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Note well: Rego support has been introduced starting from these releases:

  • kwctl: v0.2.0
  • policy-server: v0.2.0

The Rego language is a tailor made language designed to embrace policies as code. Rego is a language inspired by Datalog.

There are two ways of writing Rego policies as of today in order to implement policies as code in Kubernetes: Open Policy Agent and Gatekeeper.

While the next couple of sections detail how the two frameworks are different even though the same language is used, if you're more interested in the Kubewarden implementation you may directly visit the framework-specific documentation we have linked below.

One language. Two frameworksโ€‹

Open Policy Agentโ€‹

Open Policy Agent is a project that allows you to implement policies as code in any project. You can rely on Open Policy Agent for any policy based check that you might require in your own application, that will in turn execute the required Rego policies.

In this context, writing policies for Kubernetes is just another way of exercising Open Policy Agent. By using Kubernetes admission webhooks, it's possible to evaluate requests using Open Policy Agent, that will in turn execute the policies written in Rego.

Open Policy Agent has some optional integration with Kubernetes through its kube-mgmt sidecar. When deployed on top of Kubernetes and next to the Open Policy Agent server evaluating the Rego policies, it is able to replicate the configured Kubernetes resources into Rego -- so those Kubernetes resources are visible to all policies. It also lets you define policies inside Kubernetes' ConfigMap objects. You can read more about it on its project page.


Gatekeeper is very different from Open Policy Agent in this regard. It is focused exclusively to be used in Kubernetes, and takes advantage of that as much as it can, making some Kubernetes workflows easier than Open Policy Agent in many cases.

Looking at the differencesโ€‹

Both Open Policy Agent and Gatekeeper policies use Rego to describe their policies as code. However, this is only one part of the puzzle. Each solution has differences when it comes to writing real policies in Rego, and we are going to look at those differences in the next sections.

Entry pointโ€‹

The entry point is the name of a rule within a package, and is the rule to be invoked by the runtime when the policy is instantiated.

Current limitationsโ€‹

Context-aware policiesโ€‹

Context-aware policies are policies that don't evaluate the input request in isolation. They take other factors into account in order to take a decision. For example, a policy that evaluates namespaced resources and uses an annotation on the parent namespace to configure something on the policy. Another example would be a policy that evaluates Ingress resources, but that in order to take a decision has the list of the already existing Ingress resources.

The concept of context-aware policies can also extend to custom resources, so your policy might want to evaluate a request based on currently persisted custom resources as well.

Both Open Policy Agent and Gatekeeper support context-aware policies. Right now Kubewarden implements this functionality only for policies written with the Kubewarden SDK. We have plans to fill this gap, to allow Rego policies to be context-aware policies too.

Mutating policiesโ€‹

Gatekeeper has support for mutating policies, but Kubewarden has not yet implemented mutating policies with Gatekeeper compatibility. You can use policies that use the Kubewarden SDK to write mutating policies, but at the time of writing, you cannot run Gatekeeper mutating policies in Kubewarden yet.