Self-Signed SSL Certificates with IP SAN v2.0 — This time in Docker

For the love of all things good; there is two things I don’t like: (1) unnecessary convoluted setups and (2) redoing work I’ve done earlier. SSL Certificates seem to combine both into one beautifully painful mess.

I once again found myself in the need to generate a throwaway SSL certificate for local development and testing. As I’ve posted earlier there is a way to do that with more or less effort. Since I found myself doing this for the third time now I decided to spice things up a bit, cutting down the time it takes. I’ve created a small docker container that’s sole purpose it is to create a certificate from a given config file. The way it works is:

  1. Create a folder (e.g. ./certs) and place the below config file (named config.cfg) into it.
  2. Modify the config file, adding all the SANs required for this certificate
  3. docker run –rm -it -v./certs:/certs firefoxmetzger/create_ssl

That’s it. It will drop a `private.key` and `certificate.crt` into the previously created folder. It will also print the properties of the certificate into console so you can make sure the SANs are actually added.

Here is the config.cfg template

And here a link to the GitHub repo with the code of the docker image:


A Private Docker Registry with SSL on an Offline Docker Swarm

A part of my master’s thesis is to set up a Docker Swarm to parallelize reinforcement learning experiments. For this I needed a registry hosted by the swarm. This is because the swarm is unfortunately offline and I somehow have to distribute images across nodes.

Many tutorials online show how to set up a registry with SSL certificates and authentication using nginx. However, I wanted something a little simpler. Further, I don’t have a domain name that I can set as common name (CN), so I have to use the IP address for the certificate. This has to be added as SAN (subject alternate name), something that the usual tutorials don’t describe.

Note: “Also as of the Effective Date, the CA SHALL NOT issue a certificate with an Expiry Date later than 1 November 2015 with a subjectAlternativeName extension or Subject commonName field containing a Reserved IP Address or Internal Server Name.” – Baseline Requirements for the Issuance and Management of Publicly-Trusted Certificates, v.1.0 Thus, it is necessary to use self-signed certificates in this scenario.

The process breaks down into 3 simple steps:

  1. Create a self-signed SSL certificate with IP SAN
  2. Setup the registry service using the certificate
  3. Give the Nodes in the Swarm Access to the Certificate


For this post my “swarm” will be a single manager node running in a VM.

The last command gives the IP that has to be named in the certificate. I first setup everything I need on the host machine, then deploy it to the swarm. This is fancy talk for “make a folder with all the good stuff and scp it’s content to the VM” — poor mans deploy and as we know, all students are poor.

Create a self-signed SSL certificate with IP SAN

The IP for the node running my registry is: Your one may be different. I wrote a custom openssl.cnf based off the example at /etc/ssl/openssl.cnf and placed it into ~/my_docker_registry_deploy_folder/

Remember that the IP in the last line may differ in your case. With that I could generate a private key and the certificate:

When prompted to enter some information I left everything blank.  Usually the CN has to be equal to the domain name, but in this case the SAN takes care of this. Quickly verify that the SAN is specified:

openssl x509 -in certs/certificate.crt -text -noout

The important line is:

X509v3 Subject Alternative Name:
IP Address:

That’s all for the certificates.

Setup the registry service using the certificate

To make the deployment easy, I wrote a small docker-compose file that starts the registry service:

This launches the registry as a service on port 433. A potential flaw is that this container isn’t constrained to a specific machine. This is because volumes are not shared between nodes and thus all stored images would be lost if the container migrates. In the toy example there is only 1 machine; However, with an actual swarm (that’s the point of this exercise, right?) one would introduce such placement constraints or use a storage solution that migrates with the container.

Time for deployment:

The certificate will be wiped on reboot if we leave it in the home directory. Thus, I place it in a persistent location. Which is also the location the container reads it from.

Give the Nodes in the Swarm Access to the Certificate

The registry is ready and set up, however, when pushing or pulling docker will issue a self-signed certificate error, because it can not verify the certificate. To fix this, each client that wants to interact with the server needs a copy of the certificate. I installed the certificate on each client into


Then, I restarted the docker on the client, to reload certificates:

sudo service docker restart

Thats it! Now I can push to this registry just like any other registry.

docker tag registry:2
docker push
docker pull

Thanks for reading and happy coding!