To allow for more secure GitOps practices, sensitive data should should never be stored in Git. This presents a bit of a conundrum for GitOps, we need the secrets in Git... but we do not want to store the sensitive data. We can store the secrets in a tool such as HashiCorp Vault, then retrieve and inject this data into OpenShift! A detailed how to follows, utilizing the IBM/ArgoCD-Vault plugin with ArgoCD. Keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle, buckle up and hold on, this is going to be a fun ride... or demo!


A working OpenShift Cluster or equivalent

If a cluster is not available, you can use Code Ready Containers from Red Hat to hone your skills.


For this demonstration, I am utilizing the OpenShift Operator Hub provided GitOps operator, which includes an implementation of ArgoCD. Also for this demonstration, I have built a custom repo-server image, a critical part of the ArgoCD stack, which will include the ArgoCD Vault Plugin.

An implementation of Hashicorp Vault

A full enterprise version of Vault is out of the scope of this demo, I will utilize an dev/ephemeral implementation of Vault and configured this through the pods themselves. This is not intended for production, rather it is a quick and dirty way to have a configured Vault for a proof of concept.

The IBM ArgoCD-Vault plugin

We will use the Kubernetes authentication method for this demo.


To build the custom container that we will use for our ArgoCD instance.

Hashicorp Vault Installation and configuration

We will install Vault via a Helm chart. We will be utilizing Kubernetes authentication over the other methods which are available.

[pmo@pmo-rhel ~]$ oc new-project vault
[pmo@pmo-rhel ~]$ helm repo add hashicorp
[pmo@pmo-rhel ~]$ helm install vault hashicorp/vault --set \ "global.openshift=true" --set ""

After allowing the install to complete we should have a working dev setup of Vault:

[pmo@pmo-rhel ~]$ oc get pods
vault-0 1/1 Running 0 22h
vault-agent-injector-56d7d5d4fd-4wp5k 1/1 Running 0 22h

We will quickly walk through configuring Vault. This demo is done at the pod level which is not recommended for anything outside of testing, this manner was chosen in order to quickly show a proof of concept. We will need to successfully complete the following 7 steps to have a functioning Vault environment:

  • Enable Kubernetes Auth
  • Write the Kubernetes config to auth/kubernetes/config; your cluster info can be retrieved from oc cluster-info
  • Create a secret named supersecret consisting of a username and password
  • Verify the secret exists
  • Create a policy for the secret(s)
  • Create an authentication role
  • In OpenShift, create a service account

Enable Kubernetes Auth

[pmo@pmo-rhel ~]$ oc rsh vault-0
# vault auth enable kubernetes
Success! Enabled kubernetes auth method at: kubernetes/

Write the Kubernetes Config

# vault write auth/kubernetes/config \
token_reviewer_jwt="$(cat/var/run/secrets/" \
kubernetes_host="https://$KUBERNETES_PORT_443_TCP_ADDR:443" \
Success! Data written to: auth/kubernetes/config

Create a secret

oc rsh vault-0
# vault kv put secret/vplugin/supersecret username="pmo" \

Verify the secret exists

# vault kv get secret/vplugin/supersecret

====== Data ======
Key Value
--- -----
password gopadres
username pmo

Create a policy for the secret

#vault policy write vplugin - <<EOF
path "secret/data/vplugin/supersecret" {
capabilities = ["read"]

Create an authentication role

Note that you will need to create the SA in the namespace that you will install your ArgoCD instance.

#vault write auth/kubernetes/role/vplugin \
bound_service_account_names=vplugin \
bound_service_account_namespaces=vplugindemo \
policies=vplugin \

Create a service account

apiVersion: v1
kind: ServiceAccount
name: vplugin
oc apply -f vplugin.yml

At this point we should have Vault installed and configured and be ready to move to ArgoCD and the plugin!

ArgoCD Installation and Configuration

The Red Hat GitOps operator provides ArgoCD, We can install this from the Operator Hub!


With the GitOps operator installed, it’s time to build an ArgoCD instance. Out of the box Operator, the Vault plugin is not available to the operator. We can make this available in a couple of ways, an init container plus a volume mount or a custom image. I chose the latter for this demo as it will also give an idea of how to use alternate images for ArgoCD instances.

Create a Dockerfile

FROM argoproj/argocd:latest
# Switch to root for the ability to perform install
USER root

# Install tools needed for your repo-server to retrieve & decrypt secrets, render manifests
# (e.g. curl, awscli, gpg, sops)
RUN apt-get update && \
apt-get install -y \
curl \
awscli \
gpg && \
apt-get clean && \
rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/* /tmp/* /var/tmp/*

# Install the AVP plugin (as root so we can copy to /usr/local/bin)
RUN curl -L -o argocd-vault-plugin
RUN chmod +x argocd-vault-plugin
RUN mv argocd-vault-plugin /usr/local/bin

# Switch back to non-root user
USER argocd

Build your image and push the image to your preferred image registry

podman build -t pmo-argovault:v1.0 .
podman push localhost/pmo-argovault:v1.0

After the image is built and pushed to the registry,we will need to build a new ArgoCD instance including our custom repo image. You can utilize the ArgoCD create GUI or apply a manifest you have available. There area few things to note which need to be included in your manifest:

*Our repo will need “mountsatoken” present and the SA we created earlier

mountsatoken: true
serviceaccount: vplugin

*The image will be that which was pushed in the previous steps

Version: v1.0

*Our config management plugin will need to be defined

configManagementPlugins: |-
- name: argocd-vault-plugin
command: ["argocd-vault-plugin"]
args: ["generate", "./"]

A reference of a working ArgoCD manifest with the previous customizations can be found here:

Argocd manifest

With the ArgoCD instance installed, we can check that the plugin is indeed present: installed_plugin

Git Secret

Create a secret in your Git repo. The magic that takes place here is the placeholder that allows the value from Vault to be utilized. Our <> represents the key in Vault. Taking a look at our secret in Git, we see the placeholders for the secrets that live in Vault:

kind: Secret
apiVersion: v1
namespace: vplugin-demo
name: example-secret
avp_path: "secret/data/vplugin/supersecret"
type: Opaque
username: <username>
password: <password>

Build an Argo App

With Vault installed and ArgoCD installed and a secret manifest in Git, we next build an application in ArgoCD and provide our plugin values via environment variables: In the end, this will look like the example below, which points to our Git Repo which houses a sample secret. It is important to note that the environment variables are prefixed with AVP, this is a requirement of the plugin when using environment variables.

project: default
repoURL: ''
path: .
targetRevision: HEAD
name: argocd-vault-plugin
- name: AVP_K8S_ROLE
value: vplugin
- name: AVP_TYPE
value: vault
value: ''
value: k8s
server: 'https://kubernetes.default.svc'
syncPolicy: {}

Upon successful sync of your ArgoCD, you will see the secret in ArgoCD!


Compare the Secrets!!

To be sure we have what is expected, lets compare the secrets:

Secret on the cluster

[pmo@pmo-rhel ~]$ oc get secret example-secret -o yaml
apiVersion: v1
password: Z29wYWRyZXM=
username: cG1v
kind: Secret
avp_path: secret/data/vplugin/supersecret

Decode the data

[pmo@pmo-rhel ~]$ echo 'Z29wYWRyZXM=' | base64 --decode

review the secret in Git. Note that your secret data is not present, only placeholders!!!!

kind: Secret
apiVersion: v1
namespace: vplugin-demo
name: example-secret
avp_path: "secret/data/vplugin/supersecret"
type: Opaque
username: <username>
password: <password>


We’ve used various tools in this demo. Utilizing these tools together we have successfully implemented a placeholder inside of a secret in Git allowing us to protect our sensitive data and store the actual secret in Vault, then injected the secret into OpenShift. How cool is that?


How-tos, Security, GitOps, git, ci/cd, devsecops, Argo CD

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