End to End TLS for Azure Front Door and Azure Kubernetes Service


Whilst exploring options for exposing Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) container services in public behind Web Application Firewall (WAF), I was able to find many references on how to accomplish end to end TLS encrypted connections between Azure Application Gateway and AKS (specifically Application Gateway Ingress Controller, AGIC), but not with Azure Front Door (AFD).

In this post, I will share how I achieved end to end TLS connectivity between AFD and AKS, including high level design, issue, resolution and optimised Azure cost.


In a nutshell, the below diagram represents the high level overview regarding what I wanted to achieve:

  • Custom frontend domains to expose (they don’t exist, just examples):
    • https://web.ssbkang.com
    • https://api.ssbkang.com
  • Backend pools to be the Azure Load Balancer acting as an ingress controller for the AKS cluster:
    • Backend host header to be null so that the request hostname determines this value.
      For instance, the requests in curl will be:
      • curl -vvv -H "Host: web.ssbkang.com" "LB IP Address"
      • curl -vvv -H "Host: api.ssbkang.com" "LB IP Address"
    • HTTPS health probe hitting /healthz with HEAD protocol
  • 1 x routing rule to be (apply URL rewrite and/or caching if required):
    • Accepted frontend protocol: HTTPS only
    • Forwarding protocol: HTTPS only
      Note: Implementing only one routing rule is to minimise the Azure cost by having only one routing rule but can scale out to multiple frontends / backend pools


I was expecting everything to work smoothly, however, faced the following from the browser:

Our services aren't available right now. 
We're working to restore all services as soon as possible. Please check back soon.

The first impression was that it sounded like the AFD instance was not fully deployed, but when I digged into it further, I managed to determine that the actual issue was related to the TLS certificate at the ingress controller level. I deployed the ingress controller using the official NGINX Helm Chart and by default, it leverages a self-signed certificate with the subject name ingress.local. Hence, when the AFD tried health probing at the backend (/healthz), it must have been returning bad request due to the fact that it does not match the certificate subject name.


To resolve the above issue, there were two elements had to be amended; ingress controller and a public DNS entry for it.

I’ve initially deployed the ingress controller as a Helm chart leveraging FluxCD and whilst Googling, I managed to find an extra argument called default-ssl-certificate. This will automatically assign a TLS certificate if tls is missing from ingress manifests.

First of all, I used openssl to extract a crt file and a key file from a pfx certificate:

openssl pkcs12 -in wildcard.pfx -clcerts -nokeys -out tls.crt
openssl pkcs12 -in wildcard.pfx -nocerts -nodes -out tls.key

And then created a secret manifest in my Flux repository:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Secret
  name: public-ingress-tls
  namespace: public-ingress
type: tls
  tls.crt: {CRT}
  tls.key: {KEY}

Then I have updated the HelmRelease with the default-ssl-certificate argument as below:

apiVersion: helm.fluxcd.io/v1
kind: HelmRelease
  name: public-nginx-ingress
  namespace: public-ingress
  releaseName: public-nginx-ingress
  targetNamespace: public-ingress
    repository: https://kubernetes-charts.storage.googleapis.com/
    name: nginx-ingress
    version: 1.39.0
      ingressClass: public-nginx-ingress
      useIngressClassOnly: true
      replicaCount: 3
      nodeSelector.beta.kubernetes.io/os: "linux"
          service.beta.kubernetes.io/azure-load-balancer-internal: "false"
        default-ssl-certificate: "public-ingress/public-ingress-tls"
      nodeSelector.beta.kubernetes.io/os: "linux"

Finally, I have added a public DNS for my public ingress controller aks-public-ingress.ssbkang.com and updated the backend accordingly.

After the DNS registration has finished, wallah, everything started working, magic 😀


In this blog post, I have discussed how to achieve end to end TLS encrypted connectivity between AFD and AKS ingress controller including how to optimise Azure cost at the AFD level.

AFD in fact support TLS terminations, however, as the ingress controller cannot be located in a private VNet i.e. a public instance, it is highly recommended to implement end to end TLS encryption.
Also, another security layer to consider is to update the NSG attached to the AKS subnet to be only accepting HTTP/HTTPS traffics from the AFD instance only (can use the service tag called AzureFrontDoor.Backend). This way, no one will be able to bypass AFD hitting the ingress controller directly.

Hope this helped and if you have any questions or require clarifications, leave a comment 🙂


8 thoughts on “End to End TLS for Azure Front Door and Azure Kubernetes Service

  1. Hey steven, regarding this: “Finally, I have added a public DNS for my public ingress controller aks-public-ingress.ssbkang.com and updated the backend accordingly” So instead of configuring the public IP in the backend pools in AFD, you replaced that one with DNS name that you created instead? name: aks-public-ingress.ssbkang.com (with the certificate). That would be tls for DNS of ingress controller, what about : https://web.ssbkang.com and https://api.ssbkang.com? did you need other certificate to configure in ingress? or you just used the one that AFD gives to you when you create the FE?. Having the exact same issue here

    1. Hey Yiyo, so the idea was to leverage a single `*.ssbkang.com` wildcard certificate but use the same one at the AFD and the ingress controller level. Without setting a default certificate at the ingress controller, it defaults to use the fake Kubernetes certificate which is not trusted by the AFD. Hope this clarified!

  2. I believe that the AFD requires its backend to have a public IP address. So i assume the “public Load balancer” has a Public IP address as well and is accessed via that route?

  3. Hey!! Great article. Did you tried to install a wildcard certificate for all subdomains without creating each sudbomain in the ingress?

    1. Yes, that is exactly how our AKS is setup. A single wildcard certificate associated with the ingress controller and pretty much all ingress rules use this certificate as a default one!

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