In this post, I will discuss how to utilize Azure Key Vault (AKV) with Azure Red Hat OpenShift (ARO) cluster. I will explain the relevant terms and their definitions from the architectural standpoint and how the flow works at a glance, and I will give an example of how to deploy this in the ARO cluster. The objective of this article is to enable you to store and retrieve secrets stored in AKV from your ARO cluster.

Basic Architecture

Container Storage Interface (CSI) is a standardized interface allowing third-party storage providers to integrate their storage systems with Kubernetes. Secrets Store CSI Driver, on the other hand, allows the integration of secrets stores with Kubernetes via a CSI volume. It enables Kubernetes to allow multiple secrets, keys, and certs stored in enterprise-grade external secrets stores as a volume into their pods. Some examples of these external secret stores are Azure Key Vault, HashiCorp Vault,  AWS Secrets Manager, and Google Cloud Secret Manager. This driver is installed in the cluster as a daemonset.  

Azure Key Vault (AKV) is an Azure-managed centralized repository allowing you to store secrets such as API keys, auth tokens, TLS/SSL certificates, passwords and so forth. It integrates with Azure Active Directory (AD) for authentication and authorization. In addition, AKV provider for Secret Store CSI driver allows for the integration of AKV as a secrets store with a Kubernetes cluster by mounting them into the pods as a CSI volume. This cloud-specific driver is also installed in the cluster as a daemonset along with the Secret Store CSI Driver.

Figure 1. High-level flow

Let's discuss how all of these work at a high level, as shown in the figure above. When a pod is created through the Kubernetes API, it is scheduled onto a node, and the kubelet looks at the pod specification and sees if there is a volume mount request. If there is, it will issue a gRPC call to the Secret Store CSI Driver.

The CSI driver then mounts the volume as tmpfs to the pod and issues another gRPC request to the AKV Provider for Secrets Store CSI Driver. The provider will then reach out to AKV to fetch the secret and send it back to the driver as gRPC response. Lastly, the driver will write the secret into the file system and the pod then starts running.


Now let's talk about how to deploy this in conjunction with your existing ARO cluster. Note that this is an example of the deployment and your implementation may vary. This guide is a minor adaptation of the article.


The following were set up and installed for the example deployment in this article:

  • ARO cluster v4.11
  • az CLI v2.49.0
  • oc CLI v4.13.0
  • helm CLI v3.12.0

Should any of the commands in the following steps not work at your end, you might want to update the version(s) to at least match the one(s) listed above.

Step 1 - Set the Environment Variables

In this scenario I will be using an ARO cluster with the resource group called dsari-rg and location West US, so kindly modify this based on your resource group’s name and location.

export KEYVAULT_NAME=secret-store-$(cat /dev/urandom | LC_ALL=C tr -dc 'a-zA-Z0-9' | fold -w 10 | head -n 1)
export AZ_TENANT_ID=$(az account show -o tsv --query tenantId)


Step 2 - Install the Secrets Store CSI Driver

  1. Make sure you are logged into Azure using az login command.
  2. Log into your cluster using oc login command.
  3. Create a new namespace.  In this example, I will call it secrets-store-csi-project.
    oc new-project secrets-store-csi-project
  4. Add privileged security context constraints (SCC) policy to the Secret Store CSI Driver.
    oc adm policy add-scc-to-user privileged \


  5. Add the driver to your helm repo and update it.
    helm repo add secrets-store-csi-driver \
    helm repo update


  6. Install the driver.
    helm install -n secrets-store-csi-project csi-secrets-store \
    secrets-store-csi-driver/secrets-store-csi-driver \
    --version v1.3.2 \
    --set "linux.providersDir=/var/run/secrets-store-csi-providers"
  7. Finally, check if the pods were created and running.
    oc --namespace=secrets-store-csi-project get pods -l "app=secrets-store-csi-driver"


Step 3 - Install the Azure Key Vault Provider for Secrets Store CSI Driver

  1. Add Azure Key Vault Provider for Secrets Store CSI Driver to the helm repo and update it.
    helm repo add csi-secrets-store-provider-azure \
    helm repo update
  2. Install the provider.
    helm install -n secrets-store-csi-project azure-csi-provider \
    csi-secrets-store-provider-azure/csi-secrets-store-provider-azure \
    --set linux.privileged=true --set secrets-store-csi-driver.install=false \
    --set "linux.providersDir=/var/run/secrets-store-csi-providers" \
  3. Add privileged SCC policy to the provider.
    oc adm policy add-scc-to-user privileged \


Step 4 - Create Azure Key Vault Secret

  1. Create a new namespace. In this example, I will call it my-app.
    oc new-project my-app
  2. Create Azure Key Vault in the resource group where your ARO cluster resides.
    az keyvault create -n ${KEYVAULT_NAME} \
    --location ${KEYVAULT_LOCATION}
  3. Create the secret. In this example, the secret is called mysecret and the value is MyPa55w0rd in the type of string.
    az keyvault secret set \
    --vault-name ${KEYVAULT_NAME} \
    --name mysecret --value "MyPa55w0rd"
  4. Create the service principal for the secret and set the policy for it.
    export SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_CLIENT_SECRET="$(az ad sp create-for-rbac \
    --name http://$KEYVAULT_NAME --query 'password' -otsv)"
    export SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_CLIENT_ID="$(az ad sp list \
    --display-name http://$KEYVAULT_NAME --query '[0].appId' -otsv)"
    az keyvault set-policy -n ${KEYVAULT_NAME} \
    --secret-permissions get \
  5. Create the Kubernetes secret (and label it) so it uses the secret from Azure Key Vault.
    oc create secret generic secrets-store-creds \
    -n my-app \
    --from-literal clientid=${SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_CLIENT_ID} \
    --from-literal clientsecret=${SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_CLIENT_SECRET}
    oc -n my-app label secret \
  6. Create a SecretProviderClass object to specify this secret.
    cat <<EOF | oc apply -f -
    kind: SecretProviderClass
    name: azure-kvname
    namespace: my-app
    provider: azure
      usePodIdentity: "false"
      useVMManagedIdentity: "false"
      userAssignedIdentityID: ""
      keyvaultName: "${KEYVAULT_NAME}"
      objects: |
          - |
            objectName: mysecret
            objectType: secret
            objectVersion: ""
      tenantId: "${AZ_TENANT_ID}"
  7. Create a pod that uses the secret you created. In this example, I will create a BusyBox application.
    cat <<EOF | oc apply -f -
    kind: Pod
    apiVersion: v1
    name: busybox-secrets-store-inline
    namespace: my-app
    - name: busybox
        - "/bin/sleep"
        - "10000"
      - name: secrets-store-inline
        mountPath: "/mnt/secrets-store"
        readOnly: true
      - name: secrets-store-inline
          readOnly: true
            secretProviderClass: "azure-kvname"
            name: secrets-store-creds
  8. Finally, check and print the secret to see if it is successfully mounted.
    oc exec busybox-secrets-store-inline \
    -- ls /mnt/secrets-store/
    oc exec busybox-secrets-store-inline \
    -- cat /mnt/secrets-store/mysecret

This last step should reveal the name of the secret (mysecret) and its value (MyPa55w0rd).

If these were displayed, congratulations! You have successfully created a secret in Azure Key Vault and used it for an application.

Step 5 - Cleanup

  1. Uninstall and delete the helm chart.
    helm uninstall -n secrets-store-csi-project azure-csi-provider
    helm delete -n secrets-store-csi-project csi-secrets-store
  2. Delete the SCC policy and the app.
    oc adm policy remove-scc-from-user privileged \


    oc delete project my-app
  3. Delete the secret.
    az keyvault delete -n ${KEYVAULT_NAME}
  4. Finally, delete the service principal.
    az ad sp delete --id ${SERVICE_PRINCIPAL_CLIENT_ID}