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Contribution Guide

How to contribute to the project

Welcome to Tetragon :) !

We’re happy you’re interested in contributing to the Tetragon project.

All contributions are welcome

While this document focuses on the technical details of how to submit patches to the Tetragon project, we value all kinds of contributions.

For example, actions that can greatly improve Tetragon and contribute to its success could be:

  • Write a blog post about Tetragon or one of its use cases, we will be happy to add a reference to it in resources.
  • Talk about Tetragon during conferences or meetups, similarly, as a blog post, video recordings can be added to resources.
  • Share your usage of Tetragon on social platforms, and add yourself to the user list of the Cilium project as a Tetragon user.
  • Raise an issue on the repository about a bug, enhancement, or something else. See open a new issue.
  • Review a patch on the repository, this might look intimidading but some simple pull requests would benefit from a fresh pair of eyes. See open pull requests.
  • Submit a patch to the Tetragon project, for code and documentation contribution. See the next section for a how-to guide.

Guide for code and docs contribution

This section of the Tetragon documentation will help you make sure you have an environment capable of testing changes to the Tetragon source code, and that you understand the workflow of getting these changes reviewed and merged upstream.

  1. Make sure you have a GitHub account.

  2. Fork the Tetragon repository to your GitHub user or organization. The repository is available under

  3. (Optional) Turn off GitHub actions for your fork. This is recommended to avoid unnecessary CI notification failures on the fork.

  4. Clone your fork and set up the base repository as upstream remote:

    git clone${YOUR_GITHUB_USERNAME_OR_ORG}/tetragon.git
    cd tetragon
    git remote add upstream
  5. Prepare your development setup.

  6. Check out GitHub good first issues to find something to work on. If this is your first Tetragon issue, try to start with something small that you think you can do without too much external help. Also avoid assigning too many issues to yourself (see Don’t Lick the Cookie!).

  7. Follow the steps in making changes to start contributing.

  8. Learn how to run the tests or how to preview and contribute to the docs.

  9. Learn how to submit a pull request to the project.

  10. Please accept our gratitude for taking the time to improve Tetragon! :)

1 - Development setup

This will help you getting started with your development setup to build Tetragon

Building and running Tetragon

For local development, you will likely want to build and run bare-metal Tetragon.


Build everything

You can build most Tetragon targets as follows (this can take time as it builds all the targets needed for testing, see minimal build):


If you want to use podman instead of docker, you can do the following (assuming you need to use sudo with podman):

CONTAINER_ENGINE='sudo podman' make

You can ignore /bin/sh: docker: command not found in the output.

To build using the local clang, you can use:


See Dockerfile.clang for the minimal required version of clang.

Minimal build

To build the tetragon binary, the BPF programs and the tetra CLI binary you can use:

make tetragon tetragon-bpf tetra

Run Tetragon

You should now have a ./tetragon binary, which can be run as follows:

sudo ./tetragon --bpf-lib bpf/objs


  1. The --bpf-lib flag tells Tetragon where to look for its compiled BPF programs (which were built in the make step above).

  2. If Tetragon fails with an error "BTF discovery: candidate btf file does not exist", then make sure that your kernel support BTF, otherwise place a BTF file where Tetragon can read it and specify its path with the --btf flag. See more about that in the FAQ.

Building and running a Docker image

The base kernel should support BTF or a BTF file should be bind mounted on top of /var/lib/tetragon/btf inside container.

To build Tetragon image:

make image

To run the image:

docker run --name tetragon \
   --rm -it -d --pid=host \
   --cgroupns=host --privileged \
   -v /sys/kernel/btf/vmlinux:/var/lib/tetragon/btf \

Run the tetra binary to get Tetragon events:

docker exec -it tetragon \
   bash -c "/usr/bin/tetra getevents -o compact"

Building and running as a systemd service

To build Tetragon tarball:

make tarball

Running Tetragon in kind

This command will setup tetragon, kind cluster and install tetragon in it. Ensure docker, kind, kubectl, and helm are installed.

# Setup tetragon on kind
make kind-setup

Verify that Tetragon is installed by running:

kubectl get pods -n tetragon

Local Development in Vagrant Box

If you are on an intel Mac, use Vagrant to create a dev VM:

vagrant up
vagrant ssh

If you are getting an error, you can try to run sudo launchctl load /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.virtualbox.startup.plist (from a Stackoverflow answer).

What’s next

2 - Making changes

Learn how to make your first changes to the project
  1. Make sure the main branch of your fork is up-to-date:

    git fetch upstream
    git checkout main
    git merge upstream/main

    For further reference read GitHub syncing a fork documentation.

  2. Create a PR branch with a descriptive name, branching from main:

    git switch -c pr/${GITHUB_USERNAME_OR_ORG}/changes-to-something main
  3. Make the changes you want.

  4. Test your changes. Follow Development setup and Running tests guides to build and test Tetragon.

    • Make sure that all new code is covered by unit and/or end-to-end tests where feasible.
    • Run Tetragon locally to validate everything works as expected.
    • If adding/extending tests is not required, mention in the commit message what existing test covers the new code or how you validated the change.
  5. Run code/docs generation commands if needed (see the sections below for specific code areas).

  6. Run git diff --check to catch obvious white space violations.

  7. Follow Submitting a pull request guide to commit your changes and open a pull request.

Making changes to documentation

To improve Tetragon documentation (, please follow the documentation contribution guide.

Adding dependencies

Tetragon vendors Go dependencies. If you add a new Go dependency (go.mod), run:

make vendor

Most dependencies are updated automatically using Renovate. If this is not the desired behavior, you will need to update the Renovate configuration (.github/renovate.json5).

Making changes to protobuf API

Tetragon contains a protobuf API and uses code generation based on protoc to generate large amounts of boilerplate code. Whenever you make changes to these files (api/) you need to run code generation:

make protogen

Should you wish to modify any of the resulting codegen files (ending in .pb.go), do not modify them directly. Instead, you can edit the files in tools/protoc-gen-go-tetragon/ and then re-run make protogen.

Making changes to CRDs

Kubernetes Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs) are defined using Kubebuilder framework and shipped with generated Go client and helpers code. They are also included in the Helm chart for easy installation. Whenever you make changes to these files (pkg/k8s/), you need to run code generation:

make crds
make -C install/kubernetes tetragon/crds-yaml

Making changes to Helm chart

If you make changes to the Helm values (install/kubernetes/tetragon/values.yaml), you need to update the generated Helm values reference:

make -C install/kubernetes docs

Making changes to Prometheus metrics

If you add, change or delete metrics, you need to update the generated metrics reference:

make metrics-docs

What’s next

3 - Running tests

Learn how to run the tests of the project

Tetragon has several types of tests:

  • Go tests, composed of unit tests for userspace Go code and Go and BPF code.
  • BPF unit tests, testing specifing BPF functions.
  • E2E tests, for end-to-end tests, installing Tetragon in Kubernetes clusters and checking for specific features.

Those tests are running in the Tetragon CI on various kernels1 and various architectures (amd64 and arm64).

Go tests

To run the Go tests locally, you can use:

make test

Use EXTRA_TESTFLAGS to add flags to the go test command.

Test specific kernels

To run the Go tests on various kernel versions, we use vmtests with cilium/little-vm-helper in the CI, you can also use it locally for testing specific kernels. See documentation

BPF unit tests

To run BPF unit tests, you can use:

make bpf-test

Those tests can be found under The framework uses Go tests with cilium/ebpf to run those tests, you can use BPFGOTESTFLAGS to add go test flags, like make BPFGOTESTFLAGS="-v" bpf-test.

E2E tests

To run E2E tests, you can use:

make e2e-test

This will build the Tetragon image and use the e2e framework to create a kind cluster, install Tetragon and run the tests. To not rebuild the image before running the test, use E2E_BUILD_IMAGES=0. You can use EXTRA_TESTFLAGS to add flags to the go test command.

What’s next

  1. For the detailed list, search for jobs.test.strategy.matrix.kernel in ↩︎

4 - Documentation

Learn how to contribute to the documentation

Thank you for taking the time to improve Tetragon’s documentation.

Find the content

All the Tetragon documentation content can be found under

Style to follow

We generally follow the Kubernetes docs style guide

Preview locally

To preview the documentation locally, use one of the method below. Then browse to localhost:1313/docs, the default port used by Hugo to listen.

Using Docker

With a Docker service available, from the root of the repository, use:

make docs

You can also use make from the Makefile at the /docs folder level.

To cleanup the container image built in the process, you can use:

make -C docs clean

Local Hugo installation

The documentation is a Hugo static website using the Docsy theme.

Please refer to dedicated guides on how to install Hugo+extended and how to tweak Docsy, but generally, to preview your work, from the /docs folder:

hugo server

5 - Submitting a pull request

Learn how to submit a pull request to the project

Commit changes

Save your changes in one or more commits. Commits should separate logical chunks of code and not represent a chronological list of changes. Ideally, each commit compiles and is functional on its own to allow for bisecting.

If in code review you are requested to make changes, squash the follow-up changes into the existing commits. If you are not comfortable with Git yet (in particular with git rebase), refer to the GitHub documentation.

Write a commit message

All commits must contain a well-written commit message:

  1. Write a title, no longer than 75 characters. If the commit covers one specific area, start the title with a prefix like helm: or metrics:.
  2. Describe the changes in the commit description. Focus on answering the question why the change is required and document anything that might be unexpected. If any explanation is required to understand your code, then it should be written in the code comments instead of the commit description.
  3. Add a Fixes: #XXX line if the commit addresses a particular GitHub issue identified by its number. Note that the GitHub issue will be automatically closed when the commit is merged.
  4. All commits must be signed off (git commit -s). See the section Developer’s Certificate of Origin.

Example commit message

doc: add contribution guideline and how to submit pull requests

Tetragon Open Source project was just released and it does not include
default contributing guidelines.

This patch fixes this by adding:

1. file in the root directory as suggested by github documentation:

2. Development guide under docs directory with a section on how to submit pull requests.

3. Moves the file from root directory to the `docs/contributing/development/` one.

Fixes: #33

Signed-off-by: Djalal Harouni <>

Submit a pull request

Contributions must be submitted in the form of pull requests against the upstream GitHub repository at

Please follow the checklist in the pull request template and write anything that reviewers should be aware of in the pull request description. After you create a pull request, a reviewer will be automatically assigned. They will provide feedback, add relevant labels and run the CI workflows if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

CI is complaining about Go module vendoring, what do I do?

You can run make vendor then add and commit your changes.

CI is complaining about a missing “signed-off-by” line. What do I do?

You need to add a signed-off-by line to your commit messages. The easiest way to do this is with git fetch origin/main && git rebase --signoff origin/main. Then push your changes.

6 - Developer's certificate of origin

Learn about the “sign-off” procedure

To improve tracking of who did what, we’ve introduced a “sign-off” procedure, make sure to read and apply the Developer’s Certificate of Origin.

7 - Release & upgrade notes

Guide on how to write release notes for new contributions.

Tetragon release notes are published on the GitHub releases page. To ensure the release notes are accurate and helpful, contributors should write them alongside development. Then, at the time of release, the final notes are compiled and published.

This guide is intended for both Tetragon developers and reviewers. Please follow it when creating or reviewing pull requests.

release-note blurb in PR

When you create a pull request, the template will include a release-note blurb in the description. Write a short description of your change there. Focus on the user perspective - that is, what functionality is available, not how it’s implemented.

The release-note blurb will be compiled into the release notes as a bullet point. If you delete the release-note blurb from the PR description, then the PR title will be used instead (it’s reasonable to do so for example when the change has no user impact).

release-note/* label

Each pull request should have exactly one release-note/* label. The label will be added by a reviewer, but feel free to suggest one when you create a PR.

The following release-note/* labels are available:

  • release-note/major - use it for changes you want to be highlighted in the release. Typically these are new features, but the question to answer is always if it’s a highlight of the release, not how big or new the change is.
  • release-note/minor - use it for other user-visible changes, for example improving an existing functionality or adding a new config option
  • release-note/bug - use it for bug fixes
  • release-note/misc - use it for changes that don’t have any user impact, for example refactoring or tests
  • release-note/ci - use it for CI-only changes (.github directory)
  • release-note/docs - use it for documentation-only changes (docs directory)
  • release-note/dependency - use it for PRs that only update dependencies. This label is added automatically to PRs created by Renovate bot and is rarely used by humans.

Upgrade notes

Upgrade notes highlight changes that require attention when upgrading Tetragon. They instruct users on how to adapt in case the change requires a manual intervention.

Examples of changes that should be covered in upgrade notes:

  • renaming/removing config options
  • renaming/removing API fields
  • renaming/removing metrics or metric labels
  • changes with a significant performance impact
  • deprecations

If your change entails an upgrade note, write it in the contrib/upgrade-notes/ file (if your change doesn’t fit nicely in the predefined sections, just add a note at the top). The upgrade notes will be included in the release, in addition to the regular release notes.