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Version: 1.13

Introduction to CEL

The Common Expression Language (CEL) is a general-purpose expression language designed to be fast, portable, and safe to execute. CEL as a language is memory-safe, side-effect free, terminating (programs cannot loop forever), and strong & dynamically typed. You can learn more about CEL at, and practice it in the CEL playground.

CEL in Kubernetes

CEL was chosen as the language for Kubernetes validation rules as CEL expressions can be easily inlined into CRD schemas, and compiled and type-checked "ahead-of-time" (when CRDs are created and updated). For these reasons and its general characteristics, it's a perfect candidate for extending the Kubernetes API.

Marked as stable with Kubernetes 1.30, one can use CEL on ValidatingAdmissionPolicies and other validation rules. For more info, see the Kubernetes docs here.

Kubernetes function libraries

Kubernetes CEL validation rules have access to several function libraries:

CEL in Kubewarden: cel-policy

Kubewarden provides cel-policy. This is a policy that builds and bundles the upstream cel-go interpreter, and also the different libraries listed above and available for CEL in Kubernetes from apiextensions-apiserver.

In addition, cel-policy bundles a Kubewarden CEL extension library that exposes Kubewarden's host capabilities as native CEL:

  • Sigstore verification
  • OCI interaction
  • Cryptographic functions
  • Network operations
  • Access to Kubernetes resources

This means that cel-policy is a superset of Kubernetes CEL, and backwards-compatible. One can reuse CEL written for vanilla Kubernetes, and/or make use of the features added by Kubewarden.

The cel-policy is shipped compiled and behaves as a CEL interpreter. Users of the policy pass the desired CEL expressions in the spec.settings of the (Cluster)AdmissionPolicy, and thanks to CEL features, the expression gets compiled and typed-checked for correctness when creating or updating the (Cluster)AdmissionPolicy. This means there's no need for custom builds of the cel-policy.

Benefits of Kubewarden's cel-policy in comparison with ValidatingAdmissionPolicies

The Kubewarden cel-policy:

  • It's CEL code is backwards-compatible with ValidatingAdmissionPolicies.
  • Contrary to ValidatingAdmissionPolicies, it doesn't need a binding such as ValidatingAdmissionPolicyBinding, as this is included in Kubewarden's (Cluster)Admissionpolicies definitions.
  • Can be deployed to clusters that lack ValidatingAdmissionPolicies support.
  • Is context-aware, and makes use of Kubewarden's fine-grained permissions for context awareness.
  • Is deployed as (Cluster)AdmissionPolicy.
  • Benefits from Kubewarden's tracing and telemetry on policies.
  • It will be taken into account by the Audit Scanner.
  • Can be developed and tested out-of-cluster thanks to kwctl.