Argo CD Namespace Isolation

Posted: December 20th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Technology | Tags: , , | No Comments »

GitOps, the process for declaring the state of resources in a Git repository, has become synonymous with managing Kubernetes, and one of the most popular GitOps tools is Argo CD. The ability to drastically reduce the time and effort required to manage cluster configuration and associated applications has further accelerated the adoption of Kubernetes. However, as Kubernetes becomes more commonplace, there becomes a need to segregate the levels of access granted to users and tools to enable the proliferation of the technology.

In many enterprise organizations and managed services offerings, multi-tenancy is the norm and access is restricted for the types of operations that can be performed. This poses a challenge for Argo CD, which by default, manages resources at a cluster scope, meaning that it will attempt to perform operations across all namespaces, effectively breaking multi-tenancy. Contributors to the Argo CD project realized this concern early on and actually added support for namespace isolation back in version 1.4. Unfortunately, the namespace isolation feature in Argo CD is poorly documented, with most end users being unaware of such functionality. This article will illustrate the namespace isolation feature of Argo CD, how it can be used, as well as some of the limitations that currently exist.

Argo CD can be deployed to a Kubernetes environments in several ways:

The only method that currently supports namespace isolation is through the use of raw manifests and a separate manifest for namespace isolation has been included with each Argo CD release since version 1.4 (You can find the manifests on the releases page of Argo CD. The name of the file is called namespace-install.yaml instead of install.yaml for both the standard and highly available deployment).

The typical deployment of Argo CD creates two ClusterRoles:

  • Argo CD server – to provide the necessary level of access for resources that are made available through the browser, such as viewing logs from pods or events within namespaces.
  • Argo CD application controller – Full, unrestricted access to manage resources in a cluster as declared by the manifests from the Git repository

Any unprivileged user would be unable to successfully apply these resources which required the creation of a separate set of manifests. When using the set of manifests that supports namespace isolation, instead of ClusterRoles being created at a cluster scope, Roles and associated RoleBindings are created in the namespace where Argo CD is deployed. In addition, the Argo CD controller is granted only a limited number of resources instead of full access. The process for which Argo CD can apply and manage the resources that are declared in Git repositories will be described later on.

Deploying Argo CD in Namespace Isolation Mode

To demonstrate how the namespace isolation feature of Argo CD can be used, an OpenShift Container Platform environment will be used (any Kubernetes environment will work, however there are several considerations that need to be made when running in OpenShift).

First, obtain access to an OpenShift environment and create a new project called argocd which will be where the set of Argo CD resources will be deployed:

$ oc new-project argocd

Apply the namespace isolation manifest

$ oc apply -f

For this demonstration, version 1.7.8 was used. Feel free to replace with a version of your choosing.

After applying the manifests, the resources will be deployed. You may notice that the Deployment for Redis will not be running. As of version 1.7, the Redis deployment has considerations for ensuring that the container does not run as the root user. The configuration in the pod securityContext conflicts with the standard security mechanisms employed in OpenShift through the use of Security Context Constraints (SCC’s). Given that OpenShift already enforces that all pods by default run with a non-root user using a randomly generated ID, the value in the securityContext field can be safely removed.

Execute the following command to patch the deployment to remove the field from the Deployment:

$ oc patch deployment argocd-redis -p '{"spec": {"template": {"spec": {"securityContext": null}}}}'

The Redis pod will then start now that the invalid manifest was removed.

The final step is to expose the Argo CD server service as a Route. Execute the following command to create a new Route for the Argo CD server;

$ oc create route passthrough argocd --service=argocd-server --port=https --insecure-policy=Redirect

The hostname for the route created can be found by executing the following command:

$ oc get route argocd -o jsonpath='{ }'

Argo CD supports several methods for securing access to the server, including SSO. The most straightforward is to use the out of the box integrated authentication provider. By default, the password of the admin password is set as the name of the pod the first time the Argo CD server starts

The Argo CD CLI can be used to change the admin password so that if the server pod restarts, the password will not be lost.

Login to the Argo CD CLI:

$ argocd --insecure --grpc-web login "$(oc get routes argocd -o jsonpath='{ }')":443 --username "admin" --password "$(oc get pod -l -o jsonpath='{.items[*]}')"

Set the admin password for Argo CD to be “password” by executing the following command

$ argocd account update-password --current-password=$(oc get pod -l -o jsonpath='{.items[*]}') --new-password=password

With the default password changed, launch a web browser and navigate to the url of the route discovered previously. Enter the admin username and password to access the console.

Namespace Isolation

Clusters define the Kubernetes environments for which resources will be deployed to. A cluster can be either the environment Argo CD is deployed on or a remote instance. When Argo CD is first deployed, a single local cluster is created called in-cluster which references the local environment for Which Argo CD is running on and communicates against the internal Kubernetes service (https://kubernetes.default.svc). If we were to create an application that attempted to manipulate cluster level resources, the process would fail as the Argo CD does not have the necessary permissions. As described previously, Argo CD uses the argocd-application-controller service account to manage resources and this service account has a ClusterRoleBinding against a ClusterRole with unrestricted permissions. In a namespace deployment of Argo CD, this level of permission does not exist and the service account is only granted a limited level of access to manage Argo CD related resources and internal functions.

For Argo CD to be able to function as desired, access to namespaces must be explicitly granted. This process requires the use of the Argo CD CLI and the argocd cluster add subcommand to specify the namespaces that should be granted access to manage.

Create a namespace called argocd-managed for which we will be able to test against

$ oc new-project argocd-managed --skip-config-write

The --skip-config-write option was specified to avoid changing into the newly created project since the majority of our actions will remain in the argocd project.

To grant Argo CD access to manage resources in the argocd-managed project, add a new cluster called “argocd-managed” using the following command:

$ argocd cluster add $(oc config current-context) --name=argocd-managed --in-cluster --system-namespace=argocd --namespace=argocd-managed

You may have noticed a few interesting options in the above

--name – Friendly name of the cluster
--in-cluster – Specifies that the internal Kubernetes service should be used to communicate with the OpenShift API.
--system-namespace – Configurations for clusters managed by Argo CD are typically written to a secret in the kube-system namespace. As the kube-system namespace requires elevated access, the argocd namespace for which Argo CD is deployed within will be used instead
--namespace – Namespace that Argo CD should be granted access to manage. Multiple iterations of the namespaces parameter can be specified in the argocd cluster add command to manage multiple namespaces.

The command will then return the following result.

INFO[0002] ServiceAccount "argocd-manager" created in namespace "argocd"
INFO[0002] Role "argocd-managed/argocd-manager-role" created
INFO[0003] RoleBinding "argocd-managed/argocd-manager-role-binding" created
Cluster 'https://kubernetes.default.svc' added

A new service account called argocd-manager is created in the argocd namespace along with a role and rolebinding in the targeted namespace that grants the argocd-manager service account unrestricted privileges.

The details for the cluster are written in a secret in the argocd</code namespace and contain the following key properties:

  • name – Friendly name for the cluster
  • server – Hostname for the cluster
  • config – json data structure describing how to communicate with the cluster

The full list of properties can be found here.

For the cluster that was previously added, the following is the decoded contents of the secret :

config: '{"bearerToken":"<TOKEN>","tlsClientConfig":{"insecure":true}}'
name: argocd-managed
namespaces: argocd-managed
server: https://kubernetes.default.svc

The bearerToken that is defined in the cluster config is associated with the newly created argocd-manager service account which was granted access in the argocd-managed namespace. The namespaces field is a comma separated list of namespaces that Argo CD can manage resources against .

Let’s demonstrate that Argo CD can be used to deploy resources against the argocd-managed namespace and validate namespace isolation.

Using the Argo CD CLI, create a new application called nexus to deploy a Sonatype Nexus instance:

$ argocd app create nexus --repo= --path=nexus2/base --dest-server=https://kubernetes.default.svc --dest-namespace=argocd-managed --sync-policy=auto

You can verify the application in the Argo CD web console using the route, username and password that was previously created.

By selecting the nexus application, you will be presented with a depiction similar to the following indicating Argo CD was successfully configured for namespace isolation:

Note: You may ignore the “OutOfSync” message as it is indicating that the live OpenShift Route for Nexus within the cluster contains differences than the manifest declared. These types of situations are managed through the use of customizing the differences.

Validating Namespace Isolation Enforcement

The enforcement of namespace isolation can be validated using multiple approaches. First, Argo CD will forbid the management of resources in a cluster that is not specified by a value present in the namespaces field of the cluster configuration when configured in namespace isolation mode. Otherwise, standard Kubernetes RBAC will forbid the argocd-application-controller service account from managing resources in a namespace it cannot access.

Let’s validate this assessment by creating a new namespace called argocd-not-managed and attempt to deploy the same nexus application.

First, create the new project:

$ oc new-project argocd-not-managed --skip-config-write

Next, create an application called argocd-not-managed in the argocd-not-managed namespace

$ argocd app create nexus-not-managed --repo= --path=nexus2/base --dest-server=https://kubernetes.default.svc --dest-namespace=argocd-not-managed --sync-policy=auto
Verify the application was not successfully deployed either in the ArgoCD web console or using the command line by executing the following command:
$ argocd app get nexus-not-managed

Name: nexus-not-managed
Project: default
Server: https://kubernetes.default.svc
Namespace: argocd-not-managed
Path: nexus2/base
SyncWindow: Sync Allowed
Sync Policy: Automated
Sync Status: Unknown (5978975)
Health Status: Missing

ComparisonError Namespace "argocd-not-managed" for Service "nexus" is not managed 2020-11-15 23:12:28 -0600 CST

PersistentVolumeClaim argocd-not-managed nexus Unknown Missing
Service argocd-not-managed nexus Unknown Missing DeploymentConfig argocd-not-managed nexus Unknown Missing ImageStream argocd-not-managed nexus Unknown Missing Route argocd-not-managed nexus Unknown Missing

Notice how under the condition, it explains that the application cannot be deployed to the argocd-not-managed namespace as it is not managed in this cluster, thus validating namespace isolation is functioning as expected.

Namespace Isolation Automation

The primary goal of Argo CD is to apply resources that are expressed in a declarative manner. The Argo CD server itself embraces declarative configuration through the use of Custom Resource Definitions, Secrets and ConfigMaps and given that the argocd cluster add command creates a series of resources itself, we can avoid having to use the Argo CD CLI to manage cluster configuration by being able to specify them in a declarative fashion.

Let’s automate the steps that the argocd cluster add command performs. Recall, the command added a Service Account, Role, RoleBinding and Secret.

Note: It is best to have a fresh environment of Argo CD available to work through these steps. To reuse the existing environment, execute the following command which should reset the environment to a semi-clean state.

$ argocd app delete nexus
$ argocd app delete nexus-not-managed
$ oc delete role argocd-manager-role -n argocd-managed
$ oc delete rolebinding argocd-manager-role-binding -n argocd-managed
$ oc delete sa argocd-manager -n argocd
$ oc delete secret -n argocd

First, create a service account called argocd-manager in the argocd namespace

$ oc -n argocd create sa argocd-manager

Next, create a Role called argocd-manager-role with unrestricted access in the argocd-managed project:

$ oc create role -n argocd-managed argocd-manager-role --resource=*.*  --verb=*

Now, create a rolebinding to bind the newly created role to the service account previously created:

$ oc create rolebinding argocd-manager-role-binding -n argocd-managed --role=argocd-manager-role --serviceaccount=argocd:argocd-manager

Finally, the cluster secret can be created. Execute the following command to create the secret which will contain the bearer token for the argocd-manager service account and the namespace that the cluster will manage (among a few others).

oc -n argocd create -f - << EOF
apiVersion: v1
  config: '{"bearerToken":"$(oc serviceaccounts get-token argocd-manager)","tlsClientConfig":{"insecure":true}}'
  name: argocd-managed
  namespaces: argocd-managed
  server: https://kubernetes.default.svc
kind: Secret
  labels: cluster
  name: cluster-kubernetes.default.svc-argocd-managed
type: Opaque

Notice how the secret created above contains the label cluster. Any secret with this label will be interpreted by Argo CD as a cluster secret.

At this point, Argo CD has been set up in the same manner as the CLI. This type of configuration affords greater flexibility and avoids needing to use the Argo CD CLI to perform common and repeatable configurations. Feel free to repeat the application creation and deployment as described previously to confirm a successful synchronization of resources into the cluster.

Additional Forms of Restricting Access

Aside from using namespaces and clusters to limit access to where resources can be deployed, Argo CD does have other constructs available for supporting multi-tenancy. Projects allow for a logical grouping of applications and policies within Argo CD and can either supplement or act as a replacement for the namespace isolation feature.

For example, there may be a need for a single Argo CD instance to be deployed with access to manage cluster level resources instead of separate instances, but still provide some form of isolation between teams. By using a combination of Argo CD projects and RBAC, this can be achieved.

Projects provide the capability to limit the source repositories containing content (Git), the clusters resources can be deployed to, the namespaces, and the types of resources that can be deployed in a whitelist/blacklist fashion, both at a cluster and namespace scope. Finally, RBAC policies through the use of group association can be applied to determine the rights that users have against projects.

While projects do provide a finer grained access mode and configuration model, it does require additional work in order to achieve the desired rights granted to users. Since Argo CD is deployed with rights to manage resources at a cluster level, it is imperative that proper considerations be made in order to protect the integrity of the cluster as well as to restrict the level of access that can be achieved by various tenants.

Limitations of Argo CD Namespace Isolation

While the namespace isolation feature in Argo CD does provide a path towards supporting true multi-tenancy, there are still additional hurdles that must be overcome (as of version 1.7.8) before it can be achieved. An Argo CD cluster configuration provides a method for specifying the Kubernetes cluster URL, credentials that can be used to communicate with the cluster, as well as the namespaces that resources can be deployed to. However, regardless of the number cluster configurations made against a single cluster, only one can be active at a time. This gap limits being able to use the namespace isolation feature to provide access to a namespaced scoped deployment of Argo CD and provide two separate teams that manage different namespaces the ability to easily manage their own set of resources without the knowledge of each other.

The other limitation, as described near the beginning of the article is the lack of documentation around the support for namespace isolation. It may be possible that you, the reader, are learning about this feature. If there was more awareness of this type of functionality, existing issues could be resolved and new features could be developed to expand the potential capabilities.

The creators and community surrounding Argo CD realize that multi-tenant support is important for broader adoption of the tool into enterprise organizations and those with a high security posture. The namespace isolation feature is a great first step, but additional work still needs to be achieved. For now, the recommended approach is to deploy separate namespace scoped instances of Argo CD for teams that do not require access to cluster scoped resources and are looking to leverage a specific set of namespaces. Fortunately, given that Argo CD emphasizes declarative configuration, the implementation can be easily achieved.