How to authenticate with gcloud credentials in Python


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When you want to create a Python command line utility for Google Cloud Platform, it would be awesome if you could use the active gcloud credentials in Python. Unfortunately, the Google Cloud Client libraries do not support using the gcloud credentials. In this blog, I will present a small Python library which you can use to do just that.

How use the gcloud credentials in Python

It is really simple. You install the package gcloud-config-helper and call the default function, as shown below:

import gcloud_config_helper
credentials, project = gcloud_config_helper.default()

You pass the credentials to a service client as follows:

c = compute_v1.InstancesClient(credentials=credentials)
for zone, instances in c.aggregated_list(request={"project": project}):
    for instance in instances.instances:
        print(f'found {} in zone {zone}')

That is all there is to it! Check out the complete example of using the gcloud configured credentials.

How does it work?

The library executes the command gcloud config config-helper. This commands provides authentication and configuration data to external tools. It returns an access token, an id token, the name of the active configuration and all associated configuration properties as show below:

      active_configuration: playground
          project: playground
      access_token: ya12.YHYeGSG8flksArMeVRXsQB4HFQ8aodXiGdBgfEdznaVuAymcBGHS6pZSp7RqBMjSzHgET08BmH3TntQDOteVPIQWZNJmiXZDr1i99ELRqDxDAP8Jk1RFu1xew7XKeQTOTnm22AGDh28pUEHXVaXtRN8GZ4xHbOoxrTt7yBG3R7ff9ajGVYHYeGSG8flksArMeVRXsQB4HFQ8aodXiGdBgfEdznaVuAymcBGHS6pZSp7RqBMjSzHgET08BmH3TntQDOteVPIQWZNJmiXZDr1i99ELRqDxDAP8Jk1RFu1xew7XKeQTOTnm22AGDh28pUEHXVaXtRN8GZ4xHbOoxrTt7yBG3R7ff9ajGV
      id_token: eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpc3MiOiJodHRwczovL2FjY291bnRzLmdvb2dsZS5jb20iLCJhenAiOiI5OTk5OTk5OTk5OS5hcHBzLmdvb2dsZXVzZXJjb250ZW50LmNvbSIsImF1ZCI6Ijk5OTk5OTk5OTk5LmFwcHMuZ29vZ2xldXNlcmNvbnRlbnQuY29tIiwic3ViIjoiMTExMTExMTExMTEyMjIyMjIyMjIyMjIiLCJoZCI6ImJpbnguaW8iLCJlbWFpbCI6Im1hcmt2YW5ob2xzdGVpam5AYmlueC5pbyIsImVtYWlsX3ZlcmlmaWVkIjp0cnVlLCJhdF9oYXNoIjoic2Rmc2prZGZqc2tkZnNrZGZqcyIsImlhdCI6MTU4ODcwMTY4MywiZXhwIjoxNTg4NzA1MjgzfQ.-iRKFf69ImE93bvUGBxn3Fa5aPBjhyzeWfLzuaNdIGI
      token_expiry: '2020-05-05T19:01:22Z'

When the token expires, the library will call the helper again to refresh it. Note that Google is unsure whether the config-helper is a good thing. If you read gcloud config config-helper --help, you will notice the following sentence:

This command is an internal implementation detail and may change or disappear without notice.

For the development of command line utilities which integrate into the Google Cloud SDK ecosystem, it would be really handy if Google would provide an official way to obtain the active gcloud configuration and credentials.


With the help of this library, it is possible to create a command line utility in Python for the Google Cloud Platform using the gcloud credentials in Python. It is unfortunate that Google marks the config-helper as a volatile interface. Given the simplicity of the interface, I trust this library will be able to deal with any future changes. It would be even better, if Google would provide official support.

We also created a library for authenticating with gcloud credentials in Go.

Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay

Mark van Holsteijn is a senior software systems architect, and CTO of He is passionate about removing waste in the software delivery process and keeping things clear and simple.
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