • kind depends on Docker. If not already installed, install Docker, for example brew cask install docker on macOS.

    • This demo requires kubectl, which comes with Docker, or can be installed separately.

    • This demo requires openssl, which is installed on macOS by default, or can be installed separately.

  2. Create a new Kubernetes cluster for the Pinniped Supervisor using kind create cluster --name pinniped-supervisor.

  3. Create a new Kubernetes cluster for the Pinniped Concierge using kind create cluster --name pinniped-concierge.

  4. Deploy the Pinniped Supervisor with a valid serving certificate and network path. See deploy/supervisor/

    For purposes of this demo, the following issuer is used. This issuer is specific to DNS and TLS infrastructure set up for this demo:


    This demo uses a Secret named my-federation-domain-tls to provide the serving certificate for the FederationDomain. The serving certificate Secret must be of type

    The CA bundle for this serving certificate is assumed to be written, base64-encoded, to a file named /tmp/pinniped-supervisor-ca-bundle-base64-encoded.pem.

  5. Create a FederationDomain object to configure the Pinniped Supervisor to issue federated identities.

    cat <<EOF | kubectl create --context kind-pinniped-supervisor --namespace pinniped-supervisor -f -
    kind: FederationDomain
      name: my-federation-domain
      issuer: $issuer
        secretName: my-federation-domain-tls
  6. Create a Secret with the external OIDC identity provider OAuth 2.0 client credentials named my-oidc-identity-provider-client in the pinniped-supervisor namespace.

    kubectl create secret generic my-oidc-identity-provider-client \
      --context kind-pinniped-supervisor \
      --namespace pinniped-supervisor \
      --type \
      --from-literal=clientID=xxx \
  7. Create an OIDCIdentityProvider object to configure the Pinniped Supervisor to federate identities from an upstream OIDC identity provider.

    Replace the issuer with your external identity provider’s issuer and adjust any other configuration on the spec.

    cat <<EOF | kubectl create --context kind-pinniped-supervisor --namespace pinniped-supervisor -f -
    kind: OIDCIdentityProvider
      name: my-oidc-identity-provider
        username: email
        additionalScopes: ['email']
        secretName: my-oidc-identity-provider-client
  8. Deploy the Pinniped Concierge.

    kubectl apply --context kind-pinniped-concierge \
    kubectl apply --context kind-pinniped-concierge \

    The install-pinniped-concierge-crds.yaml file contains the Concierge CustomResourceDefinitions. These define the custom APIs that you use to configure and interact with the Concierge.

    The install-pinniped-concierge.yaml file includes the rest of the Concierge resources with default deployment options. If you would prefer to customize the available options, please see the Concierge installation guide for instructions on how to deploy using ytt.

  9. Generate a random audience value for this cluster.

    audience="$(openssl rand -hex 8)"
  10. Create a JWTAuthenticator object to configure the Pinniped Concierge to authenticate using the Pinniped Supervisor.

    cat <<EOF | kubectl create --context kind-pinniped-concierge -f -
    kind: JWTAuthenticator
      name: my-jwt-authenticator
      issuer: $issuer
      audience: $audience
        certificateAuthorityData: $(cat /tmp/pinniped-supervisor-ca-bundle-base64-encoded.pem)
  11. Download the latest version of the Pinniped command-line tool for your platform. On macOS or Linux, you can do this using Homebrew:

    brew install vmware-tanzu/pinniped/pinniped-cli

    On other platforms, see the command-line installation guide for more details.

  12. Generate a kubeconfig for the current cluster.

    pinniped get kubeconfig \
      --kubeconfig-context kind-pinniped-concierge \
      > /tmp/pinniped-kubeconfig
  13. Try using the generated kubeconfig to issue arbitrary kubectl commands. The pinniped command-line tool opens a browser page that can be used to login to the external OIDC identity provider configured earlier.

    kubectl --kubeconfig /tmp/pinniped-kubeconfig get pods -n pinniped-concierge

    Because this user has no RBAC permissions on this cluster, the previous command results in an error that is similar to Error from server (Forbidden): pods is forbidden: User "pinny" cannot list resource "pods" in API group "" in the namespace "pinniped", where pinny is the username that was used to login to the upstream OIDC identity provider. However, this does prove that you are authenticated and acting as the pinny user.

  14. As the administrator user, create RBAC rules for the test user to give them permissions to perform actions on the cluster. For example, grant the test user permission to view all cluster resources.

    kubectl --context kind-pinniped-concierge create clusterrolebinding pinny-can-read --clusterrole view --user pinny
  15. Use the generated kubeconfig to issue arbitrary kubectl commands as the pinny user.

    kubectl --kubeconfig /tmp/pinniped-kubeconfig get pods -n pinniped-concierge

    The user has permission to list pods, so the command succeeds this time. Pinniped has provided authentication into the cluster for your kubectl command. 🎉

  16. Carry on issuing as many kubectl commands as you’d like as the pinny user. Each invocation uses Pinniped for authentication. You may find it convenient to set the KUBECONFIG environment variable rather than passing --kubeconfig to each invocation.

    export KUBECONFIG=/tmp/pinniped-kubeconfig
    kubectl get namespaces
    kubectl get pods -A