Multi-domain OAuth2 Proxy configuration with Redis cookie storage

Multi-domain OAuth2 Proxy configuration with Redis cookie storage

2022-11-28 | kubernetes, infrastructure, devops, oauth

See previous article on OAuth2 Proxy configuration with nginx-ingress.

Motivation - Multiple subdomains, single authentication proxy #

An organization will have its ‘main’ domain, e.g., where the primary internet-facing website is stored. Oftentimes we would also want to host product demo pages and internal development environments in various subdomains - e.g., and so on. As you automate the deployment of various development environments, it is easy to end up with more and more subdomains -,, and so on. For ease of development and sharing with external parties, we would want keep these domains accessible externally, but simultaneously want to add a layer of protection to ensure only trusted parties can access our resources.

With its default configuration, an instance of oauth2-proxy would need to be configured for each domain name. As your domains may be dynamic based on products and their development processes, this is not acceptable and would lead to tens if not hundreds of replicated OAuth2 proxies running on your cluster. By default the authentication cookie created is only valid for a single domain, but this can easily be adjusted with a configuration option of the proxy. The main challenge is that as you configure an authentication provider, you need to provide a single redirect URL for the application where the user is redirected upon a successful login.

A creative solution to this was provided by Callum Pember in his great article here. Essentially, we can configure an additional sidecar container that redirects each successful authentication request to the relevant resource the user came from. We then point the authentication provider’s callback URL to that of the oauth2-proxy as normal, and then point the upstream configuration parameter to the redirection endpoint. On a successful login, the client is redirected to this ‘redirect sidecar’, and from there redirected instantaneously to the correct resource/domain the client started the login at.

Most tutorials for oauth2-proxy use GitHub, but for this use case we wanted to use Azure as the OAuth2 provider. There is an Azure-specific provider available within oauth2-proxy (and is useful if you need group/role information etc.), but this simpler configuration just uses the standard OIDC provider. After setting this up initially, the login process and authentication all work perfectly fine - but the page load of an actual application behind the proxy often failed. The front-end apps running were being served with NGINX, and the cookie size that Azure sends is too large for the default NGINX configuration. This lead to error message 400 Bad Request - Request header or cookie too large when trying to access any of these workloads.

While this could be solved within each NGINX instance behind the auth proxy by increasing the allowed cookie and header sizes ( example), this would require the application owners to know and care about this issue. Since the aim was to have a smooth developer experience where a basic app served with a default NGINX image would ‘just work’, changing to redis-based session storage (which is well supported by oauth2-proxy) was the better alternative. The full cookie is stored in redis, and the client receives a key, with which the actual cookie is fetched by oauth2-proxy when needed.

Infrastructure configuration #

  • Running Kubernetes cluster, with the following components installed:
  • Desired authentication endpoint to be configured at, and creating a cookie for all subdomains.

Sequence diagram of the relevant components (Unauthenticated / first-login flow) #

This is my current working understanding but does not cover all the details, if you are looking for more information then the diagram from this issue could be useful.

sequenceDiagram autonumber participant user as User participant ingress as NGINX Ingress participant oap as OAuth2 Proxy participant idp as Auth provider
(Microsoft Azure) participant redirect as OAuth2-Proxy
Redirect sidecar participant redis as OAuth2-Proxy
Redis Cookie store participant resource as Protected Resource user ->>+ingress: Unauthenticated request
to /protected/ ingress ->>ingress: Ingress checks that auth-url
and auth-sign annotations are
present for the requested route ingress ->>- oap: Redirect request to
/oauth2/auth/ activate oap activate idp oap ->>+ idp: Redirect
to provider for authentication idp ->> idp: User logs in idp ->> oap: Redirect to proxy with
authentication token deactivate idp oap ->> redis: Save authentication token redis ->> oap: Provide authentication token oap ->> oap: Checks that the user is authorized
based on e.g. group, email domain, or organization oap ->> redirect: Redirect authenticated user to upstream at /redirect/ (=redirect sidecar) deactivate oap redirect ->> resource: Redirect to protected resource

Configuring oauth2-proxy #

Many of the resources here contain environment variables with $VAR-type syntax. envsubst is used during the deployment flow to add these values from specified environment secrets following the convention below.

cat example-manifest.yml | envsubst '${VAR}'| kubectl apply -f -

Do NOT use envsubst by itself without any arguments, otherwise anything with a $-sign in your files will be replaced as well. It is much safer to specify each variable you want to replace instead.

Resource definitions: Secret #

This resource contains the client id and secret from the authentication provider, configures the session cookie secret, and sets the redis password. While you could provide these as raw environment variables, or as config arguments in the deployment, providing them as secrets brings better protection as otherwise anyone with list/describe-level access to the deployment resource could read these values directly.

apiVersion: v1
kind: Secret
  name: oauth2-proxy-secret
type: Opaque
  client-id: $OAUTH2_PROXY_CLIENT_ID # as given by your auth provider
  client-secret: $OAUTH2_PROXY_CLIENT_SECRET # as given by your auth provider
  cookie-secret: $OAUTH2_PROXY_COOKIE_SECRET # generated by you
  redis-password: $REDIS_PASSWORD # generated by you

Resource definitions: ConfigMap for redirect sidecar #

This resource provides the NGINX configuration for the sidecar container we will deploy with the authentication proxy. Its main purpose is to instruct the server to listen at /redirect/, and redirect the client to the URL following that path. This snippet is directly from Callum Pember’s article.

# Config map for sidecar nginx to just act as a redirect service
apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
  name: oauth2-proxy-nginx
  nginx.conf: |
    worker_processes 5;
    events {}
    http {
      server {
        listen 80 default_server;
        location = /healthcheck {
          add_header Content-Type text/plain;
          return 200 'ok';
        location ~ /redirect/(.*) {
          return 307 https://$1$is_args$args;

Resource definitions: Deployment #

The snippet for the sidecar container part is directly from Callum Pember’s article. Several important parts are highlighted, including the configurations that enable the sidecar container, broaden the cookie domain scope, and configure redis for session storage.

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: oauth2-proxy
  replicas: 1
        - name: nginx
            name: oauth2-proxy-nginx
        - name: oauth2-proxy
          imagePullPolicy: Always
          # This enables the redirect container
          - --upstream=http://localhost/redirect/

          # This is where we expand the domain of the cookie
          # Note the period at the start of the value!
          - --cookie-expire=12h
          - --http-address=

          # Auth provider details, e.g. for Azure
          - --provider=oidc
          - --provider-display-name=AVIITALA
          # Configure this based on your Azure tenant ID value
          - --oidc-issuer-url={TENANT_ID_VALUE}/v2.0
          - --redirect-url=

          # Cookie storage settings - enable redis
          - --session-store-type=redis
          # Default (internal) redis connection URL within the cluster
          - --redis-connection-url=redis://redis-master.oauth2-proxy.svc.cluster.local:6379

          # Bring in the secret values defined earlier as protected environment variables for this deployment
          - name: OAUTH2_PROXY_CLIENT_ID
                name: oauth2-proxy-secret
                key: client-id
                optional: false
          - name: OAUTH2_PROXY_CLIENT_SECRET
                name: oauth2-proxy-secret
                key: client-secret
                optional: false
          - name: OAUTH2_PROXY_COOKIE_SECRET
                name: oauth2-proxy-secret
                key: cookie-secret
                optional: false
                name: oauth2-proxy-secret
                key: redis-password
                optional: false
          - containerPort: 4180
            protocol: TCP
      # sidecar container to handle redirects - snippet directly from Callum Pember
        - name: nginx
          image: nginx:1.23.2-alpine
          imagePullPolicy: Always
              cpu: 0.2
              memory: 512Mi
            - name: nginx
              containerPort: 80
            - name: nginx
              mountPath: /etc/nginx/
              readOnly: true
              path: /healthcheck
              port: 80
            initialDelaySeconds: 3
            timeoutSeconds: 2
            failureThreshold: 2

Resource definitions: Service and Ingress #

The service resource definition is completely standard and does not need further editing. The ingress resource definition will require an update with the domain relevant to you.

kind: Ingress
  name: oauth2-proxy
  annotations: nginx

    # options to use cert-manager to get TLS certificates for your host "true" "letsencrypt-prod"
  - hosts:
    - # update this value with your domain
    secretName: oauth-tls-secret
  - host: # update this value with your domain
      - path: /oauth2
        pathType: Prefix
            name: oauth2-proxy
              number: 4180
# leave as-is
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: oauth2-proxy
  - name: http
    port: 4180
    protocol: TCP
    targetPort: 4180
    app: oauth2-proxy

Configuring redis #

For redis I opted to use an existing Helm chart from Bitnami here. The installation and configuration is as simple as:

helm repo add redis | helm repo update
helm upgrade --install redis redis/redis \
--values redis-values.yml \
--set auth.password=${{ secrets.REDIS_PASSWORD }} \ # to be added by your deployment flow
--create-namespace --namespace oauth2-proxy # install in same namespace as oauth2-proxy

The redis-values.yml file is shown below. Almost everything is left as default; just the architecture configuration option is set to standalone. Given that our use case is not mission-critical, we can simplify the deployment this way. The password value is included in this file as a placeholder, as the helm installation command from above, with the --set argument, will override the input provided by redis-values.yml.

architecture: standalone # disable replication, run as a single instance
  enabled: true
  sentinel: true
  password: "will be replaced by command line value"

OAuth2 provider configuration in Azure #

Even though our oauth2-proxy configuration uses the oidc provider here instead of the Azure provider, the setup steps within Azure Active Directory are more or less the same. They are documented here.

The key part is to add our authentication endpoint as the Redirect URI, as shown below:

redirect uri configuration in azure ad

Example annotations to protect an ingress with OAuth #

After the above is configured, you can protect a particular ingress by adding the annotations below. This is a great example where careless use of envsubst during deployment can really screw things up as the manifest has a $-sign-prefixed value that should not be replaced. I learned this the hard way and spent hours debugging the issue, hopefully you won’t have to do the same.

kind: Ingress
  name: your-sample-application
  annotations: nginx

    # the most important annotations "" "$request_uri"

    # options to use cert-manager to get TLS certificates for your host "true" "letsencrypt-prod"
  ... # rest of the ingress spec

References #