Jason Stitt

Google didn't make it easy to use workspace APIs from Kubernetes, but here's how

Using the Google Workspace APIs has always been a little more complex than it feels like it should be. While technically they’re separate APIs and services from Google Cloud, the authentication runs through not just Google Cloud projects, but service accounts – you can’t just hit Google Workspace APIs “directly” with a user.

After creating my Google Cloud service account, rather than download a secret key file from Google Cloud (which would need to be manually rotated), I used federated workload identity to trade a Kubernetes service account for Google Cloud service account creds, as I wrote about previously.

But of course, it wasn’t that simple, because using Google Workspace APIs depends on delegated access from the Google Cloud service account to the Google Workspace user, and there was a problem combining this with federated workload identity.

Locally, after I downloaded a service account key file and pointed the GOOGLE_APPLICATION_CREDS env var at it, auth was a simple matter of:

import os
import google.auth

delegated_user = os.getenv("DELEGATED_USER")
credentials, project = google.auth.default()
credentials = credentials.with_subject(delegated_user).with_scopes(SCOPES)

The with_subject method here is responsible for taking the Google Cloud service account and making it usable on behalf of a given Google Workspace username (email address).

As soon as I deployed to Kubernetes, however, the code threw an AttributeError because, it turns out, the credentials object no longer had a with_subject method.

The problem here is that the Google Cloud auth libraries don’t present a clean abstraction. I’m more used to AWS, and I’m fairly certain that although your AWS creds can come from different providers, and some might be temporary vs. long-lived, once you have your creds, they behave the same. With Google Cloud auth, on the other hand, we have a difference between creds sourced from different credential providers that actually behave differently (have different methods defined), and we have to do some form of type detection.

I found part of the solution in this StackOverflow answer. However, it was either incomplete or something changed in the last few years.

After a couple hours, I was unable to find a way to coerce my creds into a form that didn’t require two separate code branches. I was, however, able to solve the problem in this way:

import google.auth
import google.auth.iam
import google.auth.transport
from google.oauth2 import service_account

def get_credentials(username, scopes):
    delegation_scopes = ["https://www.googleapis.com/auth/iam"]
    token_url = "https://accounts.google.com/o/oauth2/token"
    credentials, project = google.auth.default()
    if hasattr(credentials, "with_subject"):
        return credentials.with_subject(username).with_scopes(scopes)
    request = google.auth.transport.requests.Request()
    credentials = credentials.with_scopes(delegation_scopes)
    signer = google.auth.iam.Signer(
        request, credentials, credentials.service_account_email
    return service_account.Credentials(

The happy case up front is for local credentials. If that doesn’t work, we fall back to the workaround used to generate a new service account token. The two different scope assignments are an important part of the solution that I had trouble finding documented anywhere.

Also, this method requires that your federated principal has the Service Account Token Creator role so that it can create a new service account token (which is able to be used with a Google Workspace subject, unlike the service account token provided to your process).

© 2009-2024 Jason Stitt. These are my personal views and don't represent any past or present employer.