Extending Kustomize

Kustomize plugins guide

Kustomize offers a plugin framework allowing people to write their own resource generators and transformers.

Write a plugin when changing generator options or transformer configs doesn’t meet your needs.

  • A generator plugin could be a helm chart inflator, or a plugin that emits all the components (deployment, service, scaler, ingress, etc.) needed by someone’s 12-factor application, based on a smaller number of free variables.

  • A transformer plugin might perform special container command line edits, or any other transformation beyond those provided by the builtin (namePrefix, commonLabels, etc.) transformers.

Specification in kustomization.yaml

Start by adding a generators and/or transformers field to your kustomization.

Each field accepts a string list:

- relative/path/to/some/file.yaml
- relative/path/to/some/kustomization
- /absolute/path/to/some/kustomization
- https://github.com/org/repo/some/kustomization

- {as above}

The value of each entry in a generators or transformers list must be a relative path to a YAML file, or a path or URL to a kustomization. This is the same format as demanded by the resources field.

YAML files are read from disk directly. Paths or URLs leading to kustomizations trigger an in-process kustomization run. Each of the resulting objects is now further interpreted by kustomize as a plugin configuration object.


A kustomization file could have the following lines:

- chartInflator.yaml

Given this, the kustomization process would expect to find a file called chartInflator.yaml in the kustomization root.

This is the plugin’s configuration file; it contains a YAML configuration object.

The file chartInflator.yaml could contain:

apiVersion: someteam.example.com/v1
kind: ChartInflator
  name: notImportantHere
chartName: minecraft

The apiVersion and kind fields are used to locate the plugin.

Thus, these fields are required. They are also required because a kustomize plugin configuration object is also a k8s object.

To get the plugin ready to generate or transform, it is given the entire contents of the configuration file.

For more examples of plugin configuration YAML, browse the unit tests below the plugins root, e.g. the tests for ChartInflator or NameTransformer.


Each plugin gets its own dedicated directory named


The default value of XDG_CONFIG_HOME is $HOME/.config.

The one-plugin-per-directory requirement eases creation of a plugin bundle (source, tests, plugin data files, etc.) for sharing.

In the case of a Go plugin, it also allows one to provide a go.mod file for the single plugin, easing resolution of package version dependency skew.

When loading, kustomize will first look for an executable file called


If this file is not found or is not executable, kustomize will look for a file called ${kind}.so in the same directory and attempt to load it as a Go plugin.

If both checks fail, the plugin load fails the overall kustomize build.


Plugins are only used during a run of the kustomize build command.

Generator plugins are run after processing the resources field (which itself can be viewed as a generator, simply reading objects from disk).

The full set of resources is then passed into the transformation pipeline, wherein builtin transformations like namePrefix and commonLabel are applied (if they were specified in the kustomization file), followed by the user-specified transformers in the transformers field.

The order specified in the transformers field is respected, as transformers cannot be expected to be commutative.

No Security

Kustomize plugins do not run in any kind of kustomize-provided sandbox. There’s no notion of “plugin security”.

A kustomize build that tries to use plugins but omits the flag


will not load plugins and will fail with a warning about plugin use.

The use of this flag is an opt-in acknowledging the unstable (alpha) plugin API, the absence of plugin provenance, and the fact that a plugin is not part of kustomize.

To be clear, some kustomize plugin downloaded from the internet might wonderfully transform k8s config in a desired manner, while also quietly doing anything the user could do to the system running kustomize build.


There are two kinds of plugins, exec and Go.

Exec plugins

A exec plugin is any executable that accepts a single argument on its command line - the name of a YAML file containing its configuration (the file name provided in the kustomization file).

TODO: restrictions on plugin to allow the same exec plugin to be targeted by both the generators and transformers fields.

  • first arg could be the fixed string generate or transform, (the name of the configuration file moves to the 2nd arg), or
  • or by default an exec plugin behaves as a tranformer unless a flag -g is provided, switching the exec plugin to behave as a generator.


A generator plugin accepts nothing on stdin, but emits generated resources to stdout.

A transformer plugin accepts resource YAML on stdin, and emits those resources, presumably transformed, to stdout.

kustomize uses an exec plugin adapter to provide marshalled resources on stdin and capture stdout for further processing.

Generator Options

A generator exec plugin can adjust the generator options for the resources it emits by setting one of the following internal annotations.

NOTE: These annotations are local to kustomize and will not be included in the final output.


Resources can be marked as needing to be processed by the internal hash transformer by including the needs-hash annotation. When set valid values for the annotation are "true" and "false" which respectively enable or disable hash suffixing for the resource. Omitting the annotation is equivalent to setting the value "false".

Hashes are determined as follows:

  • For ConfigMap resources, hashes are based on the values of the name, data, and binaryData fields.
  • For Secret resources, hashes are based on the values of the name, type, data, and stringData fields.
  • For any other object type, hashes are based on the entire object content (i.e. all fields).


apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
  name: cm-test
    kustomize.config.k8s.io/needs-hash: "true"
  foo: bar


The behavior annotation will influence how conflicts are handled for resources emitted by the plugin. Valid values include “create”, “merge”, and “replace” with “create” being the default.


apiVersion: v1
kind: ConfigMap
  name: cm-test
    kustomize.config.k8s.io/behavior: "merge"
  foo: bar

Go plugins

Be sure to read Go plugin caveats.

A .go file can be a Go plugin if it declares ‘main’ as it’s package, and exports a symbol to which useful functions are attached.

It can further be used as a kustomize plugin if the symbol is named ‘KustomizePlugin’ and the attached functions implement the Configurable, Generator and Transformer interfaces.

A Go plugin for kustomize looks like this:

package main

import (

type plugin struct {...}

var KustomizePlugin plugin

func (p *plugin) Config(
   h *resmap.PluginHelpers,
   c []byte) error {...}

func (p *plugin) Generate() (resmap.ResMap, error) {...}

func (p *plugin) Transform(m resmap.ResMap) error {...}

Use of the identifiers plugin, KustomizePlugin and implementation of the method signature Config is required.

Implementing the Generator or Transformer method allows (respectively) the plugin’s config file to be added to the generators or transformers field in the kustomization file. Do one or the other or both as desired.


  • service generator - generate a service from a name and port argument.
  • string prefixer - uses the value in metadata/name as the prefix. This particular example exists to show how a plugin can transform the behavior of a plugin. See the TestTransformedTransformers test in the target package.
  • date prefixer - prefix the current date to resource names, a simple example used to modify the string prefixer plugin just mentioned.
  • secret generator - generate secrets from a toy database.
  • sops encoded secrets - a more complex secret generator that converts SOPS files into Kubernetes Secrets
  • SOPSGenerator - another generator that decrypts SOPS files into Secrets
  • All the builtin plugins. User authored plugins are on the same footing as builtin operations.

A Go plugin can be both a generator and a transformer. The Generate method will run along with all the other generators before the Transform method runs.

Here’s a build command that sensibly assumes the plugin source code sits in the directory where kustomize expects to find .so files:


go build -buildmode plugin \
   -o $d/${kind}.so $d/${kind}.go

Builtin Plugins

Builtin Plugins

Exec plugin on linux

Exec plugin on linux in 60 seconds

Go plugin Caveats

Go plugin Caveats

Go plugin example

Go plugin example

Last modified October 5, 2020: site refactor (53154e4)