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Database Access with Self-Hosted CockroachDB

Teleport can provide secure access to CockroachDB via the Teleport Database Service. This allows for fine-grained access control through the Teleport RBAC system.

The Teleport Database Service proxies traffic from database clients to self-hosted databases in your infrastructure. Teleport maintains a certificate authority for database clients. You configure your database to trust the Teleport database client CA, and the Teleport Database Service presents certificates signed by this CA when proxying user traffic. With this setup, there is no need to store long-lived credentials for self-hosted databases.

Meanwhile, the Teleport Database Service verifies self-hosted databases by checking their TLS certificates against either the Teleport database CA or a custom CA chosen by the user.

In this guide, you will:

  1. Configure your CockroachDB database for Teleport access.
  2. Add the database to your Teleport cluster.
  3. Connect to the database via Teleport

How it works

The Teleport Database Service authenticates to your self-hosted CockroachDB database using mutual TLS. CockroachDB trusts the Teleport certificate authority for database clients, and presents a certificate signed by either the Teleport database CA or a custom CA. When a user initiates a database session, the Teleport Database Service presents a certificate signed by Teleport. The authenticated connection then proxies client traffic from the user.


  • A running Teleport cluster version 16.1.0 or above. If you want to get started with Teleport, sign up for a free trial or set up a demo environment.

  • The tctl admin tool and tsh client tool.

    Visit Installation for instructions on downloading tctl and tsh.

  • CockroachDB cluster.

  • A host, e.g., an Amazon EC2 instance, where you will run the Teleport Database Service.

  • To check that you can connect to your Teleport cluster, sign in with tsh login, then verify that you can run tctl commands using your current credentials. tctl is supported on macOS and Linux machines.

    For example:

    tsh login --user=[email protected]
    tctl status


    Version 16.1.0

    CA pin sha256:abdc1245efgh5678abdc1245efgh5678abdc1245efgh5678abdc1245efgh5678

    If you can connect to the cluster and run the tctl status command, you can use your current credentials to run subsequent tctl commands from your workstation. If you host your own Teleport cluster, you can also run tctl commands on the computer that hosts the Teleport Auth Service for full permissions.

  • A certificate authority to issue CockroachDB certificates for nodes in your CockroachDB cluster.

    Distributed databases like CockroachDB use mTLS for node-to-node communication. Teleport requires that you have your own CA to issue certificates for node-to-node mTLS communication.

    Teleport uses a split-CA architecture for database access. The Teleport db CA issues server certificates and the db_client CA issues client certificates.

    Databases are configured to trust the Teleport db_client CA for client authentication, but not the db CA. Additionally, Teleport only issues ephemeral db_client CA certificates.

    When a CockroachDB node connects to another CockroachDB node, it must present a certificate that the other node trusts for client authentication. Since Teleport does not issue long-lived db_client certificates, the node needs to have a long-lived certificate issued by another CA that its peer node trusts.

    The split db and db_client CA architecture was introduced as a security fix in Teleport versions: 13.4.17, 14.3.7, and 15.

    See Database CA Migrations for more information.

Step 1/4. Set up the Teleport Database Service

The Database Service requires a valid join token to join your Teleport cluster. Run the following tctl command and save the token output in /tmp/token on the server that will run the Database Service:

tctl tokens add --type=db --format=text

Install and configure Teleport where you will run the Teleport Database Service:

Install Teleport on your Linux server:

  1. Assign edition to one of the following, depending on your Teleport edition:

    Teleport Enterprise Cloudcloud
    Teleport Enterprise (Self-Hosted)enterprise
    Teleport Community Editionoss
  2. Get the version of Teleport to install. If you have automatic agent updates enabled in your cluster, query the latest Teleport version that is compatible with the updater:
    TELEPORT_VERSION="$(curl https://$TELEPORT_DOMAIN/v1/webapi/automaticupgrades/channel/default/version | sed 's/v//')"

    Otherwise, get the version of your Teleport cluster:
    TELEPORT_VERSION="$(curl https://$TELEPORT_DOMAIN/v1/webapi/ping | jq -r '.server_version')"
  3. Install Teleport on your Linux server:

    curl | bash -s ${TELEPORT_VERSION} edition

    The installation script detects the package manager on your Linux server and uses it to install Teleport binaries. To customize your installation, learn about the Teleport package repositories in the installation guide.

On the host where you will run the Teleport Database Service, start Teleport with the appropriate configuration.

Note that a single Teleport process can run multiple different services, for example multiple Database Service agents as well as the SSH Service or Application Service. The step below will overwrite an existing configuration file, so if you're running multiple services add --output=stdout to print the config in your terminal, and manually adjust /etc/teleport.yaml.

Generate a configuration file at /etc/teleport.yaml for the Database Service:

sudo teleport db configure create \ -o file \ --token=/tmp/token \ \ --name=roach \ --protocol=cockroachdb \ \ --labels=env=dev
sudo teleport db configure create \ -o file \ --token=/tmp/token \ \ --name=roach \ --protocol=cockroachdb \ \ --labels=env=dev

Configure the Teleport Database Service to start automatically when the host boots up by creating a systemd service for it. The instructions depend on how you installed the Teleport Database Service.

On the host where you will run the Teleport Database Service, enable and start Teleport:

sudo systemctl enable teleport
sudo systemctl start teleport

On the host where you will run the Teleport Database Service, create a systemd service configuration for Teleport, enable the Teleport service, and start Teleport:

sudo teleport install systemd -o /etc/systemd/system/teleport.service
sudo systemctl enable teleport
sudo systemctl start teleport

You can check the status of the Teleport Database Service with systemctl status teleport and view its logs with journalctl -fu teleport.

Teleport provides Helm charts for installing the Teleport Database Service in Kubernetes Clusters.

Set up the Teleport Helm repository.

Allow Helm to install charts that are hosted in the Teleport Helm repository:

helm repo add teleport

Update the cache of charts from the remote repository so you can upgrade to all available releases:

helm repo update

Install the Teleport Kube Agent into your Kubernetes Cluster with the Teleport Database Service configuration.

JOIN_TOKEN=$(cat /tmp/token)
helm install teleport-kube-agent teleport/teleport-kube-agent \ --create-namespace \ --namespace teleport-agent \ --set roles=db \ --set \ --set authToken=${JOIN_TOKEN?} \ --set "databases[0].name=roach" \ --set "databases[0]" \ --set "databases[0].protocol=cockroachdb" \ --set "databases[0].static_labels.env=dev" \ --version 16.1.0

Install the Teleport Kube Agent into your Kubernetes Cluster with the Teleport Database Service configuration.

JOIN_TOKEN=$(cat /tmp/token)
helm install teleport-kube-agent teleport/teleport-kube-agent \ --create-namespace \ --namespace teleport-agent \ --set roles=db \ --set \ --set authToken=${JOIN_TOKEN?} \ --set "databases[0].name=roach" \ --set "databases[0]" \ --set "databases[0].protocol=cockroachdb" \ --set "databases[0].static_labels.env=dev" \ --version 15.4.7

Make sure that the Teleport agent pod is running. You should see one teleport-kube-agent pod with a single ready container:

kubectl -n teleport-agent get pods
NAME READY STATUS RESTARTS AGEteleport-kube-agent-0 1/1 Running 0 32s

A single Teleport process can run multiple services, for example multiple Database Service instances as well as other services such the SSH Service or Application Service.

Step 2/4. Create a Teleport user


To modify an existing user to provide access to the Database Service, see Database Access Access Controls

Create a local Teleport user with the built-in access role:

tctl users add \ --roles=access \ --db-users="*" \ --db-names="*" \ alice

Create a local Teleport user with the built-in access and requester roles:

tctl users add \ --roles=access,requester \ --db-users="*" \ --db-names="*" \ alice
--rolesList of roles to assign to the user. The builtin access role allows them to connect to any database server registered with Teleport.
--db-usersList of database usernames the user will be allowed to use when connecting to the databases. A wildcard allows any user.
--db-namesList of logical databases (aka schemas) the user will be allowed to connect to within a database server. A wildcard allows any database.

Database names are only enforced for PostgreSQL, MongoDB, and Cloud Spanner databases.

For more detailed information about database access controls and how to restrict access see RBAC documentation.

Step 3/4. Configure CockroachDB

Create a CockroachDB user

Teleport uses mutual TLS authentication with CockroachDB. Client certificate authentication is available to all CockroachDB users. If you don't have one, connect to your Cockroach cluster and create it:


The WITH PASSWORD NULL clause prevents the user from using password auth and mandates client certificate auth.

Make sure to assign the user proper permissions within the database cluster. Refer to Create User in the CockroachDB documentation for more information.

Set up mutual TLS

To set up mutual TLS authentication, you need to make sure that:

  • Teleport trusts certificates presented by CockroachDB nodes.
  • CockroachDB nodes trust client certificates signed by both your CockroachDB CA and your Teleport cluster's db_client CA.

CockroachDB nodes need to trust the Teleport db_client CA so that Teleport users can authenticate to your CockroachDB cluster as clients.

The CockroachDB CA needs to be trusted by each CockroachDB node so that nodes can authenticate themselves as clients to other nodes in the CockroachDB cluster. This is because CockroachDB uses mTLS for node-to-node communication.

In this configuration, your CockroachDB CA will be used to issue the server cert node.crt for each CockroachDB node.

This configuration is simpler to set up, because an existing CockroachDB cluster already has node.crt issued for each node and you only need to configure the CockroachDB nodes to trust your Teleport db_client CA. Another benefit is that your CockroachDB nodes will continue to serve the same CockroachDB CA-issued cert, rather than serving a new cert signed by Teleport's db CA, so you don't have to configure other clients to trust a new CA.

Copy your CockroachDB CA cert to ca-client.crt in the certs directory of each CockroachDB node:

cp "${CERTS_DIR}/ca.crt" "${CERTS_DIR}/ca-client.crt"

Next, for each CockroachDB node, export Teleport's db_client CA using tctl (or export it once and copy it to each node) and append the certificate to ca-client.crt:

tctl auth export --type=db-client >> /path/to/cockroachdb/certs/dir/ca-client.crt

Modify the Teleport Database Service to trust your CockroachDB CA:

  - name: "example-cockroachdb"
    protocol: "cockroachdb"
    uri: ""
      "env": "example"
      ca_cert_file: "/path/to/your/ca.crt"

Now the Teleport Database Service will trust certificates presented by your CockroachDB.

In this configuration, Teleport's CA will be used to issue the server cert, node.crt, and your own custom CA will be used to issue the client certificate, client.node.crt, for each CockroachDB node.

Teleport uses mutual TLS authentication with self-hosted databases. These databases must be configured with Teleport's certificate authority to be able to verify client certificates. They also need a certificate/key pair that Teleport can verify.

To use issue certificates from your workstation with tctl, your Teleport user must be allowed to impersonate the system role Db.

Include the following allow rule in in your Teleport user's role:

    users: ["Db"]
    roles: ["Db"]

Generate secrets for a CockroachDB node using tctl:

tctl auth sign \ --format=cockroachdb \ \ --out=/path/to/cockroachdb/certs/dir \ --ttl=2190h

We recommend using a shorter TTL, but keep mind that you'll need to update the database server certificate before it expires to not lose the ability to connect. Pick the TTL value that best fits your use-case.

The command will produce 4 files:

  • ca.crt with Teleport's db certificate authority
  • ca-client.crt with Teleport's db_client certificate authority
  • node.crt / node.key with the node's certificate and key.

You can specify multiple comma-separated addresses e.g. --host=roach,node-1, However, you must include the hostname that Teleport will use to connect to the database.

Do not rename these files as this is how CockroachDB expects them to be named. See Node key and certificates for details.

Prepend your CockroachDB CA's certificate to ca-client.crt. Now issue a client certificate for the node using your CockroachDB CA:

cockroach cert create-client node \ --certs-dir=/path/to/cockroachdb/certs/dir \ --ca-key=ca-secrets/ca-client.key

If you see an error message like: tls: private key does not match public key, it likely means you did not prepend your CockroachDB CA cert to ca-client.crt earlier.

cockroach cert create-client expects the first certificate in ca-client.crt (in the --certs-dir specified) to be the certificate signed by --ca-key. Ensure that your CockroachDB CA certificate is the first certificate in ca-client.crt.

Now copy /path/to/cockroachdb/certs/dir to the CockroachDB node and repeat these steps for all of your other CockroachDB nodes.

Restart your CockroachDB nodes, passing them the directory with generated secrets via the --certs-dir flag:

cockroach start \ --certs-dir=/path/to/cockroachdb/certs/dir \ # other flags...

Alternatively, if the nodes were already started with --certs-dir=/path/to/cockroachdb/certs/dir, you can send a SIGHUP signal to the cockroach process to reload certificates without restarting the node. You must send SIGHUP as the same user that started the cockroach process:

pkill -SIGHUP -x cockroach

Step 4/4. Connect

Log in to your Teleport cluster. Your CockroachDB cluster should appear in the list of available databases:

tsh login --user=alice
tsh db ls

Name Description Labels

----- ------------------- -------

roach Example CockroachDB env=dev

tsh login --user=alice
tsh db ls

Name Description Labels

----- ------------------- -------

roach Example CockroachDB env=dev

To retrieve credentials for a database and connect to it:

tsh db connect roach

You can optionally specify the database name and the user to use by default when connecting to the database server:

tsh db connect --db-user=alice roach

Either the cockroach or psql command-line client should be available in PATH in order to be able to connect.

To log out of the database and remove credentials:

tsh db logout roach


Unimplemented client encoding error

You may encounter the unimplemented client encoding: "sqlascii" error when connecting to your CockroachDB database if your psql uses SQL_ASCII encoding.

CockroachDB supports only UTF8 client encoding. To enforce the encoding, set the following environment variable in the shell running tsh db connect:


If you are connecting the CockroachDB database with Teleport Connect, add the environment variable to your shell startup scripts and restart the Teleport Connect app.

Unable to cancel a query

If you use a PostgreSQL cli client like psql, and you try to cancel a query with ctrl+c, but it doesn't cancel the query, then you need to connect using a tsh local proxy instead. When psql cancels a query, it establishes a new connection without TLS certificates, however Teleport requires TLS certificates not only for authentication, but also to route database connections.

If you enable TLS Routing in Teleport then tsh db connect will automatically start a local proxy for every connection. Alternatively, you can connect via Teleport Connect which also uses a local proxy. Otherwise, you need to start a tsh local proxy manually using tsh proxy db and connect via the local proxy.

If you have already started a long-running query in a psql session that you cannot cancel with ctrl+c, you can start a new client session to cancel that query manually:

First, find the query's process identifier (PID):

SELECT pid,usename,backend_start,query FROM pg_stat_activity WHERE state = 'active';

Next, gracefully cancel the query using its PID. This will send a SIGINT signal to the postgres backend process for that query:

SELECT pg_cancel_backend(<PID>);

You should always try to gracefully terminate a query first, but if graceful cancellation is taking too long, then you can forcefully terminate the query instead. This will send a SIGTERM signal to the postgres backend process for that query:

SELECT pg_terminate_backend(<PID>);

See the PostgreSQL documentation on admin functions for more information about the pg_cancel_backend and pg_terminate_backend functions.

Next steps

  • Take a look at the YAML configuration reference.