NGINX Documentation

Enabling Single Sign-On for Proxied Applications with Keycloak, NGINX Plus, and OpenID Connect

This guide explains how to enable single sign-on (SSO) for applications being proxied by NGINX Plus. The solution uses OpenID Connect as the authentication mechanism, with Keycloak as the identity provider (IdP), and NGINX Plus as the relying party.

For more information about integrating OpenID Connect with NGINX Plus, see the documentation for NGINX’s reference implementation on GitHub.

Prerequisites

The instructions assume you have the following:

  • A running Keycloak server. See the Keycloak documentation for installation and configuration instructions.

  • An NGINX Plus subscription and NGINX Plus R15 or later. For installation instructions, see the NGINX Plus Admin Guide.

  • The NGINX JavaScript module (njs), required for handling the interaction between NGINX Plus and the IdP. After installing NGINX Plus, install the module with the command for your operating system.

    For Debian and Ubuntu:

    $ sudo apt install nginx-plus-module-njs 
    

    For CentOS, RHEL, and Oracle Linux:

    $ sudo yum install nginx-plus-module-njs
    
  • The following directive included in the top-level (“main”) configuration context in /etc/nginx/nginx.conf, to load the NGINX JavaScript module:

    load_module modules/ngx_http_js_module.so;
    

Configuring Keycloak

Note: The following procedure reflects the Keycloak GUI at the time of publication, but the GUI is subject to change. Use this guide as a reference and adapt to the current Keycloak GUI as necessary.

Create a Keycloak client for NGINX Plus in the Keycloak GUI:

  1. Access the Keycloak Admin Console at http://keycloak-server-address:8080/auth/admin/ and log in.

  2. In the left navigation column, click Clients. On the Clients page that opens, click the Create button in the upper right corner.

  3. On the Add Client page that opens, enter or select these values, then click the  Save  button.

    • Client ID – The name of the application for which you’re enabling SSO (Keycloak refers to it as the “client”). Here we’re using NGINX-Plus.
    • Client Protocol – openid-connect.

  4. On the NGINX Plus page that opens, enter or select these values on the Settings tab:

    • Access Type – confidential
    • Valid Redirect URIs – The URI of the NGINX Plus instance, including the port number, and ending in /_codexch (in this guide it is https://my-nginx.example.com:443/_codexch)

    Notes:

    • For production, we strongly recommend that you use SSL/TLS (port 443).
    • The port number is mandatory even when you’re using the default port for HTTP (80) or HTTPS (443).

  5. Click the Credentials tab and make a note of the value in the Secret field. You will copy it into the NGINX Plus configuration file in Step 4 of Configuring NGINX Plus.

  6. Click the Roles tab, then click the Add Role button in the upper right corner of the page that opens.

  7. On the Add Role page that opens, type a value in the Role Name field (here it is nginx-keycloak-role) and click the  Save  button.

  8. In the left navigation column, click Users. On the Users page that opens, either click the name of an existing user, or click the Add user button in the upper right corner to create a new user. For complete instructions, see the Keycloak documentation.

  9. On the management page for the user (here, user01), click the Role Mappings tab. On the page that opens, select NGINX-Plus on the Client Roles drop‑down menu. Click nginx-keycloak-role in the Available Roles box, then click the Add selected button below the box. The role then appears in the Assigned Roles and Effective Roles boxes, as shown in the screenshot.

Configuring NGINX Plus

Configure NGINX Plus as the OpenID Connect relying party:

  1. Create a clone of the nginx-openid-connect GitHub repository.

    $ git clone https://github.com/nginxinc/nginx-openid-connect
    
  2. Copy these files from the clone to /etc/nginx/conf.d:

    • frontend.conf
    • openid_connect.js
    • openid_connect.server_conf
  3. Get the URLs for the authorization endpoint, token endpoint, and JSON Web Key (JWK) file from the Keycloak configuration. Run the following curl command in a terminal, piping the output to the indicated python command to output the entire configuration in an easily readable format. We’ve abridged the output to show only the relevant fields.

    $ curl https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/.well-known/openid-configuration | python -m json.tool
    ...
    {
        "authorization_endpoint": "https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/protocol/openid-connect/auth",
        ...
        "jwks_uri": "https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/protocol/openid-connect/certs",
        ...
        "token_endpoint": "https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/protocol/openid-connect/token",
     ...
     }
    
  4. In your preferred text editor, open /etc/nginx/conf.d/frontend.conf. In the following set directives, change the variable values to the appropriate values for your environment:

    • set $oidc_authz_endpoint – Value of authorization_endpoint from Step 3 (in this guide, https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/protocol/openid-connect/auth)
    • set $oidc_token_endpoint – Value of token_endpoint from Step 3 (in this guide, https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/protocol/openid-connect/token)
    • set $oidc_client – Value in the Client ID field from Step 3 of Configuring Keycloak (in this guide, NGINX Plus)
    • set $oidc_client_secret – Value in the Secret field from Step 5 of Configuring Keycloak (in this guide, w4b32c4b0-f4b3-41d9-a345-2bc0fbfcaaba)
    • set $oidc_token_type – id_token
    • set $oidc_hmac_key – A unique, long, and secure phrase
  5. Configure the JWK file. The procedure depends on which version of NGINX Plus you are using.

    • In NGINX Plus R17 and later, NGINX Plus can read the JWK file directly from the URL reported as jwks_uri in Step 3 of this section. Change /etc/nginx/conf.d/frontend.conf as follows:
      1. Comment out (or remove) the auth_jwt_key_file directive.
      2. Uncomment the auth_jwt_key_request directive and replace _jwks_uri with the value from the jwks_uri field reported in Step 3 (in this guide, https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/protocol/openid-connect/certs).
    • In NGINX Plus R16 and earlier, the JWK file must be on the local disk. (You can also use this method with NGINX Plus R17 and later if you wish.)
      1. Copy the JSON contents from the JWK file named in the jwks_uri field in Step 3 (in this guide, https://<keycloak-server-address>/auth/realms/master/protocol/openid-connect/certs) to a local file (for example, /etc/nginx/my_keycloak_jwk.json).
      2. In /etc/nginx/conf.d/frontend.conf, change the variable value in the set $oidc_jwt_keyfile directive to the local file path.
  6. Confirm that the user named by the user directive in /etc/nginx/conf has read permission on the JWK file.

Testing

In a browser, enter the address of your NGINX Plus instance and try to log in using the credentials of a user mapped to the role for NGINX Plus (see Step 9 in Configuring Keycloak).

Troubleshooting

See the Troubleshooting section at the nginx-openid-connect repository on GitHub.