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The Inventory is a core component of Kapitan: this section aims to explain how it works and how to best take advantage of it.

The Inventory is a hierarchical YAML based structure which you use to capture anything that you want to make available to Kapitan, so that it can be passed on to its templating engines.

The first concept to learn about the Inventory is the target. A target is a file, found under the inventory/targets substructure, that tells Kapitan what you want to compile. It will usually map to something you want to do with Kapitan.

For instance, you might want to define a target for each environment that you want to deploy using Kapitan.

The Inventory lets you also define and reuse common configurations through YAML files that are referred to as classes: by listing classes into target, their content gets merged together and allows you to compose complex configurations without repetitions.

By combining target and classes, the Inventory becomes the single source of truth (SSOT) for your whole configuration, and learning how to use it will unleash the real power of Kapitan.


The Kapitan Inventory is based on an open source project called reclass and you can find the full documentation on our Github clone. However we discourage you to look directly at the reclass documentation before you learn more about Kapitan, because Kapitan uses a fork of reclass and greatly simplifies the reclass experience.


Kapitan enforces very little structure for the Inventory, so that you can adapt it to your specific needs: this might be overwhelming at the beginning: don’t worry, we will explain best practice and give guidelines soon.

By default, Kapitan will search for its Inventory under inventory/classes and inventory/targets.

├── classes
│   ├── applications
│   ├── components
│   ├── features
│   ├── kapitan
│   ├── projects
│   └── terraform
└── targets
    ├── examples
    ├── kapicorp
    └── terraform



A target is a file that lives under the inventory/targets subdirectory, and that tells Kapitan what you want it to do for you.

Kapitan will recognise all YAML files in the inventory/targets subtree as targets.


Only use .yml as extension for Inventory files. .yaml will not be recognised as a valid Inventory file.

What you do with a target is largely up to you and your setup. Common examples:

  • clusters: Each target to map to a cluster you have, and used to caputure all configurations needed for a given cluster. For instance targets/clusters/production-cluster1.yml
  • applications: When using Kapitan to manage Kubernetes applications, is to use a target file to define everything that you would normally deploy in a single namespace, including all its resources, scripts, secrets and documentation. For instance targets/mysql.yaml
  • environments: You might have want to define a different target for each environment you have, like dev.yml, test.yml and prod.yml
  • cloud projects: When working with Terraform, you could find it convenient to group in a target all resource definitions needed for a given cloud project.
  • single tenancy: When working on deploying a single-tenancy application, you might combine the approaches above, and have a target acme.yml that is used to define both Terraform and Kubernetes resources for a given tenant, perhaps also with some ArgoCD or Spinnaker pipelines to go with it.


If you have configured your kapitan repository like in Quick Start instructions, you can run the commands we give during the course of this documentation.

kapitan compile

Compiled gke-pvm-killer (0.09s)
Compiled vault (0.18s)
Compiled pritunl (0.17s)
Compiled mysql (0.07s)
Compiled examples (0.25s)
Compiled postgres-proxy (0.06s)
Compiled echo-server (0.08s)
Compiled global (0.05s)
Compiled tutorial (0.09s)
Compiled guestbook-argocd (0.08s)
Compiled sock-shop (0.30s)
Compiled kapicorp-demo-march (0.04s)
Compiled kapicorp-project-123 (0.03s)
Compiled kapicorp-terraform-admin (0.08s)
Compiled tesoro (0.09s)
Compiled prod-sockshop (0.34s)
Compiled dev-sockshop (0.41s)
Compiled argocd (2.53s)

When you run kapitan compile, you instruct Kapitan will generate, for each given target, a directory under compiled with the same name: under this directory you will find all the files that have been generated by Kapitan for that target.

tree compiled/mysql/

├── argocd
├── docs
│   ├──
│   └──
├── manifests
│   ├── mysql-bundle.yml
│   ├── mysql-config.yml
│   ├── mysql-namespace.yml
│   └── mysql-secret.yml
├── pre-deploy
├── rabbitmq
├── scripts
└── terraform

7 directories, 6 files


A tipical target might looks like this:


  - common
  - components.acme.frontend
  - components.acme.backend

  target_name: dev

Note that it is made of 2 sections:

  • classes is a list of class files you will want to import.
  • parameters allows for local override of what is unique to this target.


the kapitan key under the root parameters is reserved for kapitan usage. Some examples:

    compile:      # input types configuration section
    dependencies: # dependencies configuration section to download resources
    secrets:      # secret encryption/decryption configuration section
    validate:     # items which indicate which compiled output to validate
    vars:         # which are also passed down to input types as context



The next thing you want to learn about the inventory are classes. A class is a yaml file containing a fragment of yaml that we want to import and merge into the inventory.

Classes are fragments of yaml: feature sets, commonalities between targets. Classes let you compose your Inventory from smaller bits, eliminating duplication and exposing all important parameters from a single, logically organised place. As the Inventory lets you reference other parameters in the hierarchy, classes become places where you can define something that will then get referenced from another section of the inventory, allowing for composition.

Classes are organised under the inventory/classes directory substructure. They are organised hierarchically in subfolders, and the way they can be imported into a target or other classes depends on their location relative to the inventory/classes directory.

Importing classes

To import a class from within another file of the Inventory, you can follow these instructions:

  • take the file path relative to the inventory/classes/ directory
  • remove the .yml file extension
  • replace / with .

For example, this will import the class inventory/classes/applications/sock-shop.yaml

- applications.sock-shop


Let's take a look at the common class which appears in the example above:

As explained, because the common.yaml is directly under the inventory/classes subdirectory, it can be imported directly into a target with:

- common

If we open the file, we find another familiar yaml fragment.


- kapitan.common

  namespace: ${target_name}
  target_name: ${_reclass_:name:short}

Notice that this class includes an import definition for another class, kapitan.common. We've already learned this means that kapitan will import a file on disk called inventory/classes/kapitan/common.yml

You can also see that in the parameters section we now encounter a new syntax which unlocks another powerful inventory feature: parameters interpolation!

Parameters Interpolation


as a shorthand, when we encounter deep yaml structures like the following:

      image: nginx:latest

Usually when we want to talk about the image subkey, we normally use either of the following:

  • parameters.components.nginx.image
  • components.nginx.image

However, when used in parameter expansion, remember to:

  • replace the . with :
  • omit the parameters initial key which is implied
  • wrap it into the ${} variable interpolation syntax

The correct way to reference parameters.nginx.image then becomes ${components:nginx:image}.

The Inventory allows you to refer to other values defined elsewhere in the structure, using parameter interpolation.

Given the example:

    location: europe

    location: ${cluster:location}

  namespace: ${target_name}
  target_name: dev

Here we tell Kapitan that:

  • namespace should take the same value defined in target_name
  • target_name should take the literal string dev
  • application.location should take the same value as defined in cluster.location

It is important to notice that the inventory can refer to values defined in other classes, as long as they are imported by the target. So for instance with the following example

  - project.production

      location: ${cluster.location}

Here in this case application.location refers to a value location which has been defined elsewhere, perhaps (but not necessarily) in the project.production class.

Also notice that the class name (project.production) is not in any ways influencing the name or the structed of the yaml it imports into the file

Advanced Inventory Features

Target labels

Kapitan allows you to define labels in your inventory, which can then be used to group together targets with similar labels.

For instance you could define the following:

Defines a class to add the customer label to selected targets


  customer_name: ${target_name} # Defaults to the target_name
      customer: ${customer_name}

Apply the class to the target for customer acme


- type.customer_project


You can now selectively compile targets for customer acme using the following (see see Labels for more details )

kapitan compile -l customer=acme
Compiled acme (0.06s)
Compiled acme-documentation (0.09s)