Scaling Privileged Access for Modern Infrastructure: Real-World Insights
Apr 25
Register Today
Teleport logoTry For Free
Fork me on GitHub


Database Access Architecture

This section provides an overview of how Teleport enables secure access to databases.

How it works

Let's take a look at a sample Teleport deployment that enables access to databases:

In it, we have the following Teleport components:

  • Teleport Proxy Service. A stateless service that performs a function of an authentication gateway, serves the Web UI, and accepts database (and other) client connections.
  • Teleport Proxy Service. A stateless service that performs a function of an authentication gateway, serves the Web UI, and accepts database (and other) client connections. This service is accessible at your Teleport Cloud tenant URL, e.g.,
  • Teleport Auth Service. Serves as cluster's certificate authority, handles user authentication/authorization and issues short-lived client certificates.
  • Teleport Database Service. The "brain" that connects to the databases, performs database authentication and protocol parsing.
  • Teleport Discovery Service. Automatically discovers cloud-hosted databases and enrolls them in the Teleport cluster.

The Database Service establishes an SSH reverse tunnel to the Proxy Service. As such, users do not need to have direct connectivity to the Database Service or the databases it's connected to. As long as it can dial back to the cluster's Proxy Service, it can be located behind a firewall.


You can have multiple Database Services connected to the cluster. Each Database Service can be also connected to multiple databases.

Let's take a look at the typical flow that Teleport users go through to connect to a database.

  1. A user logs into the cluster with tsh login command and retrieves a client certificate. See Issuing User Certificates for more details on how it works.
  2. The user picks the database they want to connect to from the list of available databases shown in tsh db ls command.
  3. The user connects to the database with the tsh db connect command, which first retrieves a short-lived X.509 certificate and then launches the standard database client (e.g. psql) with this client certificate to authenticate with the Teleport Proxy Service.
  4. The Proxy Service authenticates the connection and dispatches it to the appropriate Database Service instance based on the routing information encoded in the client certificate, over the reverse tunnel.
  5. The Database Service authenticates the connection, performs an authorization check, and then establishes the connection to the database.
  6. The Database Service begins proxying traffic between the user's database client and the database. Additionally, it interprets the database wire protocol messages and submits events to the Teleport audit log.


Teleport relies on short-lived X.509 certificates for user authentication, as well as authentication between internal components.

Authentication happens in 3 places:

  • Database client connecting to the Proxy Service
  • Proxy Service connecting to Database Service
  • Database Service connecting database.

Let's take a detailed look at each authentication point.

Database client to the Proxy Service

When running the tsh db connect command, the command first retrieves a short-lived X.509 certificate for the selected database. Then the command provides the database client with this client certificate to authenticate with the Proxy Service.


Many database clients/servers refer to these certificates as SSL which is legacy terminology. In Teleport documentation we most often refer to them as TLS or x509 certificates.

For configuring graphical clients, use the tsh proxy db command, which prints detailed information about the connection such as the host, port, and location of the secrets. See GUI Clients for details.

Proxy Service to the Database Service

The connection between the Proxy Service and the Database Service is also authenticated with mutual TLS.

The Proxy Service generates a short-lived X.509 certificate signed by the cluster's host authority, with the client's identity and database routing information encoded in it, and uses it to authenticate with the Database Service.

Database Service to database

Database authentication is handled differently for self-hosted databases and databases hosted by AWS.


Teleport Database Service uses client certificate authentication with self-hosted database servers.

See respective guides for details on configuring client certificate authentication.


Teleport Database Service uses IAM authentication for Amazon-hosted and Google-Cloud-hosted database servers, and uses Active Directory authentication for Azure-hosted database servers.

See respective guides for details on configuring IAM/AD authentication.


Teleport Discovery Service can automatically discover and enroll database servers hosted by cloud providers.

For each configured database type, the Discovery Service scans cloud providers using corresponding "read" APIs and filters them with configured labels. Then the discovered databases are enrolled in the Teleport Cluster.

The Database Service is responsible for monitoring the dynamic database resources including those enrolled by the Discovery Service. Once a dynamic database resource is added, the Database Service will start proxying it.

These clouds are currently supported:

  • AWS Databases Discovery
  • Azure Databases Discovery

Next steps

Please refer to the RFD #11 for a more in-depth description of the feature scope and design.

See Core Concepts for general Teleport architecture principles.