While cockpit allows you to monitor and administer several servers at the same time, there is always a primary server your browser connects to that runs the Cockpit web service (cockpit-ws) through which connections to additional servers are established. See this diagram for how it works.
Normally, a session is established on the primary server, and you use the Shell UI of that session to connect to secondary servers.
However, it is also possible to instruct the
cockpit-ws process on the primary server to
directly connect to a secondary server, without opening a
session on the primary server at all. This is done on the main
login page of Cockpit, by filling out the "Connect to"
The most common way to use Cockpit is to just log directly into the server that you want to access. This can be done if you have direct network access to port 9090 on that server.
By default the cockpit web service is installed on the base system and
socket activated by systemd. In this setup
access is controlled by a cockpit specific pam stack, generally located
/etc/pam.d/cockpit. By default this is configured
to allow you to login with the username and password of any local account on the
system. You can also setup a Kerberos based SSO
solution or certificate/smart
You can also disable authentication schemes to enforce authentication policies, or to suppress undesired browser GSSAPI authentication dialogs.
The web server can also be run from the
container. If you are running cockpit on a container host operating system like
this will be the only supported mode. In this setup, cockpit establishes an
SSH connection from the container to the underlying host, meaning that it is up to
your SSH server to grant access. To login with a local account,
will need to be configured to allow password based authentication.
Alternatively you can setup a Kerberos based SSO
sshd, cockpit can be configured to limit the number
of concurrent login attempts allowed. This is done by adding a
option to the
WebService section of your
Additional connections will be dropped until authentication succeeds or
the connections are closed.
Once you have a session on the primary server you will be able to connect to additional servers by using the host switching UI of the Cockpit Shell. This is useful if you have direct network access to the primary server, but not to the secondary server.
On the command line, you would log into the primary server
and then use SSH to log into the secondary one. Cockpit does just
the same, and uses SSH to log into the secondary server. Instead
of running a interactive shell there, however, it starts a
Thus, these servers will need to be running an SSH server on port 22 and be configured to support one of the following authentication methods.
The target server will need to be a member of the same domain as the primary server and your domain must be whitelisted in your browser. See the SSO documentation for how to set this up.
When you successfully log into the primary server, a
ssh-agent is started and keys are loaded into
it by running
ssh-add without any arguments.
Any passphrase prompt is answered with the password used to log
into the primary server.
Cockpit provides a user interface for loading other keys into the agent that could not be automatically loaded.
The target server will need to have public key
authentication enabled in
sshd, and the
public key you wish to use must be present in
~/.ssh/authorized_keys. Cockpit has a user
interface for creating SSH keys and for authorizing them.
It is also possible to log into a secondary server without opening a session on the primary server. This is useful if you are not actually interested in the primary server and would only use it because you do not have direct network access to the secondary server.
In this case,
cockpit-ws still runs on
the primary server, but the credentials from the login screen are
directly used with SSH to log into the secondary server given in
the "Connect To" field of the login screen.
Thus, the PAM configuration and accounts on the primary server don't matter at all. Often, the only purpose of the primary server is to sit on the boundary of your network and forward connections to internal machines.
In this case, the login page will prompt you to verify unknown SSH keys. Accepted keys will be remembered in the local storage of your browser.