Architecture and Concepts


Cartographer is an open-source Supply Chain Choreographer for Kubernetes. Cartographer provides a set of Kubernetes controllers and CRDs that allow a platform operator to create an application platform by specifying repeatable, reusable code-to-production blueprints.

Two kinds of blueprint work together to provide code-to-production, Supply Chains and Delivery.



Blueprint Owner Valid Templates
ClusterSupplyChain Workload ClusterSourceTemplate, ClusterImageTemplate, ClusterConfigTemplate, ClusterTemplate
ClusterDelivery Deliverable ClusterSourceTemplate, ClusterDeploymentTemplate, ClusterTemplate

Blueprints are a list of templates (called resources) that defines how the templates depend upon each other. It forms the dependency graph of your supply chain or delivery.

The dependencies are formed by specifying which resource(s) are used as inputs.

Blueprints consist of:

  • A selector to match owners, see selectors
  • Parameters to pass to all resources
  • Resources:
    • A templateRef pointing to the template for the resource, see templateRef
    • Parameters to pass to the template
    • Inputs, which specify dependencies for the template


templateRef consists of a reference to a Template in one of two ways:

  • kind and name (static), or
  • kind and a list of options (dynamic)

If there is only one option for the template, you can directly refer to the template by name. For example:

  kind: ClusterSourceTemplate
  name: git-template

If you need to determine the template based on a value within an Owner (workload|deliverable), you can use options. For example:

  kind: ClusterSourceTemplate
    - name: git-template
          - key: workload.spec.source.git
            operator: Exists
    - name: imgpkg-bundle-template
          - key: workload.spec.source.image
            operator: Exists

The selector specifies the requirements which must match against the Owner (workload|deliverable) for the option to be chosen. See selectors.


Templates create or update resources (i.e. kubectl apply).

Templates consist of:

  • Parameters to pass to spec.template or spec.ytt
  • The Kubernetes resource yaml as spec.template or spec.ytt see Templating
  • Output paths which tell Cartographer where to find the output of the Kubernetes resource
    • The path field depends upon the specific template kind.
    • These paths are interpolated and subsequent templates can use them via the input accessors. see Inputs

Templates are typed by the output their underlying resource produces.

Output Template Output Path Input Accessor
Config ClusterConfigTemplate spec.configPath configs.<input-name>
Image ClusterImageTemplate spec.imagePath images.<input-name>
Source ClusterSourceTemplate spec.urlPath, spec.revisionPath sources.<input-name>.url, sources.<input-name>.revision
Deployment ClusterDeploymentTemplate spec.urlPath, spec.revisionPath sources.<input-name>.url, sources.<input-name>.revision


Owner Blueprint
Workload ClusterSupplyChain
Deliverable ClusterDelivery

Owners represent the workload or deliverable, which in many cases refer to a single application’s source or image location.

Owners are the developer provided configuration which cause a blueprint to be reconciled into resources. Owners reference the primary source or image for the blueprint

They consist of:

  • Labels: blueprints will select based on the labels of an owner, see selectors
  • Params: parameters supplied to the blueprint, see Parameter Hierarchy
  • Source: The source reference for the input to the Supply Chain or Delivery Blueprints, see Workload and Deliverable

Theory of Operation

Given an owner that matches a blueprint, Cartographer reconciles the resources referenced by the blueprint. The resources are only created when the inputs are satisfied, and a resource is only updated when its inputs change. This results in a system where a new result from one resource can cause other resources to change.

Generic Blueprint

Although Cartographer is not a ‘runner of things’, a resource can be something as simple as a Job.

However, one advantage of Cartographer’s design is that resources that self-mutate can cause downstream change.

For example, a Build resource that discovers new base OCI images. If it rebuilds your image, then Cartographer will see this new image and update downstream resources.

When Cartographer reconciles an owner, each resource in the matching blueprint is applied:

  1. Determine Template: If options are present, resolve selector to find matching template. Otherwise, use template name specified. See templateRef.
  2. Generate Inputs: Using the blueprint resource’s inputs as a reference, select outputs from previously applied Kubernetes resources
  3. Generate Params: Using the Parameter Hierarchy, generate parameter values
  4. Generate and apply resource spec: Apply the result of interpolating spec.template (or spec.ytt), inputs, params and the owner spec.
  5. Retrieve Output: Store the output from the applied resource. The output to use is specified in the template output path.


Blueprint Details


A ClusterSupplyChain blueprint continuously integrates and builds your app.



A ClusterDelivery blueprint continuously deploys and validates Kubernetes configuration to a cluster.



Selectors specify a set of requirements that must all match against an owner.

They build upon set-based requirements in Kubernetes resources, by adding matchFields, which permits the same operators and values as matchExpressions against a json path key which is evaluated on the owner. For example:

    workload-type: web
    - key: group
      operator: In
      values: ["internal", "public-facing"]
    - key: workload.spec.source.git
      operator: Exists

All requirements must match for the selector to select for the owner. Furthermore, when considered against multiple, other objects with selectors, the selector with the most specificity wins. If multiple selectors match with equal specificity, the handling depends on context.

They are currently employed by:

  1. Blueprints, in legacy form - to determine if the blueprint will select for the owner;
  2. options in a templateRef - to determine if the template option will select for the owner.

In both these cases, multiple matching objects is invalid - in the former, no blueprint will reconcile for the owner. In the latter, no template will be stamped out, and the details of the offending resource reported in the owner’s status.

Blueprint selector legacy

In order to maintain backwards-compatibility with the existing schema, blueprints must currently supply selector requirements directly in their top-level properties selector, selectorMatchExpressions and selectorMatchFields (for matchLabels, matchExpressions, and matchFields, respectively).

In a future schema revision, blueprints' selector property will become a Selector, as described above, and the selectorMatchExpressions and selectorMatchFields removed.

Parameter Hierarchy

Templates can specify default values for parameters in spec.params.

These parameters may be overridden by the blueprint, which allows operators to specify:

  • a default value which can be overridden by the owner’s spec.params
  • a value which cannot be overridden by the owner

Blueprint parameters can be specified globally in spec.params or per resource spec.resource[].params If the per resource param is specified, the global blueprint param is ignored.