Learn about Kyverno and create your first policy through a Quick Start guide.

About Kyverno

Kyverno (Greek for “govern”) is a policy engine designed specifically for Kubernetes. Some of its many features include:

  • policies as Kubernetes resources (no new language to learn!)
  • validate, mutate, generate, or cleanup (remove) any resource
  • verify container images for software supply chain security
  • inspect image metadata
  • match resources using label selectors and wildcards
  • validate and mutate using overlays (like Kustomize!)
  • synchronize configurations across Namespaces
  • block non-conformant resources using admission controls, or report policy violations
  • self-service reports (no proprietary audit log!)
  • self-service policy exceptions
  • test policies and validate resources using the Kyverno CLI, in your CI/CD pipeline, before applying to your cluster
  • manage policies as code using familiar tools like git and kustomize

Kyverno allows cluster administrators to manage environment specific configurations independently of workload configurations and enforce configuration best practices for their clusters. Kyverno can be used to scan existing workloads for best practices, or can be used to enforce best practices by blocking or mutating API requests.

How Kyverno works

Kyverno runs as a dynamic admission controller in a Kubernetes cluster. Kyverno receives validating and mutating admission webhook HTTP callbacks from the Kubernetes API server and applies matching policies to return results that enforce admission policies or reject requests.

Kyverno policies can match resources using the resource kind, name, label selectors, and much more.

Mutating policies can be written as overlays (similar to Kustomize) or as a RFC 6902 JSON Patch. Validating policies also use an overlay style syntax, with support for pattern matching and conditional (if-then-else) processing.

Policy enforcement is captured using Kubernetes events. For requests that are either allowed or existed prior to introduction of a Kyverno policy, Kyverno creates Policy Reports in the cluster which contain a running list of resources matched by a policy, their status, and more.

The diagram below shows the high-level logical architecture of Kyverno.

Kyverno Architecture

The Webhook is the server which handles incoming AdmissionReview requests from the Kubernetes API server and sends them to the Engine for processing. It is dynamically configured by the Webhook Controller which watches the installed policies and modifies the webhooks to request only the resources matched by those policies. The Cert Renewer is responsible for watching and renewing the certificates, stored as Kubernetes Secrets, needed by the webhook. The Background Controller handles all generate and mutate-existing policies by reconciling UpdateRequests, an intermediary resource. And the Report Controllers handle creation and reconciliation of Policy Reports from their intermediary resources, Admission Reports and Background Scan Reports.

Kyverno also supports high availability. A highly-available installation of Kyverno is one in which the controllers selected for installation are configured to run with multiple replicas. Depending on the controller, the additional replicas may also serve the purpose of increasing the scalability of Kyverno. See the high availability page for more details on the various Kyverno controllers, their components, and how availability is handled in each one.

Quick Start Guides

This section is intended to provide you with some quick guides on how to get Kyverno up and running and demonstrate a few of Kyverno’s seminal features. There are quick start guides which focus on validation, mutation, as well as generation allowing you to select the one (or all) which is most relevant to your use case.

These guides are intended for proof-of-concept or lab demonstrations only and not recommended as a guide for production. Please see the installation page for more complete information on how to install Kyverno in production.

First, install Kyverno from the latest release manifest.

1kubectl create -f

Next, select the quick start guide in which you are interested. Alternatively, start at the top and work your way down.


In the validation guide, you will see how simple an example Kyverno policy can be which ensures a label called team is present on every Pod. Validation is the most common use case for policy and functions as a “yes” or “no” decision making process. Resources which are compliant with the policy are allowed to pass (“yes, this is allowed”) and those which are not compliant may not be allowed to pass (“no, this is not allowed”). An additional effect of these validate policies is to produce Policy Reports. A Policy Report is a custom Kubernetes resource, produced and managed by Kyverno, which shows the results of policy decisions upon allowed resources in a user-friendly way.

Add the policy below to your cluster. It contains a single validation rule that requires that all Pods have the team label. Kyverno supports different rule types to validate, mutate, generate, cleanup, and verify image configurations. The field validationFailureAction is set to Enforce to block Pods that are non-compliant. Using the default value Audit will report violations but not block requests.

 1kubectl create -f- << EOF
 3kind: ClusterPolicy
 5  name: require-labels
 7  validationFailureAction: Enforce
 8  rules:
 9  - name: check-team
10    match:
11      any:
12      - resources:
13          kinds:
14          - Pod
15    validate:
16      message: "label 'team' is required"
17      pattern:
18        metadata:
19          labels:
20            team: "?*"

Try creating a Deployment without the required label.

1kubectl create deployment nginx --image=nginx

You should see an error.

1error: failed to create deployment: admission webhook "validate.kyverno.svc-fail" denied the request: 
3resource Deployment/default/nginx was blocked due to the following policies:
6  autogen-check-team: 'validation error: label ''team'' is
7    required. Rule autogen-check-team failed at path /spec/template/metadata/labels/team/'

In addition to the error returned, Kyverno also produces an Event in the same Namespace which contains this information.

Note that how although the policy matches on Pods, Kyverno blocked the Deployment you just created. This is because Kyverno intelligently applies policies written exclusively for Pods, using its rule auto-generation feature, to all standard Kubernetes Pod controllers including the Deployment above.

Now, create a Pod with the required label.

1kubectl run nginx --image nginx --labels team=backend

This Pod configuration is compliant with the policy and is allowed.

Now that the Pod exists, wait just a few seconds longer and see what other action Kyverno took. Run the following command to retrieve the Policy Report that Kyverno just created.

1kubectl get policyreport

Notice that there is a single Policy Report with just one result listed under the “PASS” column. This result is due to the Pod we just created having passed the policy.

1NAME                  PASS   FAIL   WARN   ERROR   SKIP   AGE
2cpol-require-labels   1      0      0      0       0      2m46s

If you were to describe the above policy report you would see more information about the policy and resource.

 2  Message:  validation rule 'check-team' passed.
 3  Policy:   require-labels
 4  Resources:
 5    API Version:  v1
 6    Kind:         Pod
 7    Name:         nginx
 8    Namespace:    default
 9    UID:          07d04dc0-fbb4-479a-b049-a3d63342b354
10  Result:         pass
11  Rule:           check-team
12  Scored:         true
13  Source:         kyverno
14  Timestamp:
15    Nanos:    0
16    Seconds:  1683759146

Policy reports are helpful in that they are both user- and tool-friendly, based upon an open standard, and separated from the policies which produced them. This separation has the benefit of report access being easy to grant and manage for other users who may not need or have access to Kyverno policies.

Now that you’ve experienced validate policies and seen a bit about policy reports, clean up by deleting the policy you created above.

1kubectl delete clusterpolicy require-labels

Congratulations, you’ve just implemented a validation policy in your Kubernetes cluster! For more details on validation policies, see the validate section.


Mutation is the ability to change or “mutate” a resource in some way prior to it being admitted into the cluster. A mutate rule is similar to a validate rule in that it selects some type of resource (like Pods or ConfigMaps) and defines what the desired state should look like.

Add this Kyverno mutate policy to your cluster. This policy will add the label team to any new Pod and give it the value of bravo but only if a Pod does not already have this label assigned. Kyverno has the ability to perform basic “if-then” logical decisions in a very easy way making policies trivial to write and read. The +(team) notation uses a Kyverno anchor to define the behavior Kyverno should take if the label key is not found.

 1kubectl create -f- << EOF
 3kind: ClusterPolicy
 5  name: add-labels
 7  rules:
 8  - name: add-team
 9    match:
10      any:
11      - resources:
12          kinds:
13          - Pod
14    mutate:
15      patchStrategicMerge:
16        metadata:
17          labels:
18            +(team): bravo

Let’s now create a new Pod which does not have the desired label defined.

1kubectl run redis --image redis

Once the Pod has been created, get the Pod to see if the team label was added.

1kubectl get pod redis --show-labels

You should see that the label team=bravo has been added by Kyverno.

Try one more Pod, this time one which does already define the team label.

1kubectl run newredis --image redis -l team=alpha

Get this Pod back and check once again for labels.

1kubectl get pod myredis --show-labels

This time, you should see Kyverno did not add the team label with the value defined in the policy since one was already found on the Pod.

Now that you’ve experienced mutate policies and seen how logic can be written easily, clean up by deleting the policy you created above.

1kubectl delete clusterpolicy add-labels

Congratulations, you’ve just implemented a mutation policy in your Kubernetes cluster! For more details on mutate policies, see the mutate section.


Kyverno has the ability to generate (i.e., create) a new Kubernetes resource based upon a definition stored in a policy. Like both validate and mutate rules, Kyverno generate rules use similar concepts and structures to express policy. The generation ability is both powerful and flexible with one of its most useful aspects being, in addition to the initial generation, it has the ability to continually synchronize the resources it has generated. Generate rules can be a powerful automation tool and can solve many common challenges faced by Kubernetes operators. Let’s look at one such use case in this guide.

We will use a Kyverno generate policy to generate an image pull secret in a new Namespace.

First, create this Kubernetes Secret in your cluster which will simulate a real image pull secret.

1kubectl -n default create secret docker-registry regcred \
2 \
3  --docker-username=john.doe \
4  --docker-password=Passw0rd123! \

Next, create the following Kyverno policy. The sync-secrets policy will match on any newly-created Namespace and will clone the Secret we just created earlier into that new Namespace.

 1kubectl create -f- << EOF
 3kind: ClusterPolicy
 5  name: sync-secrets
 7  rules:
 8  - name: sync-image-pull-secret
 9    match:
10      any:
11      - resources:
12          kinds:
13          - Namespace
14    generate:
15      apiVersion: v1
16      kind: Secret
17      name: regcred
18      namespace: "{{}}"
19      synchronize: true
20      clone:
21        namespace: default
22        name: regcred

Create a new Namespace to test the policy.

1kubectl create ns mytestns

Get the Secrets in this new Namespace and see if regcred is present.

1kubectl -n mytestns get secret

You should see that Kyverno has generated the regcred Secret using the source Secret from the default Namespace as the template. If you wish, you may also modify the source Secret and watch as Kyverno synchronizes those changes down to wherever it has generated it.

With a basic understanding of generate policies, clean up by deleting the policy you created above.

1kubectl delete clusterpolicy sync-secrets

Congratulations, you’ve just implemented a generation policy in your Kubernetes cluster! For more details on generate policies, see the generate section.

Last modified May 12, 2023 at 8:47 AM PST: Fixes (#842) (9bf720d)