Use a hierarchical repository

This page describes how Config Sync reads configs from a hierarchical source of truth and applies the resulting configuration to your clusters automatically.

If you want more structural flexibility (for example, you want to create subfolders of resources) you can create an unstructured source of truth. Unstructured sources of truth are recommended for most use cases. If you are already using a hierarchical source of truth, you can convert it to an unstructured source of truth.

To understand how Config Sync uses a hierarchical repository, it's helpful if you're familiar with Git repositories and the git command-line interface.

Structure of the directory

For hierarchical sources, Config Sync takes advantage of filesystem-like structures, and uses the directory to determine which clusters or namespaces a config is relevant to.


The namespaces/ directory contains configs for namespaces and namespace-scoped objects. The structure within namespaces/ is the mechanism that drives namespace inheritance. You can limit which namespaces can inherit a config, by using a NamespaceSelector.


The cluster/ directory contains configs that apply to entire clusters, rather than to namespaces. By default, any config in the cluster/ directory applies to every cluster enrolled in Config Sync. You can limit which clusters a config can affect by using a ClusterSelector.


The clusterregistry/ directory is optional, and contains configs for ClusterSelectors. ClusterSelectors limit which clusters a config applies to, and are referenced in configs found in the cluster/ and namespaces/ directories.


The system/ directory contains configs for the Operator.

Example hierarchical source of truth

The following directory structure demonstrates how to use a Config Sync hierarchical source of truth to configure a Kubernetes cluster shared by two different teams, team-1 and team-2.

  • Each team has its own Kubernetes namespace, Kubernetes service account, resource quotas, network policies, rolebindings.
  • The cluster administrator sets up a policy in namespaces/limit-range.yaml to constrain resource allocations (to Pods or containers) in both namespaces.
  • The cluster administrator also sets up ClusterRoles and ClusterRoleBindings.

A valid Config Sync hierarchical source must include three subdirectories: cluster/, namespaces/, and system/.

The cluster/ directory contains configs that apply to entire clusters (such as ClusterRole, ClusterRoleBinding), rather than to namespaces.

The namespaces/ directory contains configs for the namespace objects and the namespace-scoped objects. Each subdirectory under namespaces/ includes the configs for a namespace object and all the namespace-scoped objects under the namespace. The name of a subdirectory should be the same as the name of the namespace object. Namespace-scoped objects which need to be created in each namespace, can be put directly under namespaces/ (for example, namespaces/limit-range.yaml).

The system/ directory contains configs for the ConfigManagement Operator.

├── cluster
│   ├── clusterrolebinding-namespace-reader.yaml
│   ├── clusterrole-namespace-reader.yaml
│   ├── clusterrole-secret-admin.yaml
│   └── clusterrole-secret-reader.yaml
├── namespaces
│   ├── limit-range.yaml
│   ├── team-1
│   │   ├── namespace.yaml
│   │   ├── network-policy-default-deny-egress.yaml
│   │   ├── resource-quota-pvc.yaml
│   │   ├── rolebinding-secret-reader.yaml
│   │   └── sa.yaml
│   └── team-2
│       ├── namespace.yaml
│       ├── network-policy-default-deny-all.yaml
│       ├── resource-quota-pvc.yaml
│       ├── rolebinding-secret-admin.yaml
│       └── sa.yaml
└── system
    └── repo.yaml

Use namespace inheritance and abstract namespaces

With a hierarchical source of truth, you can use the concept of namespace inheritance to automatically apply configs to groups of namespaces in all the clusters where those namespaces exist (or should exist).

Namespace inheritance applies to the namespaces/ directory of the hierarchical repository and all its subdirectories. Configs in other directories in the repository, such as cluster/, are not subject to inheritance.

In a hierarchical source of truth, the namespaces/ directory can contain two different types of subdirectories:

  • A namespace directory contains a config for a namespace. The name of the file containing the config is not important, but the config must have kind: Namespace. A namespace directory can also contain configs for other kinds of Kubernetes objects. A namespace directory cannot contain subdirectories. A namespace config represents an actual namespace in a cluster.

  • An abstract namespace directory contains namespace directories. It can also contain configs for other Kubernetes objects, but it cannot directly contain a config for a namespace. An abstract namespace directory does not represent an object in a Kubernetes cluster, but its descendant namespace directories do.

To help ensure that your namespace and abstract namespace sources have the correct type of configs and structure, error KNV1003: IllegalNamespaceSubdirectoryError reports when there is a problem.

Configs in a namespace directory only apply to that namespace. However, configs in an abstract namespace directory are applied to all of that abstract namespace's descendant namespace directories (or those descendant namespaces that match a config's NamespaceSelector, if one is present).

Inheritance of a config in the namespaces/ directory is based largely on its location within the directory tree in the source of truth. To understand which configs are being applied to a given namespace in a given cluster, you can browse the namespace inheritance example repository.

Restricted namespaces

config-management-system is a restricted namespace. You cannot use it as an abstract namespace directory. You can define a config-management-system namespace, but the only permitted resource type for the config-management-system namespace is RootSync.

Making changes in your source of truth

When you make a change in your source of truth that creates or deletes namespace directories from within the namespaces/ directory, you might get unexpected results depending on the action:

  • Creating a directory: when a valid namespaces/ hierarchy is committed to the source of truth, Config Sync creates namespaces, and then creates Kubernetes objects in those namespaces for each config that the namespace directory contains or inherits.
  • Deleting a directory: deleting a namespace directory is a destructive operation. The namespace, and its contents, is deleted, on every cluster managed by Config Sync where the namespace exists. If you delete an abstract namespace directory containing descendant namespace directories, all of those namespaces and their contents are deleted from every cluster managed by Config Sync.
  • Renaming a directory: Renaming a namespace directory is a deletion, followed by a creation and is considered a destructive operation. Renaming an abstract namespace directory has no externally visible effect.

  • Moving a directory: moving a namespace or an abstract namespace directory within namespaces/ does not delete the namespace or objects within it, except where the namespace starts or stops inheriting a config from an abstract namespace directory, due to a change in its hierarchy.

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