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Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) Renewal Information (ARI) Extension

Document Type Active Internet-Draft (acme WG)
Author Aaron Gable
Last updated 2024-02-08
Replaces draft-aaron-acme-ari
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Intended RFC status (None)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state WG Document
Associated WG milestone
Nov 2024
Send Renewal Information Extension to the IESG for standards track publication
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IESG IESG state I-D Exists
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ACME Working Group                                              A. Gable
Internet-Draft                          Internet Security Research Group
Intended status: Standards Track                         8 February 2024
Expires: 11 August 2024

Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) Renewal Information
                            (ARI) Extension


   This document specifies how an ACME server may provide suggestions to
   ACME clients as to when they should attempt to renew their
   certificates.  This allows servers to mitigate load spikes, and
   ensures clients do not make false assumptions about appropriate
   certificate renewal periods.

Current Implementations

   Draft note: this section will be removed by the editor before final

   Let's Encrypt's Boulder (
   software fully implements the server side of an earlier version of
   this draft, and that implementation is deployed in both the
   Production ( and
   Staging (
   environments.  Google Trust Services has done the same
   api_0503894189.html).  Client implementations include Lego
   (, eggsampler
   (, ACMEz
   (, and win-acme (

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

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   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 11 August 2024.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2024 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Revised BSD License text as
   described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Conventions and Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Extensions to the Directory Object  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   4.  Getting Renewal Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     4.1.  The "renewalInfo" Resource  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     4.2.  RenewalInfo Objects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  Extensions to the Order Object  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     7.1.  ACME Resource Type  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     7.2.  ACME Renewal Info Object Fields . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     7.3.  ACME Order Object Fields  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   8.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   Appendix A.  Example Certificate  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction

   Most ACME [RFC8555] clients today choose when to attempt to renew a
   certificate in one of three ways.  They may be configured to renew at
   a specific interval (e.g. via cron); they may parse the issued
   certificate to determine its expiration date and renew a specific
   amount of time before then; or they may parse the issued certificate
   and renew when some percentage of its validity period has passed.

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   The first two techniques create significant barriers against the
   issuing Certification Authority (CA) changing certificate lifetimes.
   All three techniques lead to load clustering for the issuing CA.

   Allowing issuing CAs to suggest a period in which clients should
   renew their certificates enables for dynamic time-based load
   balancing.  This allows a CA to better respond to exceptional
   circumstances.  For example, a CA could suggest that clients renew
   prior to a mass-revocation event to mitigate the impact of the
   revocation, or a CA could suggest that clients renew earlier than
   they normally would to reduce the size of an upcoming mass-renewal

   This document specifies a mechanism by which ACME servers may provide
   suggested renewal windows to ACME clients.

2.  Conventions and Definitions

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119][RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

3.  Extensions to the Directory Object

   An ACME server which wishes to provide renewal information MUST
   include a new field, renewalInfo, in its directory object.

                      | Field       | URL in Value |
                      | renewalInfo | Renewal info |

                                 Table 1

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   HTTP/1.1 200 OK
   Content-Type: application/json

     "newNonce": "",
     "newAccount": "",
     "newOrder": "",
     "newAuthz": "",
     "revokeCert": "",
     "keyChange": "",
     "renewalInfo": "",
     "meta": {
       "termsOfService": "",
       "website": "",
       "caaIdentities": [""],
       "externalAccountRequired": false

4.  Getting Renewal Information

4.1.  The "renewalInfo" Resource

   The "renewalInfo" resource is a new resource type introduced to ACME
   protocol.  This new resource both allows clients to query the server
   for suggestions on when they should renew certificates, and allows
   clients to inform the server when they have completed renewal (or
   otherwise replaced the certificate to their satisfaction).

   To request the suggested renewal information for a certificate, the
   client sends a GET request to a path under the server's renewalInfo

   The path component is a unique identifier for the certificate in
   question.  The unique identifer is constructed by concatenating the
   base64url-encoding Section 5 of [RFC4648] of the bytes of the
   keyIdentifier field of certificate's Authority Key Identifier (AKI)
   Section of [RFC5280] extension, a literal period, and the
   base64url-encoding of the bytes of the DER encoding of the
   certificate's Serial Number (without the tag and length bytes).  All
   trailing "=" characters MUST be stripped from both parts of the
   unique identifier.

   Thus the full request url is constructed as follows, where the "||"
   operator indicates string concatenation and the renewalInfo url is
   taken from the Directory object:

   url = renewalInfo || '/' || base64url(AKI) || '.' || base64url(Serial)

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   For example, to request renewal information for the end-entity
   certificate given in Appendix A, the client would make the request as

   1.  The keyIdentifier field of the certificate's AKI extension has
       the hexadecimal bytes
       69:88:5B:6B:87:46:40:41:E1:B3:7B:84:7B:A0:AE:2C:DE:01:C8:D4 as
       its ASN.1 Octet String value.  The base64url encoding of those
       bytes is aYhba4dGQEHhs3uEe6CuLN4ByNQ=.
   2.  The certificate's Serial Number field has the hexadecimal bytes
       00:87:65:43:21 as its DER encoding (note the leading zero byte to
       ensure the serial number remains positive despite the leading 1
       bit in 0x87).  The base64url encoding of those bytes is AIdlQyE=.
   3.  Stripping the trailing padding characters and concatenating with
       the separator, the unique identifier is therefore
       aYhba4dGQEHhs3uEe6CuLN4ByNQ.AIdlQyE, and the client makes the
       request (split onto multiple lines for readability):


4.2.  RenewalInfo Objects

   The structure of an ACME renewalInfo resource is as follows:

   suggestedWindow (object, required): A JSON object with two keys,
   "start" and "end", whose values are timestamps, encoded in the format
   specified in [RFC3339], which bound the window of time in which the
   CA recommends renewing the certificate.

   explanationURL (string, optional): A URL pointing to a page which may
   explain why the suggested renewal window is what it is.  For example,
   it may be a page explaining the CA's dynamic load-balancing strategy,
   or a page documenting which certificates are affected by a mass
   revocation event.  Conforming clients SHOULD provide this URL to
   their operator, if present.

   HTTP/1.1 200 OK
   Content-Type: application/json
   Retry-After: 21600

     "suggestedWindow": {
       "start": "2021-01-03T00:00:00Z",
       "end": "2021-01-07T00:00:00Z"
     "explanationURL": ""

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   The server SHOULD include a Retry-After header indicating the polling
   interval that the ACME server recommends.  Conforming clients SHOULD
   query the renewalInfo URL again after the Retry-After period has
   passed, as the server may provide a different suggestedWindow.

   Conforming clients MUST attempt renewal at a time of their choosing
   based on the suggested renewal window.  The following algorithm is
   RECOMMENDED for choosing a renewal time:

   1.  Select a uniform random time within the suggested window.
   2.  If the selected time is in the past, attempt renewal immediately.
   3.  Otherwise, if the client can schedule itself to attempt renewal
       at exactly the selected time, do so.
   4.  Otherwise, if the selected time is before the next time that the
       client would wake up normally, attempt renewal immediately.
   5.  Otherwise, sleep until the next normal wake time, re-check ARI,
       and return to Step 1.

   In all cases, renewal attempts are subject to the client's existing
   error backoff and retry intervals.

   In particular, cron-based clients may find they need to increase
   their run frequency to check ARI more frequently.  Those clients will
   need to store information about failures so that increasing their run
   frequency doesn't lead to retrying failures without proper backoff.
   Typical information stored should include: number of failures for a
   given order (defined by the set of names on the order), and time of
   the most recent failure.

   If the client receives no response or a malformed response (e.g. an
   end timestamp which is equal to or precedes the start timestamp), it
   SHOULD make its own determination of when to renew the certificate,
   and MAY retry the renewalInfo request with appropriate exponential
   backoff behavior.

5.  Extensions to the Order Object

   In order to convey information regarding which certificate requests
   represent renewals of previous certificates, a new field is added to
   the Order object:

   replaces (string, optional): A string uniquely identifying a
   previously-issued certificate which this order is intended to
   replace.  This unique identifier is constructed in the same way as
   the path component for GET requests described above.

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   Clients SHOULD include this field in New Order requests if there is a
   clear predecessor certificate, as is the case for most certificate

   POST /acme/new-order HTTP/1.1
   Content-Type: application/jose+json

     "protected": base64url({
       "alg": "ES256",
       "kid": "",
       "nonce": "5XJ1L3lEkMG7tR6pA00clA",
       "url": ""
     "payload": base64url({
       "identifiers": [
         { "type": "dns", "value": "" }
       "replaces": "aYhba4dGQEHhs3uEe6CuLN4ByNQ.AIdlQyE"
     "signature": "H6ZXtGjTZyUnPeKn...wEA4TklBdh3e454g"

   Servers SHOULD check that the identified certificate and the current
   New Order request correspond to the same ACME Account and share a
   preponderance of identifiers, and that the identified certificate has
   not already been marked as replaced by a different finalized Order.
   Servers MAY ignore the replaces field in New Order requests which do
   not pass such checks.

   It is suggested that Servers should use this information to grant New
   Order requests which arrive during the suggested renewal window of
   their identified predecessor certificate higher priority or allow
   them to bypass rate limits, if the Server's policy uses such.

6.  Security Considerations

   The extensions to the ACME protocol described in this document build
   upon the Security Considerations and threat model defined in
   [RFC8555], Section Section 10.1.

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   This document specifies that renewalInfo resources MUST be exposed
   and accessed via unauthenticated GET requests, a departure from
   RFC8555’s requirement that clients must send POST-as-GET requests to
   fetch resources from the server.  This is because the information
   contained in renewalInfo resources is not considered confidential,
   and because allowing renewalInfo to be easily cached is advantageous
   to shed load from clients which do not respect the Retry-After

7.  IANA Considerations

7.1.  ACME Resource Type

   IANA will add the following entry to the "ACME Resource Types"
   registry within the "Automated Certificate Management Environment
   (ACME) Protocol" registry group at
   acme (

           | Field Name  | Resource Type       | Reference     |
           | renewalInfo | Renewal Info object | This document |

                                  Table 2

7.2.  ACME Renewal Info Object Fields

   IANA will add the following new registry to the "Automated
   Certificate Management Environment (ACME) Protocol" registry group at

   Registry Name: ACME Renewal Info Object Fields

   Registration Procedure: Specification Required


   *  Field name: The string to be used as a field name in the JSON
   *  Field type: The type of value to be provided, e.g., string,
      boolean, array of string
   *  Reference: Where this field is defined

   Initial contents:

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             | Field Name      | Field type | Reference     |
             | suggestedWindow | object     | This document |
             | explanationURL  | string     | This document |

                                 Table 3

7.3.  ACME Order Object Fields

   IANA will add the following entry to the "ACME Order Object Fields"
   registry within the "Automated Certificate Management Environment
   (ACME) Protocol" registry group at
   acme (

        | Field Name | Field Type | Configurable | Reference     |
        | replaces   | string     | true         | This document |

                                 Table 4

8.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC3339]  Klyne, G. and C. Newman, "Date and Time on the Internet:
              Timestamps", RFC 3339, DOI 10.17487/RFC3339, July 2002,

   [RFC4648]  Josefsson, S., "The Base16, Base32, and Base64 Data
              Encodings", RFC 4648, DOI 10.17487/RFC4648, October 2006,

   [RFC5280]  Cooper, D., Santesson, S., Farrell, S., Boeyen, S.,
              Housley, R., and W. Polk, "Internet X.509 Public Key
              Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation List
              (CRL) Profile", RFC 5280, DOI 10.17487/RFC5280, May 2008,

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   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

   [RFC8555]  Barnes, R., Hoffman-Andrews, J., McCarney, D., and J.
              Kasten, "Automatic Certificate Management Environment
              (ACME)", RFC 8555, DOI 10.17487/RFC8555, March 2019,

Appendix A.  Example Certificate

   -----END CERTIFICATE-----


   My thanks to Roland Shoemaker and Jacob Hoffman-Andrews for coming up
   with the initial idea of ARI and for helping me learn the IETF
   process.  Thanks also to Samantha Frank, Matt Holt, Ilari Liusvaara,
   and Wouter Tinus for contributing client implementations.  Finally,
   thanks to Rob Stradling, Andrew Ayer, and J.C.  Jones for providing
   meaningful feedback and suggestions which significantly improved this

Author's Address

   A. Gable
   Internet Security Research Group

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