20. The Kea Shell

20.1. Overview of the Kea Shell

The Kea Control Agent (CA, see The Kea Control Agent) provides a RESTful control interface over HTTP. That API is typically expected to be used by various IPAMs and similar management systems. Nevertheless, there may be cases when an administrator wants to send a command to the CA directly, and the Kea shell provides a way to do this. It is a simple command-line, scripting-friendly, text client that is able to connect to the CA, send it commands with parameters, retrieve the responses, and display them.

As the primary purpose of the Kea shell is as a tool in a scripting environment, it is not interactive. However, by following simple guidelines it can be run manually.

Kea 1.9.0 introduced basic HTTP authentication support.

20.2. Shell Usage

kea-shell is run as follows:

$ kea-shell [--host hostname] [--port number] [--path path] [--auth-user] [--auth-password] [--timeout seconds] [--service service-name] [command]


  • --host hostname specifies the hostname of the CA. If not specified, "localhost" is used.
  • --port number specifies the TCP port on which the CA listens. If not specified, 8000 is used.
  • --path path specifies the path in the URL to connect to. If not specified, an empty path is used. As the CA listens at the empty path, this parameter is useful only with a reverse proxy.
  • --auth-user specifies the user ID for basic HTTP authentication. If not specified or specified as the empty string, authentication is not used.
  • --auth-password specifies the password for basic HTTP authentication. If not specified but the user ID is specified, an empty password is used.
  • --timeout seconds specifies the timeout (in seconds) for the connection. If not given, 10 seconds is used.
  • --service service-name specifies the target of a command. If not given, the CA is used as the target. This may be used more than once to specify multiple targets.
  • command specifies the command to be sent. If not specified, the list-commands command is used.

Other switches are:

  • -h - prints a help message.
  • -v - prints the software version.

See TLS Support for new command-line arguments associated with TLS/HTTPS support.

Once started, the shell reads the parameters for the command from standard input, which are expected to be in JSON format. When all have been read, the shell establishes a connection with the CA using HTTP, sends the command, and awaits a response. Once that is received, it is displayed on standard output.

For a list of available commands, see Management API; additional commands may be provided by hook libraries. For a list of all supported commands from the CA, use the list-commands command.

The following shows a simple example of usage:

$ kea-shell --host --port 8001 --service dhcp4 list-commands

After the command line is entered, the program waits for command parameters to be entered. Since list-commands does not take any arguments, Ctrl-D (represented in the above example by "^D") indicates end-of-file and terminates the parameter input. The shell then contacts the CA and prints out the list of available commands returned for the service named dhcp4.

The Kea shell will likely be most frequently used in scripts; the next example shows a simple scripted execution. It sends the command config-write to the CA (the --service parameter has not been used), along with the parameters specified in param.json. The result will be stored in result.json.

$ cat param.json
"filename": "my-config-file.json"
$ cat param.json | kea-shell --host config-write > result.json

When a reverse proxy is used to de-multiplex requests to different servers, the default empty path in the URL is not enough, so the --path parameter should be used. For instance, if requests to the "/kea" path are forwarded to the CA this can be used:

$ kea-shell --host --port 8001 --path kea ...

The Kea shell requires Python to be installed on the system. It has been tested with Python 2.7 and various versions of Python 3, up to 3.5. Since not every Kea deployment uses this feature and there are deployments that do not have Python, the Kea shell is not enabled by default. To use it, specify --enable-shell when running configure during the installation of Kea. When building on Debian systems, --with-site-packages=... may also be useful.

The Kea shell is intended to serve more as a demonstration of the RESTful interface's capabilities (and, perhaps, an illustration for people interested in integrating their management environments with Kea) than as a serious management client. It is not likely to be significantly expanded in the future; it is, and will remain, a simple tool.


When using this tool with basic HTTP authentication, please keep in mind that command-line arguments are not hidden from local users.

20.3. TLS Support

Since Kea 1.9.6, kea-shell supports HTTPS connections. The TLS/HTTPS support requires Python 3. The additional command-line arguments are:

  • --ca specifies the file or directory name of the Certification Authority. If not specified, HTTPS is not used.
  • --cert specifies the file name of the user end-entity public key certificate. If specified, the file name of the user key must also be specified.
  • --key specifies the file name of the user key file. If specified, the file name of the user certificate must also be specified. Encrypted key files are not supported.

For example, a basic HTTPS request to get a list of commands could look like this:

$ kea-shell --host --port 8000 --ca ./kea-ca.crt list-commands