Note: this is also covered in the Open Cluster Management - Configuring Your Kubernetes Fleet With the Policy Addon video.

Open Cluster Management - Configuring Your Kubernetes Fleet With the Policy Addon

The policy framework has the following API concepts:

  • Policy Templates are the policies that perform a desired check or action. For example, ConfigurationPolicy objects are embedded in Policy objects under the policy-templates array.
  • A Policy is a grouping mechanism for Policy Templates and is the smallest deployable unit on the hub cluster. Embedded Policy Templates are distributed to applicable managed clusters and acted upon by the appropriate policy controller.
  • A PolicySet is a grouping mechanism of Policy objects. Compliance of all grouped Policy objects is summarized in the PolicySet. A PolicySet is a deployable unit and its distribution is controlled by a Placement.
  • A PlacementBinding binds a Placement to a Policy or PolicySet.

The second half of the KubeCon NA 2022 - OCM Multicluster App & Config Management also covers an overview of the Policy addon.


A Policy is a grouping mechanism for Policy Templates and is the smallest deployable unit on the hub cluster. Embedded Policy Templates are distributed to applicable managed clusters and acted upon by the appropriate policy controller. The compliance state and status of a Policy represents all embedded Policy Templates in the Policy. The distribution of Policy objects is controlled by a Placement.

View a simple example of a Policy that embeds a ConfigurationPolicy policy template to manage a namespace called “prod”.

apiVersion: policy.open-cluster-management.io/v1
kind: Policy
  name: policy-namespace
  namespace: policies
    policy.open-cluster-management.io/standards: NIST SP 800-53
    policy.open-cluster-management.io/categories: CM Configuration Management
    policy.open-cluster-management.io/controls: CM-2 Baseline Configuration
  remediationAction: enforce
  disabled: false
    - objectDefinition:
        apiVersion: policy.open-cluster-management.io/v1
        kind: ConfigurationPolicy
          name: policy-namespace-example
          remediationAction: inform
          severity: low
            - complianceType: musthave
                kind: Namespace # must have namespace 'prod'
                apiVersion: v1
                  name: prod

The annotations are standard annotations for informational purposes and can be used by user interfaces, custom report scripts, or components that integrate with OCM.

The optional spec.remediationAction field dictates whether the policy controller should inform or enforce when violations are found and overrides the remediationAction field on each policy template. When set to inform, the Policy will become noncompliant if the underlying policy templates detect that the desired state is not met. When set to enforce, the policy controller applies the desired state when necessary and feasible.

The policy-templates array contains an array of Policy Templates. Here a single ConfigurationPolicy called policy-namespace-example defines a Namespace manifest to compare with objects on the cluster. It has the remediationAction set to inform but it is overridden by the optional global spec.remediationAction. The severity is for informational purposes similar to the annotations.

Inside of the embedded ConfigurationPolicy, the object-templates section describes the prod Namespace object that the ConfigurationPolicy applies to. The action that the ConfigurationPolicy will take is determined by the complianceType. In this case, it is set to musthave which means the prod Namespace object will be created if it doesn’t exist. Other compliance types include mustnothave and mustonlyhave. mustnothave would delete the prod Namespace object. mustonlyhave would ensure the prod Namespace object only exists with the fields defined in the ConfigurationPolicy. See the ConfigurationPolicy page for more information or see the templating in configuration policies topic for advanced templating use cases with ConfigurationPolicy.

When the Policy is bound to a Placement using a PlacementBinding, the Policy status will report on each cluster that matches the bound Placement:

  compliant: Compliant
    - placement: placement-hub-cluster
      placementBinding: binding-policy-namespace
    - clustername: local-cluster
      clusternamespace: local-cluster
      compliant: Compliant

To fully explore the Policy API, run the following command:

kubectl get crd policies.policy.open-cluster-management.io -o yaml

To fully explore the ConfigurationPolicy API, run the following command:

kubectl get crd configurationpolicies.policy.open-cluster-management.io -o yaml


A PlacementBinding binds a Placement to a Policy or PolicySet.

Below is an example of a PlacementBinding that binds the policy-namespace Policy to the placement-hub-cluster Placement.

apiVersion: policy.open-cluster-management.io/v1
kind: PlacementBinding
  name: binding-policy-namespace
  namespace: policies
  apiGroup: cluster.open-cluster-management.io
  kind: Placement
  name: placement-hub-cluster
  - apiGroup: policy.open-cluster-management.io
    kind: Policy
    name: policy-namespace

Once the Policy is bound, it will be distributed to and acted upon by the managed clusters that match the Placement.


A PolicySet is a grouping mechanism of Policy objects. Compliance of all grouped Policy objects is summarized in the PolicySet. A PolicySet is a deployable unit and its distribution is controlled by a Placement when bound through a PlacementBinding.

This enables a workflow where subject matter experts write Policy objects and then an IT administrator creates a PolicySet that groups the previously written Policy objects and binds the PolicySet to a Placement that deploys the PolicySet.

An example of a PolicySet is shown below.

apiVersion: policy.open-cluster-management.io/v1beta1
kind: PolicySet
  name: ocm-hardening
  namespace: policies
  description: Apply standard best practices for hardening your Open Cluster Management installation.
    - policy-check-backups
    - policy-managedclusteraddon-available
    - policy-subscriptions

Managed cluster policy controllers

The Policy on the hub delivers the policies defined in spec.policy-templates to the managed clusters via the policy framework controllers. Once on the managed cluster, these Policy Templates are acted upon by the associated controller on the managed cluster. The policy framework supports delivering the Policy Template kinds listed here:

  • Configuration policy

    The ConfigurationPolicy is provided by OCM and defines Kubernetes manifests to compare with objects that currently exist on the cluster. The action that the ConfigurationPolicy will take is determined by its complianceType. Compliance types include musthave, mustnothave, and mustonlyhave. musthave means the object should have the listed keys and values as a subset of the larger object. mustnothave means an object matching the listed keys and values should not exist. mustonlyhave ensures objects only exist with the keys and values exactly as defined. See the page on Configuration Policy for more information.

  • Open Policy Agent Gatekeeper

    Gatekeeper is a validating webhook with auditing capabilities that can enforce custom resource definition-based policies that are run with the Open Policy Agent (OPA). Gatekeeper ConstraintTemplates and constraints can be provided in an OCM Policy to sync to managed clusters that have Gatekeeper installed on them. See the page on Gatekeeper integration for more information.

Templating in configuration policies

Configuration policies support the inclusion of Golang text templates in the object definitions. These templates are resolved at runtime either on the hub cluster or the target managed cluster using configurations related to that cluster. This gives you the ability to define configuration policies with dynamic content and to inform or enforce Kubernetes resources that are customized to the target cluster.

The template syntax must follow the Golang template language specification, and the resource definition generated from the resolved template must be a valid YAML. (See the Golang documentation about package templates for more information.) Any errors in template validation appear as policy violations. When you use a custom template function, the values are replaced at runtime.

Template functions, such as resource-specific and generic lookup template functions, are available for referencing Kubernetes resources on the hub cluster (using the {{hub ... hub}} delimiters), or managed cluster (using the {{ ... }} delimiters). See the Hub cluster templates section for more details. The resource-specific functions are used for convenience and makes content of the resources more accessible. If you use the generic function, lookup, which is more advanced, it is best to be familiar with the YAML structure of the resource that is being looked up. In addition to these functions, utility functions like base64encode, base64decode, indent, autoindent, toInt, and toBool are also available.

To conform templates with YAML syntax, templates must be set in the policy resource as strings using quotes or a block character (| or >). This causes the resolved template value to also be a string. To override this, consider using toInt or toBool as the final function in the template to initiate further processing that forces the value to be interpreted as an integer or boolean respectively.

To bypass template processing you can either:

  • Override a single template by wrapping the template in additional braces. For example, the template {{ template content }} would become {{ '{{ template content }}' }}.
  • Override all templates in a ConfigurationPolicy by adding the policy.open-cluster-management.io/disable-templates: "true" annotation in the ConfigurationPolicy section of your Policy. Template processing will be bypassed for that ConfigurationPolicy.

Hub cluster templating in configuration policies

Hub cluster templates are used to define configuration policies that are dynamically customized to the target cluster. This reduces the need to create separate policies for each target cluster or hardcode configuration values in the policy definitions.

Hub cluster templates are based on Golang text template specifications, and the {{hub … hub}} delimiter indicates a hub cluster template in a configuration policy.

A configuration policy definition can contain both hub cluster and managed cluster templates. Hub cluster templates are processed first on the hub cluster, then the policy definition with resolved hub cluster templates is propagated to the target clusters. On the managed cluster, the Configuration Policy controller processes any managed cluster templates in the policy definition and then enforces or verifies the fully resolved object definition.

In OCM versions 0.9.x and older, policies are processed on the hub cluster only upon creation or after an update. Therefore, hub cluster templates are only resolved to the data in the referenced resources upon policy creation or update. Any changes to the referenced resources are not automatically synced to the policies.

A special annotation, policy.open-cluster-management.io/trigger-update can be used to indicate changes to the data referenced by the templates. Any change to the special annotation value initiates template processing, and the latest contents of the referenced resource are read and updated in the policy definition that is the propagator for processing on managed clusters. A typical way to use this annotation is to increment the value by one each time.

Templating value encryption

The encryption algorithm uses AES-CBC with 256-bit keys. Each encryption key is unique per managed cluster and is automatically rotated every 30 days. This ensures that your decrypted value is never stored in the policy on the managed cluster.

To force an immediate encryption key rotation, delete the policy.open-cluster-management.io/last-rotated annotation on the policy-encryption-key Secret in the managed cluster namespace on the hub cluster. Policies are then reprocessed to use the new encryption key.

Templating functions

Function Description Sample
fromSecret Returns the value of the given data key in the secret. PASSWORD: '{{ fromSecret "default" "localsecret" "PASSWORD" }}'
fromConfigmap Returns the value of the given data key in the ConfigMap. log-file: '{{ fromConfigMap "default" "logs-config" "log-file" }}'
fromClusterClaim Returns the value of spec.value in the ClusterClaim resource. platform: '{{ fromClusterClaim "platform.open-cluster-management.io" }}'
lookup Returns the Kubernetes resource as a JSON compatible map. Note that if the requested resource does not exist, an empty map is returned. metrics-url: \|
http://{{ (lookup "v1" "Service" "default" "metrics").spec.clusterIP }}:8080
base64enc Returns a base64 encoded value of the input string. USER_NAME: '{{ fromConfigMap "default" "myconfigmap" "admin-user" \| base64enc }}'
base64dec Returns a base64 decoded value of the input string. app-name: \|
"{{ ( lookup "v1" "Secret" "testns" "mytestsecret") .data.appname ) \| base64dec }}"
indent Returns the input string indented by the given number of spaces. Ca-cert: \|
{{ ( index ( lookup "v1" "Secret" "default" "mycert-tls" ).data "ca.pem" ) \| base64dec \| indent 4 }}
autoindent Acts like the indent function but automatically determines the number of leading spaces needed based on the number of spaces before the template. Ca-cert: \|
{{ ( index ( lookup "v1" "Secret" "default" "mycert-tls" ).data "ca.pem" ) \| base64dec \| autoindent }}
toInt Returns the integer value of the string and ensures that the value is interpreted as an integer in the YAML. vlanid: \|
{{ (fromConfigMap "site-config" "site1" "vlan") \| toInt }}
toBool Returns the boolean value of the input string and ensures that the value is interpreted as a boolean in the YAML. enabled: \|
{{ (fromConfigMap "site-config" "site1" "enabled") \| toBool }}
protect Encrypts the input string. It is decrypted when the policy is evaluated. On the replicated policy in the managed cluster namespace, the resulting value resembles the following: $ocm_encrypted:<encrypted-value> enabled: \|
{{hub "(lookup "route.openshift.io/v1" "Route" "openshift-authentication" "oauth-openshift").spec.host \| protect hub}}

Additionally, OCM supports the following template functions that are included from the sprig open source project:

  • cat
  • contains
  • default
  • empty
  • fromJson
  • hasPrefix
  • hasSuffix
  • join
  • list
  • lower
  • mustFromJson
  • quote
  • replace
  • semver
  • semverCompare
  • split
  • splitn
  • ternary
  • trim
  • until
  • untilStep
  • upper

See the Sprig documentation for more details.