Kubernetes API

Kubernetes API targets are used by the Kubernetes steps to define the context in which deployments and scripts are run.

Conceptually, a Kubernetes API target represent a permission boundary and an endpoint. Kubernetes permissions and quotas are defined against a namespace, and both the account and namespace are captured as a Kubernetes API target, along with the cluster endpoint URL. A namespace is required when registering the Kubernetes API target with Octopus Deploy. By default, the namespace used in the registration is used in health checks and deployments. The namespace can be overwritten in the deployment process.

From Octopus 2022.2, AKS target discovery has been added to the Kubernetes Target Discovery Early Access Preview and is enabled via Configuration ➜ Features.

From Octopus 2022.3 will include EKS cluster support.

Discovering Kubernetes targets

Octopus can discover Kubernetes API targets in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) or Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS) as part of your deployment using tags on your AKS or EKS resource.

From Octopus 2022.3, you can configure the well-known variables used to discover Kubernetes targets when editing your deployment process in the Web Portal. See cloud target discovery for more information.

To discover targets use the following steps:

  • Add an Azure account variable named Octopus.Azure.Account or the appropriate AWS authentication variables (more info here) to your project.
  • Add cloud resource template tags to your cluster so that Octopus can match it to your deployment step and environment.
  • Add any of the Kubernetes built-in steps to your deployment process. During deployment, the target tag on the step will be used along with the environment being deployed to, to discover Kubernetes targets to deploy to.

Kubernetes targets discovered will not have a namespace set, the namespace on the step will be used during deployment (or the default namespace in the cluster if no namespace is set on the step).

See cloud target discovery for more information.

A sample config file

The YAML file below shows a sample kubectl configuration file. Existing Kubernetes users will likely have a similar configuration file.

A number of the fields in this configuration file map directly to the fields in an Octopus Kubernetes API target, as noted in the next section.

apiVersion: v1
- cluster:
    certificate-authority-data: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX...
    server: https://kubernetes.example.org:443
  name: k8s-cluster
- context:
    cluster: k8s-cluster
    user: k8s_user
  name: k8s_user
current-context: k8s-cluster
kind: Config
preferences: {}
- name: k8s_user
    client-certificate-data: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX...
    client-key-data: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX...
    token: 1234567890xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- name: k8s_user2
    password: some-password
    username: exp
- name: k8s_user3
    token: 1234567890xxxxxxxxxxxxx    

Add a Kubernetes target

  1. Navigate to Infrastructure ➜ Deployment Targets, and click Add Deployment Target.

  2. Select KUBERNETES and click ADD on the Kubernetes API card.

  3. Enter a display name for the Kubernetes API target.

  4. Select at least one environment for the target.

  5. Select at least one target tag for the target.

  6. Select the authentication method. Kubernetes targets support multiple account types:

    • Usernames/Password: In the example YAML above, the user name is found in the username field, and the password is found in the password field. These values can be added as an Octopus Username and Password account.

    • Tokens: In the example YAML above, the token is defined in the token field. This value can be added as an Octopus Token account.

    • Azure Service Principal: When using an AKS cluster, Azure Service Principal accounts allow Azure Active Directory accounts to be used.

      The Azure Service Principal is only used with AKS clusters. To log into ACS or ACS-Engine clusters, standard Kubernetes credentials like certificates or service account tokens must be used.

      From Kubernetes 1.26, the default azure auth plugin has been removed from kubectl so clusters targeting Kubernetes 1.26+ that have Local Account Access disabled in Azure, will require the worker or execution container to have access to the kubelogin CLI tool, as well as the Octopus Deployment Target setting Login with administrator credentials disabled. This requires *Octopus 2023.3.

      If Local Account access is enabled on the AKS cluster, the Octopus Deployment Target setting Login with administrator credentials will also need to be enabled so that the Local Accounts are used instead of the default auth plugin.

    • AWS Account: When using an EKS cluster, AWS accounts allow IAM accounts and roles to be used.

      The interaction between AWS IAM and Kubernetes Role Based Access Control (RBAC) can be tricky. We highly recommend reading the AWS documentation.

      Common issues: From Octopus 2022.4, you can use the aws cli to authenticate to an EKS cluster, earlier versions rely on the aws-iam-authenticator. If using the AWS account type, the Octopus Server or worker must have either the aws cli (1.16.156 or later) or aws-iam-authenticator executable on the path. If both are present the aws cli will be used. The EKS api version is selected based on the kubectl version. For Octopus 2022.3 and earlier kubectl 1.23.6 and aws-iam-authenticator version 0.5.3 or earlier must be used, these target v1alpha1 endpoints. For kubectl 1.24.0 and later v1beta1 endpoints are used and versions 0.5.5 and later of the aws-iam-authenticator are required. See the AWS documentation for download links.

      The error You must be logged into the server (the server has asked for the client to provide credentials) generally indicates the AWS account does not have permissions in the Kubernetes cluster.

      When you create an Amazon EKS cluster, the IAM entity user or role that creates the cluster is automatically granted system:master permissions in the cluster’s RBAC configuration. To grant additional AWS users or roles the ability to interact with your cluster, you must edit the aws-auth ConfigMap within Kubernetes. See the Managing Users or IAM Roles for your Cluster.

    • Google Cloud Account: When using a GKE cluster, Google Cloud accounts allow you to authenticate using a Google Cloud IAM service account.

      From kubectl version 1.26, authentication against a GKE cluster requires an additional plugin called gke-cloud-auth-plugin to be available on the PATH where your step is executing. If you manage your own execution environment (eg self-hosted workers, custom execution containers etc), you will need to ensure the auth plugin is available alongside kubectl

    • Client Certificate: When authenticating with certificates, both the certificate and private key must be provided.

      In the example YAML above, the client-certificate-data field is a base 64 encoded certificate, and the client-key-data field is a base 64 encoded private key (both have been truncated for readability in this example).

      The certificate and private key can be combined and saved in a single pfx file. The script below accepts the base 64 encoded certificate and private key and uses the Windows OpenSSL binary from Shining Light Productions to save them in a single pfx file.

      param (
        [Parameter(Mandatory = $true)]
        [Parameter(Mandatory = $true)]
      [System.Text.Encoding]::UTF8.GetString([System.Convert]::FromBase64String($Certificate)) | `
        Set-Content -Path certificate.crt
      [System.Text.Encoding]::UTF8.GetString([System.Convert]::FromBase64String($PrivateKey)) | `
        Set-Content -Path private.key
      C:\OpenSSL-Win32\bin\openssl pkcs12 `
        -passout pass: `
        -export `
        -out certificate_and_key.pfx `
        -in certificate.crt `
        -inkey private.key
      echo $1 | base64 --decode > certificate.crt
      echo $2 | base64 --decode > private.key
      openssl pkcs12 \
        -passout pass: \
        -export \
        -out certificate_and_key.pfx \
        -in certificate.crt \
        -inkey private.key

      This file can then be uploaded to the Octopus certificate management area, after which, it will be made available to the Kubernetes target.

      The Certificates Library can be accessed via Library ➜ Certificates.

  7. Enter the Kubernetes cluster URL. Each Kubernetes target requires the cluster URL, which is defined in the Kubernetes cluster URL field. In the example YAML about, this is defined in the server field.

  8. Optionally, select the certificate authority if you’ve added one. Kubernetes clusters are often protected with self-signed certificates. In the YAML example above the certificate is saved as a base 64 encoded string in the certificate-authority-data field.

To communicate with a Kubernetes cluster with a self signed certificate over HTTPS, you can either select the Skip TLS verification option, or supply the certificate in The optional cluster certificate authority field.

Decoding the certificate-authority-data field results in a string that looks something like this (the example has been truncated for readability):


Save this text to a file called ca.pem, and upload it to the Octopus certificate management area. The certificate can then be selected in the cluster certificate authority field.

  1. Enter the Kubernetes Namespace. When a single Kubernetes cluster is shared across environments, resources deployed to the cluster will often be separated by environment and by application, team, or service. In this situation, the recommended approach is to create a namespace for each application and environment (e.g., my-application-development and my-application-production), and create a Kubernetes service account that has permissions to just that namespace.

Where each environment has its own Kubernetes cluster, namespaces can be assigned to each application, team or service (e.g. my-application).

In both scenarios, a target is then created for each Kubernetes cluster and namespace. The Target Role tag is set to the application name (e.g. my-application), and the Environments are set to the matching environment.

When a Kubernetes target is used, the namespace it references is created automatically if it does not already exist.

  1. Select a worker pool for the target. To make use of the Kubernetes steps, the Octopus Server or workers that will run the steps need to have the kubectl executable installed. Linux workers also need to have the jq, xargs and base64 applications installed.
  2. Click SAVE.

Setting the Worker Pool in a Deployment Process will override the Worker Pool defined directly on the Deployment Target.

Create service accounts

The recommended approach to configuring a Kubernetes target is to have a service account for each application and namespace.

In the example below, a service account called jenkins-development is created to represent the deployment of an application called jenkins to an environment called development. This service account has permissions to perform all operations (i.e. get, list, watch, create, update, patch, delete) on the resources created by the Deploy kubernetes containers step (i.e. deployments, replicasets, pods, services, ingresses, secrets, configmaps).

kind: Namespace
apiVersion: v1
  name: jenkins-development
apiVersion: v1
kind: ServiceAccount
  name: jenkins-deployer
  namespace: jenkins-development
kind: Role
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
  namespace: jenkins-development
  name: jenkins-deployer-role
- apiGroups: ["", "extensions", "apps"]
  resources: ["deployments", "replicasets", "pods", "services", "ingresses", "secrets", "configmaps"]
  verbs: ["get", "list", "watch", "create", "update", "patch", "delete"]
- apiGroups: [""]
  resources: ["namespaces"]
  verbs: ["get"]     
kind: RoleBinding
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
  name: jenkins-deployer-binding
  namespace: jenkins-development
- kind: ServiceAccount
  name: jenkins-deployer
  apiGroup: ""
  kind: Role
  name: jenkins-deployer-role
  apiGroup: ""

In cases where it is necessary to have an administrative service account created (for example, when using AWS EKS because the initial admin account is tied to an IAM role), the following YAML can be used.

apiVersion: v1
kind: ServiceAccount
  name: octopus-administrator
  namespace: default
kind: ClusterRoleBinding
apiVersion: rbac.authorization.k8s.io/v1
  name: octopus-administrator-binding
  namespace: default
- kind: ServiceAccount
  name: octopus-administrator
  namespace: default
  apiGroup: ""
  apiGroup: rbac.authorization.k8s.io
  kind: ClusterRole
  name: cluster-admin

Creating service accounts automatically results in a token being generated. The PowerShell snippet below returns the token for the jenkins-deployer account.

$data = kubectl get secret $(kubectl get serviceaccount $user -o jsonpath="{.secrets[0].name}" --namespace=$namespace) -o jsonpath="{.data.token}" --namespace=$namespace

This bash snippet also returns the token value.

kubectl get secret $(kubectl get serviceaccount jenkins-deployer -o jsonpath="{.secrets[0].name}" --namespace=jenkins-development) -o jsonpath="{.data.token}" --namespace=jenkins-development | base64 --decode

The token can then be saved as a Token Octopus account, and assigned to the Kubernetes target.

Kubernetes versions 1.24+ no longer automatically create tokens for service accounts and they need to be manually created using the create token command:

kubectl create token jenkins-deployer

From Kubernetes version 1.29, a warning will be displayed when using automatically created Tokens. Make sure to rotate any Octopus Token Accounts to use manually created tokens via create token instead.


Kubernetes targets use the kubectl executable to communicate with the Kubernetes cluster. This executable must be available on the path on the target where the step is run. When using workers, this means the kubectl executable must be in the path on the worker that is executing the step. Otherwise the kubectl executable must be in the path on the Octopus Server itself.

Vendor Authentication Plugins

Prior to kubectl version 1.26, the logic for authenticating against various cloud providers (eg Azure Kubernetes Services, Google Kubernetes Engine) was included “in-tree” in kubectl. From version 1.26 onward, the cloud-vendor specific authentication code has been removed from kubectl, in favor of a plugin approach.

What this means for your deployments:

  • Amazon Elastic Container Services (ECS): No change required. Octopus already supports using either the AWS CLI or the aws-iam-authenticator plugin.
  • Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS): No change required. The way Octopus authenticates against AKS clusters never used the in-tree Azure authentication code, and will continue to function as normal.
    • From Octopus 2023.3, you will need to ensure that the kubelogin CLI tool is also available if you have disabled local Kubernetes accounts.
  • Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE): If you upgrade to kubectl 1.26 or higher, you will need to ensure that the gke-gcloud-auth-plugin tool is also available. More information can be found on Google’s announcement about this change.


When a Kubernetes target is used with a Helm step, the helm executable must be on the target where the step is run.

Dynamic targets

Kubernetes targets can be created dynamically at deploy time with the PowerShell function New-OctopusKubernetesTarget.

See Create Kubernetes Target Command for more information.


If you’re running into issues with your Kubernetes targets, it’s possible you’ll be able to resolve the issue using some of these troubleshooting tips. If this section doesn’t help, please get in touch.


Setting the Octopus variable Octopus.Action.Kubernetes.OutputKubeConfig to True for any deployment or runbook using a Kubernetes target will cause the generated kube config file to be printed into the logs (with passwords masked). This can be used to verify the configuration file used to connect to the Kubernetes cluster.

If Kubernetes targets fail their health checks, the best way to diagnose the issue to to run a Run a kubectl CLI Script step with a script that can inspect the various settings that must be in place for a Kubernetes target to function correctly. Octopus deployments will run against unhealthy targets by default, so the fact that the target failed its health check does not prevent these kinds of debugging steps from running.

An example script for debugging a Kubernetes target is shown below:

$ErrorActionPreference = 'SilentlyContinue'

# The details of the AWS Account. This will be populated for EKS clusters using the AWS authentication scheme.
# AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY will be redacted, but that means it was populated successfully.
Write-Host "Getting the AWS user"

# The details of the Azure Account. This will be populated for an AKS cluster using the Azure authentication scheme.
Write-Host "Getting the Azure user"
cat azure-cli/azureProfile.json

# View the generated config. kubectl will redact any secrets from this output.
Write-Host "kubectl config view"
kubectl config view

# View the environment variable that defines the kube config path
Write-Host "KUBECONFIG is $($env:KUBECONFIG)"

# Save kube config as artifact (will expose credentials in log). This is useful to take the generated config file
# and run it outside of octopus.
# New-OctopusArtifact $env:KUBECONFIG

# List any proxies. Failure to connect to the cluster when a proxy is configured may be caused by the proxy.
Write-Host "HTTP_PROXY: $($env:HTTP_PROXY)"
Write-Host "HTTPS_PROXY: $($env:HTTPS_PROXY)"
Write-Host "NO_PROXY: $($env:NO_PROXY)"

# Execute the same command that the target health check runs.
Write-Host "Simulating a health check"
kubectl version --client --output=yaml

# Write a custom kube config. This is useful when you have a config that works, and you want to confirm it works in Octopus.
Write-Host "Health check with custom config file"
Set-Content -Path "my-config.yml" -Value @"
apiVersion: v1
- cluster:
    certificate-authority-data: ca-cert-goes-here
    server: https://myk8scluster
  name: test
- context:
    cluster: test
    user: test_admin
  name: test_admin
- context:
    cluster: test
    user: test
  name: test
current-context: test
kind: Config
preferences: {}
- name: test_admin
    token: auth-token-goes-here
- name: test
    client-certificate-data: certificate-data-goes-here
    client-key-data: certificate-key-goes-here

kubectl version --short --kubeconfig my-config.yml

exit 0

API calls failing

If you are finding that certain API calls are failing, for example https://your.octopus.app/api/users/Users-1/apikeys?take=2147483647, it’s possible that your WAF is blocking the traffic. To confirm this you should investigate your WAF logs to determine why the API call is being blocked and make the necessary adjustments to your WAF rules.

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Page updated on Thursday, May 9, 2024