Using Private Repo (SSH) Keys and (HTTPS) Tokens

Often Terraform modules are not stored in public git repos for any number of reasons. Fortunately, with the right keys or tokens, it’s not that hard to access them. In this article we’ll go over a few common examples of how to access terraform modules in private repos with Terraform Operator. In general, Terraform can accept either ssh keys and/or tokens to access modules in git repos.

Example 2: Private Repos over SSH

To start, you’ll need an basic understanding of Git and SSH. Let’s pretend our private git repo is hosted on and we want to use SSH to download our module. I’m not going to go into generating an SSH key and I’ll assume you have a key that can access your git server.

The first thing we need to do is save the SSH key to Kubernetes as a Secret. Below is an example of me adding my key to the Kubernetes cluster. Note that the ssh key location on my system is at ~/.ssh/mygitid_rsa. Change the filepath according to the key you’ve configured to access your git server.

$ GITSSHKEY=$(cat ~/.ssh/mygitid_rsa | base64)

$ cat << EOF | kubectl apply -f -
apiVersion: v1
  my_key: $GITSSHKEY
kind: Secret
  name: my-gitlab-ssh-key
  namespace: default
type: Opaque

In the above commands, we saved our GitLab access key to the cluster as a Secret called my-gitlab-ssh-key with data key my_key in the default namespace. Next we’ll add these item to our terraform k8s-resource manifest.

Create the terraform k8s-resource manifest, let’s call it terraform.yaml. The following is an example of my manifest. Notice the scmAuthMethods. The scmAuthMethods is an array of objects.

  1. In example below, we’ll fill in host: with That is the host our ssh-key is valid for.
  2. Next, we’re using git: as the SCM (Source Control Management).
  3. Under git:, we’re going with the ssh: protocol.
  4. And finally under ssh:, the secret that was created earlier is defined in sshKeySecretRef:.

Take a look for the final manifest:

# terraform.yaml

kind: Terraform
  name: my-private-ssh-module
  terraformVersion: 1.1.9
  customBackend: |-
    terraform {
      backend "kubernetes" {
        secret_suffix     = "my-private-ssh-module"
        namespace         = "default"
        in_cluster_config = true
  # *-------------------------*
  - host:
          name: my-gitlab-ssh-key
          key: my_key
  # *-------------------------*
  keepLatestPodsOnly: true
  ignoreDelete: false
  writeOutputsToStatus: true

Apply the manifest using kubectl and we’re done and terraform-operator will handle the rest.

kubectl apply -f terraform.yaml

Here’s the logs from the setup pod which completed successfully:

Cloning into '/tmp/tmp.DjOLKO/stack'...
Warning: Permanently added ',' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.
Already on 'main'
Your branch is up to date with 'origin/main'.
Using custom backend
stream closed
SSH keys are usually tied to a user on the target server. Github, GitLab, and other Git providers assign the user git to any ssh key used to access a repo.

Private git servers can definitely be used as well. The main difference will be seen when defining the terraform module in the terraform k8s-resource.

For example, a github module would look like the following:

kind: Terraform

If a private git server was used, it might look something like the following:

kind: Terraform
  terraformModule: bob@