Hidden replicas#



A hidden replica is an IPA master server that is not advertised to clients or other masters. Hidden replicas have all services running and available, but none of the services has any DNS SRV records or enabled LDAP server roles. This makes hidden replicas invisible for service discovery.

  • IPA clients and SSSD ignore hidden replicas and don’t consider them during installation or daily operations.

  • Kerberos clients with dns_lookup_kdc = True do not auto-discover hidden replicas.

  • Certmonger does not use a hidden replica to renew certificates.

  • Masters without a CA or KRA instance never use CA or KRA services of a hidden replica.

By default, only services on a hidden replica use other services on the same machine, e.g. local LDAP and Kerberos services.


It’s critical to understand that hidden replicas have limitations. Most importantly, hidden replicas are just concealed, but not isolated and secluded. Other machines merely don’t see hidden replicas, when they use standard mechanisms to discover IPA servers. Other machines are able to find hidden replicas if they know what to look for. Any machine is able to use services on a hidden replica, when they are explicitly configured to do so.

  • Hidden replicas are neither firewalled nor do they have any ACLs in place to prevent connections from other machines. All IPA TCP and UDP ports must be open for at least all other IPA servers.

  • There must be at least one regular, non-hidden server available and online for each service (IPA master, DNS, CA, KRA). If DNS locations are used, there should be at least one regular replica in each location.

  • As of now, a hidden replica cannot be a CA renewal master or a DNSSEC key master. The restriction may be lifted in the future.

  • Hard-coded server names and explicit configurations like ipa-client-install --server=$HOST, SSSD config, or ca_host setting in /etc/ipa/default.conf override auto-discovery.

  • The process of demoting a regular replica to hidden replica or promotion from hidden to regular replica is not instantaneous. It takes a while until the changes have been replicated and cached settings are refreshed.

Use Cases#

Hidden replicas are primarily designed for dedicated services that may otherwise disrupt clients. For example a full backup requires a complete shutdown of all IPA services. Since a hidden replica is not used by any clients by default, a temporary shutdown does not affect clients.

Other use cases include operations that put a high load on the IPA API or LDAP server, like mass imports or extensive queries.

How to Use#

installation of a hidden replica#

A new hidden replica can be installed with ipa-replica-install --hidden-replica.

demotion / promotion of hidden replicas#

A new command ipa server-state can be used to modify the state of a replica. An existing replica can be demoted to a hidden replica by executing ipa server-state $HOST --state=hidden. The command ipa server-state $HOST --state=enabled turns a hidden replica into an enabled, visible replica.

A CA renewal master or DNSSEC key master can’t be demoted to hidden replica. First the services must be moved to another replica with ipa-dns-install --dnssec-master and ipa config-mod --ca-renewal-master-server=$HOST.

query status#

The ipa config-show command now shows additional information about DNS and KRA as well as hidden servers:

$ ipa config-show
  IPA masters: server1.ipa.example
  Hidden IPA masters: hidden1.ipa.example
  IPA master capable of PKINIT: hidden1.ipa.example, server1.ipa.example
  IPA CA servers: server1.ipa.example
  Hidden IPA CA servers: hidden1.ipa.example
  IPA CA renewal master: server1.ipa.example
  IPA KRA servers: server1.ipa.example
  Hidden IPA KRA servers: hidden1.ipa.example
  IPA DNS servers: server1.ipa.example
  Hidden IPA DNS servers: hidden1.ipa.example
  IPA DNSSec key master: server1.ipa.example
$ ipa server-role-find --server=hidden1.ipa.example --include-master
6 server roles matched
  Server name: hidden1.ipa.example
  Role name: AD trust agent
  Role status: absent

  Server name: hidden1.ipa.example
  Role name: AD trust controller
  Role status: absent

  Server name: hidden1.ipa.example
  Role name: CA server
  Role status: hidden

  Server name: hidden1.ipa.example
  Role name: DNS server
  Role status: hidden

  Server name: hidden1.ipa.example
  Role name: IPA master
  Role status: hidden

  Server name: hidden1.ipa.example
  Role name: KRA server
  Role status: hidden
Number of entries returned 6


The status of a service is stored in LDAP inside the cn=masters,cn=ipa,cn=etc,$SUFFIX subtree. The subtree contains entries for each IPA master. Each entry holds a bunch of sub entries for services. For example cn=CA,cn=hidden1.ipa.example,cn=masters,cn=ipa,cn=etc,$SUFFIX is the container for the CA service on the IPA master hidden1.ipa.example. During the installation process the service entries are created with multi-valued attribute ipaConfigString set to configuredService. At the end of the installation, configuredService is either replaced with enabledService for a standard, enabled, and visible replica. Or it is set to hiddenService for hidden, unadvertised replicas.

Auto-discovery ignores any and all hidden services. The dns-update-system-records does not create SRV records for hidden services. The find_providing_servers API ignores hidden services except for preferred hosts. CA and KRA service discovery use the current host or explicit ca_host option from /etc/ipa/default.conf as preferred host.