Introduction to the Dogtag Python API

There is a Python binding to the Dogtag REST API under active development by Abhishek Koneru. I will be using this API to add support for Dogtag profiles in FreeIPA. This post serves as an introduction to the API, with a particular focus on the profile-related parts.

Because it’s still in development, the API is subject to change. I think the overall structure of the API is fine so hopefully any changes will be minor. The API is well documented so if in doubt, check the docstrings (calling help(<module|class|object>) is a handy way to read the docs in the interactive Python interpreter).


The pki.client.PKIConnection class connects to a Dogtag instance and executes REST verbs on behalf of clients. Internally, it uses the excellent Requests library.

import pki.client

scheme = 'https'
host = 'localhost'
port = '8443'
subsystem = 'ca'
conn = pki.client.PKIConnection(scheme, host, port, subsystem)

For actions that require authentication, a client certificate is required, in PEM format. Client certificates are often distributed in the PKCS #12 format. In such case, the following command will convert a PKCS #12 client certificate to an unencrypted PEM certificate:

$ openssl pkcs12 -nodes -in cl_cert.p12 -out cl_cert.pem

After telling the PKIConnection where to find the client certificate, the connection object will be ready to use:



The pki.profile.ProfileClient class proxies the profiles-related REST resources.

import pki.profile

profile_client = pki.profile.ProfileClient(conn)
profiles = profile_client.list_profiles()
for profile in profiles:
  pass  # do stuff

list_profiles() also takes optional start and size keyword arguments for pagination. For inspecting an individual profile, there is the get_profile method. But first let’s see what happens when we ask for a profile that doesn’t exist:

>>> profile = profile_client.get_profile('nope')
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
  File "pki/", line 234, in handler
    raise pki_exception
  pki.ProfileNotFoundException: Profile ID nope not found

So there are nice, specific exception types. There’s a whole bunch of domain-specific exceptions, but I won’t list them here. Moving on, we can have a look at a profile that does exist:

>>> profile = profile_client.get_profile('caServerCert')
>>> profile
{'ProfileData': {'status': 'enabled', 'visible': True,
'profile_id': u'caServerCert', 'name': u'Manual Server Certificate
Enrollment', 'description': u'This certificate profile is for
enrolling server certificates.'}}
>>> dir(profile)
['Input', 'Output', 'PolicySets', '__class__', '__delattr__',
'__dict__', '__doc__', '__fo rmat__', '__getattribute__',
'__hash__', '__init__', '__module__', '__new__', '__reduce__' ,
'__reduce_ex__', '__repr__', '__setattr__', '__sizeof__',
'__str__', '__subclasshook__', '__weakref__', 'authenticator_id',
'authorization_acl', 'class_id', 'description', 'enabl ed',
'enabled_by', 'from_json', 'inputs', 'link', 'name', 'outputs',
'policy _sets', 'profile_id', 'renewal', 'visible', 'xml_output']

The relevant attributes can be gleaned from above. At the moment, there’s not a whole lot you can do with a profile object, besides look at it. It contains some metadata about the profile and lists of its inputs, outputs and policies (defaults and constraints).

There’s not much else to the profiles aspect of the API at this time. You can list profiles, inspect profiles, and enable/disable profiles, but you aren’t yet able to create new profiles or perform more advanced profile administration. Future work will (hopefully) add these capabilities.


Although pki.profile on its own doesn’t currently offer a lot to the API end-user, some other modules do leverage the provided classes and methods in their own behaviours. pki.cert is one such module.

import pki.cert

cert_client = pki.cert.CertClient(conn)

# enrol a certificate
inputs = {
  "cert_request_type": "pkcs10",
  "cert_request": "MIIBmDCC... (a PEM certificate request)",
  "requestor_name": "John A. Citizen",
  "requestor_email": "jcitizen@example.tld",
enroll_req = cert_client.create_enrollment_request("caServerCert", inputs)
req_infos = cert_client.submit_enrollment_request(enroll_req)

The above instantiates a CertClient (reusing the connection object from before), creates a certificate enrollment request for the caServerCert profile (using the given inputs) and submits the certificate enrollment request. A certificate enrollment can actually involve multiple certificates, so the req_infos variable above contains a CertRequestInfoCollection object. Completing the enrollment involves iterating over this collection and approving each certificate request.

certificates = []
for req_info in req_infos:
  req_id = req_info.request_id
  cert_id = cert_client.get_request(req_id).cert_id

Assuming nothing went wrong, certificates now contains a list of pki.cert.CertData objects, but took quite a few operations to get from the enrollment request inputs to our actual certificate(s). Fortunately, the API provides a convenience method to take care of all these details:

profile_id = "caServerCert"
certificates = cert_client.enroll_cert(profile_id, inputs)

enroll_cert takes care of all the details and returns a list of CertData objects when it completes. If this particular process of certificate enrollment request generation, submission, approval and certificate retrieval turns out to be a common use case, this method will save a lot of typing, but it’s important to know how it works and what it does behind the scenes.

Let’s now have a look at one of these CertData objects:

>>> type(cert)
<class 'pki.cert.CertData'>
>>> cert
{'CertData': {'status': u'VALID', 'serial_number': u'0x17',
'subject_dn': u'CN=TestServer,O=Red Hat Inc.,L=Raleigh,ST=NC,C=US'}}
>>> dir(cert)
['__class__', '__delattr__', '__dict__', '__doc__', '__format__',
'__getattribute__', '__hash__', '__init__', '__module__',
'__new__', '__reduce__', '__reduce_ex__', '__repr__',
'__setattr__', '__sizeof__', '__str__', '__subclasshook__',
'__weakref__', 'encoded', 'from_json', 'issuer_dn', 'link',
'nonce', 'not_after', 'not_before', 'pkcs7_cert_chain',
'pretty_repr', 'serial_number', 'status', 'subject_dn']
>>> cert.encoded
u'-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----\nMIIDFjCCA... (a PEM-encoded certificate)'

It has all the things you’d expect a data type representing a digital certificate to have.

As you might expect, enrolling new certificates is not the only way to get at a CertData object. The CertClient API supports listing and searching certificates, revocation and more. It also supports the whole gamut of CA agent operations with respect to pending certificate requests. In addition to approving requests, requests can be reviewed, rejected, assigned to another agent, and so on.


There are many details and features of the Dogtag Python API that were not covered in this post, but the most important details have been covered, and I hope I have conveyed a comprehension of the high-level organisation of the API and the common idioms.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, the API is not yet released and is subject to change, but feel free to have a look at the code or begin experimenting with it. The Dogtag developers welcome feedback and pki-devel mailing list is the place to provide it.

One thought on “Introduction to the Dogtag Python API

  1. Great post Fraser.

    One thing to keep in mind when using the API is that some of the operations are privileged and require the user to be an agent on the dogtag server.

    In the example you provide above, enroll_cert() works only if you connect to the server using a client certificate corresponding to an agent. This is because the operation approve_request() requires client authentication.

    The nice thing is that as long as you set your authentication cert for the PKIConnection to begin with, those credentials will be used over and over again for the session.

    Some doc links:

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