Working with TLS

Starting with snap revision 111, new deployments of MicroOVN use TLS encryption by default. A self-signed CA certificate is used to issue certificates to all OVN services that require it. They provide authentication and encryption for OVSDB communication. The CA certificate is generated during cluster initialisation (cluster bootstrap command).

In the current implementation, self-provisioned certificates are the only mode available. Future releases may include support for externally provided certificates.


The certificate and private key generated for the self-provisioned CA are currently stored unencrypted in the database on every cluster member. If an attacker gains access to any cluster member, they can use the CA to issue valid certificates that will be accepted by other cluster members.

Certificates CLI

MicroOVN exposes a few commands for basic interaction with TLS certificates.

List certificates

To list currently used certificates:

microovn certificates list

Example output:

/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/cacert.pem (OK: Present)

[OVN Northbound Service]
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovnnb-cert.pem (OK: Present)
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovnnb-privkey.pem (OK: Present)

[OVN Southbound Service]
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovnsb-cert.pem (OK: Present)
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovnsb-privkey.pem (OK: Present)

[OVN Northd Service]
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovn-northd-cert.pem (OK: Present)
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovn-northd-privkey.pem (OK: Present)

[OVN Chassis Service]
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovn-controller-cert.pem (OK: Present)
/var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/ovn-controller-privkey.pem (OK: Present)

This command does not perform any certificate validation, it only ensures that if a service is available on the node, the file that should contain a certificate is in place.

Re-issue certificates

The certificates reissue command is used to interact with OVN services on the local host; it does not affect peer cluster members.


Services must be running in order to be affected by the certificates reissue command. For example, running certificates reissue ovnnb on a member that does not run this service is expected to fail.

To re-issue a certificate for a single service:

microovn certificates reissue <ovn_service_name>

To re-issue certificates for all services, the all argument is supported:

microovn certificates reissue all

Valid service names can be discovered with the --help option:

microovn certificates reissue --help

Regenerate PKI for the cluster

The certificates regenerate-ca command is used to issue a new CA certificate and new certificates for every OVN service in the cluster:

microovn certificates regenerate-ca

This command replaces the current CA certificate and notifies all cluster members to re-issue certificates for all their services. The command’s output will include evidence of successfully issued certificates for each cluster member.


A new certificate must be issued successfully for every service on every member. Any failure will result in subsequent communication errors for that service within the cluster.

Certificate lifecycle

Certificates that are automatically provisioned by MicroOVN have the following lifespans:

  • CA certificate: 10 years

  • OVN service certificate: 2 years

MicroOVN runs daily checks for certificate lifespan validity. When a certificate is within 10 days of expiration, it will be automatically renewed.

Upgrade from plaintext to TLS

Plaintext communication is used when MicroOVN is initially deployed with a snap revision of less than 111, and there’s no way to automatically convert to encrypted communication. The following manual steps are needed to upgrade from plaintext to TLS:

  1. ensure that all MicroOVN snaps in the cluster are upgraded to, at least, revision 111

  2. run microovn certificates regenerate-ca on one of the cluster members

  3. run sudo snap restart microovn.daemon on all cluster members. Allow commands to complete before proceeding to the next step.

  4. run sudo snap restart microovn.ovn-northd on all cluster members

Once this is done, OVN API services throughout the cluster will start listening on TLS-secured ports. However, the process is not complete yet because OVN Southbound and Northbound database clusters themselves are not capable of automatically switching to TLS communication in existing clusters.

Manually switch OVN Northbound and Southbound clusters to TLS

Both database clusters need to be manually switched over by individually removing cluster members that use tcp connection and reconnecting them with ssl. This process technically replaces every member in the original cluster, but because we are doing it gradually, cluster data remains intact.

Let’s assume that we have a 3 node cluster. We’ll start with switching over the OVN Northbound cluster.

Preparation: We will be running commands on multiple nodes throughout this process, it is recommended to open a separate shell on each node and keep it open with following variables exported:

  1. Leave cluster on the node 1:

microovn.ovn-appctl -t $CONTROL_SOCKET cluster/leave $DB

2. Make sure that member properly left the cluster by inspecting cluster status on nodes 2 and 3 and ensuring that node 1 is no longer part of the cluster:

microovn.ovn-appctl -t /var/snap/microovn/common/run/ovn/ovnnb_db.ctl cluster/status OVN_Northbound
  1. Clean up remaining DB files on node 1:

snap stop microovn.central

4. Rejoin the cluster with node 1, using ssl as protocol for local listening port. Notice that we will still use tcp as a protocol for remote cluster connection because no other node listens on ssl yet. This will get fixed automatically when other cluster members switch to ssl:

microovn.ovsdb-tool join-cluster $DB_FILE $DB ssl:<local_ip>:$PORT tcp:<node_2_ip>:$PORT
snap restart microovn.central

5. Monitor cluster, from node 1, as it converges to stable state. Use following command to monitor cluster until it indicates three members and field Entries not yet applied reaches 0:

microovn.ovn-appctl -t $CONTROL_SOCKET cluster/status $DB

Now that node 1 successfully transitioned to TLS we can repeat the same steps on node 2 and then on node 3. The only difference is in 4. step where we will use protocol ssl and IP of a node 1 as last arguments for microovn.ovsdb-tool command. To save you some searching and replacing, here are the revised commands for the 4. step to be used on node 2 and 3:

microovn.ovsdb-tool join-cluster $DB_FILE $DB ssl:<local_ip>:$PORT ssl:<node_1_ip>:$PORT
snap restart microovn.central

After all three nodes transitioned to TLS usage, you can once again inspect cluster status on any node:

microovn.ovn-appctl -t $CONTROL_SOCKET cluster/status $DB

to verify that all three cluster members are using ssl as their connection protocol.

This whole process needs to be repeated again for OVN Southbound cluster. Steps and commands are the same, just with different set of variables configured in the Preparation step:


Common issues

This section contains some well known or expected issues that you can encounter.

I’m getting failed to load certificates error

If you run commands like microovn.ovn-sbctl and you get complaints about missing certificates while the rest of the commands seem to work fine.


microovn.ovn-sbctl show

Example output:

2023-06-14T15:09:31Z|00001|stream_ssl|ERR|SSL_use_certificate_file: error:80000002:system library::No such file or directory
2023-06-14T15:09:31Z|00002|stream_ssl|ERR|SSL_use_PrivateKey_file: error:10080002:BIO routines::system lib
2023-06-14T15:09:31Z|00003|stream_ssl|ERR|failed to load client certificates from /var/snap/microovn/common/data/pki/cacert.pem: error:0A080002:SSL routines::system lib
Chassis microovn-0
    hostname: microovn-0
    Encap geneve
        ip: ""
        options: {csum="true"}

This likely means that your MicroOVN snap got upgraded to a version that supports TLS, but it requires some manual upgrade steps. See section Upgrade from plaintext to TLS.