ACME Certbot Integration

The Certbot application, developed by Electronic Frontier Foundation is an ACME client that gives users the ability to request and renew X.509 certificates from Let's Encrypt or another provider that supports the ACME protocol. The debops.pki role includes support for certbot to allow the X.509 certificates obtained via the service to be used by Ansible roles and other applications integrated with DebOps PKI infrastructure.

The certbot integration with the role is focused specifically on supporting the DNS-01 ACME challenge, which allows users to request wildcard X.509 certificates and doesn't require a standalone webserver to operate. If you plan to use the HTTP-01 challenge instead, you should refer to the ACME Tiny Integration documentation.


To request and renew ACME certificates with certbot, certain requirements must be met. You need to have a registered DNS domain which is served by one of supported DNS providers. Each DNS plugin requires a set of API credentials, either a token or an user/password combination - refer to the specific plugin documentation for details about obtaining them.

Due to the requirements above, the default domain PKI realm does not include support for ACME certificates. You will have create a separate PKI realm with name based either on the domain you plan to use or the host's FQDN, which will then hold the private key and X.509 certificate. Other DebOps roles can then use such PKI realm, either automatically or when configured.

Example ACME certificates with CloudFlare

This is an example debops.pki configuration which enables the certbot integration and uses CloudFlare to manage the DNS domain. We will be using the CloudFlare DNS plugin to manage the DNS entries.

The role will request a X.509 certificate for the DNS domain as well as the * wildcard to cover any potential subdomains. The configuration will be applied only on specific hosts in the cluster, included in the [pki_acme_cloudflare] Ansible inventory group, that way DebOps can configure multiple hosts with the X.509 certificates later on. There's no need to get ACME certificates on backend hosts, the cluster can use the DebOps Internal CA for encrypted communication between nodes. The PKI realm will be named, based on the DNS domain.

The example Ansible inventory looks like this:



You will need to obtain the API access token from CloudFlare web interface. The role expects the credentials in specific files, named after the certbot DNS plugins. On the remote hosts the files should be located in the /etc/pki/realms/<realm>/private/dns-*-credentials.key file. To ensure that the credentials file will be put there by the role, you should place it on the Ansible Controller host in the path (relative to the project directory):


So, in our case, that would be:


In the CloudFlare's case, the actual credentials file will look like:

dns_cloudflare_api_token = <token>

On older OS releases where the certbot version is not recent enough, you might need to use the CloudFlare global API key instead. In such case, the credentials file will look like:

dns_cloudflare_email = <cloudflare account email>
dns_cloudflare_api_key = <secret key>

The last bit is the inventory configuration. The variables will be set on the group level, in the ansible/inventory/group_vars/pki_acme_cloudflare/pki.yml file:

# ansible/inventory/group_vars/pki_acme_cloudflare/pki.yml

# Use CloudFlare as the DNS provider for ACME. Changing this variable
# implicitly enables 'certbot' support.
pki_acme_type: 'dns-cloudflare'

# Certbot requires a working e-mail account (it will be validated), you
# might need to specify it if the role uses a non-existent e-mail address.
pki_acme_contacts: [ '' ]

# If you want to try the staging Let's Encrypt CA to test if the
# certificates are obtained correctly, uncomment this variable.
#pki_acme_ca: 'le-staging-v2'

# Tell the 'pki' role to manage X.509 certificates for these Ansible
# inventory groups.
pki_inventory_groups: [ 'debops_service_pki', 'pki_acme_cloudflare' ]

# Here we define the actual PKI realm, which will be created on each host in
# this inventory group.

  - name: ''
    acme: True

    # You can define your preferred certificate subject here, the 'CN='
    # attribute is ignored in certificate verification, only SANs are
    # important.
    subject: [ '' ]

    # This is a list of domains which should be signed by Let's Encrypt CA.
    # Here we get the base domain as well as the wildcard for subdomains.
    domains: [ '', '*' ]

    # These parameters are required right now to override the defaults used
    # by the 'pki' role, otherwise you might get a wrong set of domains in the
    # certificate request.
    subdomains: [ '' ]
    default_subdomains: [ '' ]

After the inventory is set up, you can apply the configuration on the host using the debops.pki role, by executing the command:

debops service/pki -l hostname --diff

After it finishes, the certbot aplication should be installed, and symlinks to the /etc/letsencrypt/ directory should be present in the configured PKI realm. You can see an example realm directory structure below:

    ├── acme
    │   ├── account_key.pem
    │   ├── cert.pem -> /etc/letsencrypt/live/
    │   ├── intermediate.pem -> /etc/letsencrypt/live/
    │   ├── openssl.conf
    │   └── request.pem
    ├── CA.crt -> /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
    ├── config
    │   └── realm.conf
    ├── default.crt -> public/chain.pem
    ├── default.key -> private/key.pem
    ├── default.pem -> private/key_chain_dhparam.pem
    ├── external
    ├── internal
    │   ├── cert.pem
    │   ├── gnutls.conf
    │   ├── intermediate.pem
    │   ├── request.pem
    │   └── root.pem
    ├── private
    │   ├── dns-cloudflare-credentials.key
    │   ├── key_chain_dhparam.pem
    │   ├── key_chain.pem
    │   ├── key.pem -> /etc/letsencrypt/live/
    │   └── realm_key.pem
    └── public
        ├── cert_intermediate_dhparam.pem
        ├── cert_intermediate.pem
        ├── cert.pem -> ../acme/cert.pem
        ├── cert.pem.sig
        ├── chain.pem -> cert_intermediate_dhparam.pem
        └── intermediate.pem -> ../acme/intermediate.pem

If there are any issues, certbot command will log everything in the /var/log/letsencrypt/letsencrypt.log log file. you should review it to find what caused the problem and fix it. After that you need to re-initialize the PKI realm by removing its directory (/etc/pki/realms/ from the remote host and re-running the debops.pki role again. The certificates will be safely stored in the /etc/letsencrypt/ directory so this shouldn't case issues with Let's Encrypt rate limits if the certificates themselves were registered successfully, but take care otherwise. To avoid rate limiting, you might want to consider enabling the staging CA for testing purposes.