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

Enable OpenID Connect-based single-sign for applications proxied by NGINX Plus, using Okta as the identity provider (IdP).

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 Okta 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.


The instructions assume you have the following:

  • An Okta account.

  • 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 Okta

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

Create a new application for NGINX Plus in the Okta GUI:

  1. Log in to your Okta account at okta.com.

  2. Click your username at the right side of the banner, then Your Org on the drop-down menu.

  3. Click the  Admin  button at the right end of the banner.

  4. On the Dashboard page that opens, click Add Applications in the Shortcuts column on the right side. (You can tell you’re acting as Admin because the URL in your browser is now https://username-admin.okta.com/admin/dashboard.)

  5. On the Add Application page that opens, click the  Create New App  button in the left navigation column.

  6. In the Create a New Application Integration window that pops up, select these values and then click the  Create  button:

    • Platform – Web
    • Sign on method – OpenID Connect

  7. On the Create OpenID Connect Integration page that opens, fill in the following two fields and then click the  Save  button:

    • Application name – The name of the OpenID Connect relying party (Okta refers to it as the “application”). Here we’re using NGINX-Plus.

    • Login 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).


      • 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).

  8. On the confirmation page that opens, make note of the values in the Client ID and Client secret fields in the Client Credentials section (click the “eye” icon in the Client secret field to display the actual character string). You will add them to the NGINX Plus configuration in Step 4 of Configuring NGINX Plus.

  9. Navigate to the Applications page and click the Assign Applications button.

  10. On the Assign Applications page, select the relying party (the application named in Step 7) in the Applications column. In the People column, select each user and group who you want to enable to use SSO.

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 Okta 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://<username>-admin.okta.com/.well-known/openid-configuration | python -m json.tool
        "authorization_endpoint": "https://<username>.okta.com/oauth2/v1/authorize",
        "jwks_uri": "https://<username>.okta.com/oauth2/v1/keys",
        "token_endpoint": "https://<username>.okta.com/oauth2/v1/token",

  4. In your preferred text editor, open /etc/nginx/conf.d/frontend.conf. Change the second parameter of each of the following set directives to the specified value:

    • set $oidc_authz_endpoint – Value of authorization_endpoint from Step 3 (in this guide, https://<username>.okta.com/oauth2/v1/authorize)
    • set $oidc_token_endpoint – Value of token_endpoint from Step 3 (in this guide, https://<username>.okta.com/oauth2/v1/token)
    • set $oidc_client – Value in the Client ID field from Step 8 of Configuring Okta (in this guide, Ooaegfcqd9t1n5ubk356)
    • set $oidc_client_secret – Value in the Client secret field from Step 8 of Configuring Okta (in this guide, wbBEIES5KUnwHixDyyAZcDT_ioVVNNDvCDWX9Ubu)
    • 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. 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. (Its parameter, /_jwks_uri, refers to the value of the $oidc_jwt_keyfile variable, which you set in the next step.)
      3. Change the second parameter of the set $oidc_jwt_keyfile directive to the value reported in the jwks_uri field in Step 3 (in this guide, https://<username>.okta.com/oauth2/v1/keys).
    • 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://username.okta.com/oauth2/v1/keys) to a local file (for example, /etc/nginx/my_okta_jwk.json).
      2. In /etc/nginx/conf.d/frontend.conf, change the second parameter of the set $oidc_jwt_keyfile directive to the local file path.
  6. Confirm that the user named by the user directive in the NGINX Plus configuration (in /etc/nginx/nginx.conf by convention) has read permission on the JWK file.


In a browser, enter the address of your NGINX Plus instance and try to log in using the credentials of a user assigned to the application (see Step 10 of Configuring Okta).


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

Revision History

  • Version 2 (March 2020) – Updates to Configuring NGINX Plus section
  • Version 1 (April 2019) – Initial version (NGINX Plus Release 17)