A CDEvents primer

CDEvents Primer


This non-normative document provides an overview of the CDEvents specification. It is meant to complement the CDEvents specification to provide additional background and insight into the history and design decisions made during the development of the specification. This allows the specification itself to focus on the normative technical details.

When new features are added to the CDEvents specification, the CDEvents primer document is updated accordingly to reflect the design decisions behind the change.

Table of Contents

What Problem does this Solve?

For decades, now, we have been building software solutions that are modular, loosely-coupled, reusable and pattern-based. Somewhat anachronistically, however, our build systems remain the opposite. More often than not, they are vendor, or technology-specific, closely coupled, required high levels of customization and are hard to get information from.

When delivering software of any complexity, it is common to find scenarios where sub-components of that software are built using different delivery chains.

The problem

These build systems cannot talk to each other. As a result, lots of custom scripting, or manual workarounds are required in order to build all the parts of your product, then integrate these into a form that can be deployed. This is a huge blocker to effective Continuous Delivery.

On top of this, it is extremely difficult to obtain a coherent picture of the current state of your product assets. Sub-components have independent supply chains that may interact problematically in production. Information about parts of the build process and audit trail data are siloed. The fog of war obscures problems that only become visible in production.

Continuous Delivery Best Practice asserts that you must focus upon delivering Product to Customers, not code to production. Your Continuous Delivery process needs to operate at the level of Product in order to return maximal benefits to the organization.

CDEvents addresses this core challenge by providing a mechanism by which you can integrate all the legacy components of your build processes into a unified Continuous Delivery process for your Product. By adding a layer of events, sharing a common vocabulary, to each phase of all of your build processes, you can integrate all these stages into a coherent process providing a single view of the state of all your assets.

The solution


CDEvents builds upon the principles of Enterprise Integration Patterns, defined in the book Enterprise Integration Patterns: Designing, Building, and Deploying Messaging Solutions, by Gregor Hohpe and Bobby Woolf.

CDEvents leverages the Event Message design pattern to broadcast information about activities within a Continuous Delivery process, in a Normalized Form.

You are then free to propagate these Events across your environment, using a Message Broker or Message Bus.

Other components within your delivery process are then free to express an interest in being notified of various types of CDEvent, following the Publish-Subscribe pattern.

Any system that speaks the normalized CDEvents vocabulary can respond to events coming from any other system, without needing to know anything about that originating system. Similarly, if it emits events using the CDEvents vocabulary, it can inform other systems of semantic information without their having to know about it.

Integration using CDEvents is straightforward. If the technology you wish to integrate with already speaks the CDEvents vocabulary, you can use any messaging system capable of handling Event Messages to propagate the events. If some of your legacy systems do not understand CDEvents natively, you will need to implement a Channel Adapter and a Message Translator to build a facade that enables that system to share and consume CDEvents externally without needing to understand them internally.


The Events in CI/CD Workstream was originally formed by the CDF Interoperability Special Interest Group with the mission to Standardize events to be used in a CI/CD process. The workstream later evolved into Event Special Interest Group, which defined the initial vocabulary for CI/CD events, developed a golang SDK and a first proof of concept which involved Tekton and keptn.

The initial vocabulary then became CDEvents, a new standalone CDF incubated project.

Design reflections

How does CDEvents enable tools to communicate in an interoperable way?

By creating a language, we define how tools and services communicate with each other about occurrences in a CI/CD system. As this language does not tie to a specific tool it serves a neutral ground for communication.

Using this language we define a set of events with purpose and semantic meaning. With such a well-defined language, tools know what events to send, and receivers know how to interpret the information received. This enables tools to have a common understanding of the information sent in the events.

The language enables creating an ecosystem of tools for monitoring, tracing, measuring, and orchestrating using our events without having to write a “plugin” for every tool.

Why use events?

Reading from the CloudEvents primer - design goals

The goal of the CloudEvents specification is to define interoperability of event systems that allow services to produce or consume events, where the producer and consumer can be developed and deployed independently. A producer can generate events before a consumer is listening, and a consumer can express an interest in an event or class of events that is not yet being produced.

The patterns involved here are fundamentally those of Enterprise Integration. It makes sense, therefore, to apply best known methods derived from this field and to utilize patterns that are well-established and well-understood. It is particularly important that any solution be loosely-coupled and agnostic of the underlying infrastructure or technology being used.

Why not point-to-point communication?

We believe that using integrations based on point-to-point communication will create a system that will:

  • Not scale - when trying to add new consumers or producers each tool have to make an update
  • Create a coupled architecture - using point-to-point communication creates a tightly intertwined architecture difficult to expand and monitor.

Declarative vs. imperative events

CDEvents are declarative events. With “declarative” we refer to event through which the producer sends information about an occurrence, but it does not know how the event will be used on the receiving side or even who will receive it.


With imperative events we refer to events that are sent with the intent of triggering a specific reaction, like “start a pipeline” or “deploy an application”.


CDEvents do not support imperative events today; the specification may include imperative events in future to foster interoperability in systems that rely on imperative events today.

Imperative events create coupling between producer and consumer as they typically require some form of acknowledgement to be send back by the consumer of the original event back to the producer. Imperative events are useful to implement workflows where the orchestration logic is centrally managed by a single component.

A behavior similar to that of imperative events can be achieved by moving part of the business logic to an adapter that listens for specific declarative events and decides based on a set of policy to trigger actions in a downstream system, similarly to what is described in the receiving adapters scenario.

Relations to CloudEvents

There are some similarities and synergies with the CloudEvents standard that make it beneficial for us to provide interoperability with that standard.

CDEvents defines a specification that provides a set of JSON object schemas (one for each event type, covering mandatory and optional attributes etc.)

When used with CloudEvents, CDEvents passes the JSON schema via the dataschema attribute and provide the corresponding JSON object through the data attribute.

CDEvents aims to use existing CloudEvents extension attributes (e.g. partitionkey from the Partitioning extension) before defining its own extensions. When no appropriate extension attributes exists, CDEvents aims to make an official CloudEvents extension for the CloudEvents specification and listed with other documented extensions.


The CDEvents specification and events are versioned independently, both following the principle of semantic versioning.

Versioning of CDEvents

Individual CDEvents are versioned using semantic versioning, with a major.minor.patch format of the version.

Backward compatible changes are changes that allow existing consumers to parse messages with a newer version, have access to the same data as before, as long the extra fields are ignored. Broadening the accepted values for a property is a backward incompatible change, as the consumer may not be prepared to manage the new format of value.

Note that this means that consumers SHOULD be prepared to handle (and disregard) unrecognized properties in higher minor versions than they are familiar with.

  • Major versions (e.g. 0.3.1 -> 1.0.0): backward incompatible changes to events. Renamed, moved or removed fields requires a new major version.

  • Minor versions (e.g. 0.1.2 -> 0.2.0): backward compatible changes to events that involve a structural change in the schema. A new field is added, or a copy of an existing field is added and the old location deprecated.

  • Patch versions (e.g. 0.1.0 -> 0.1.1): backward compatible changes to events that do not involve any structural change in the schema, for instance narrowing the accepted values for a property.

While the specification of an event is work in progress, its version is tagged with an extra -draft at the end.

The version of an event is included in its type. This allows for easy filtering of events of a specific version, by looking at a single field in the context.

Examples of full event versions are:

  • dev.cdevents.build.queued.0.1.0-draft
  • dev.cdevents.environment.deleted.0.1.0

Versioning of the CDEvents specification

The overall CDEvents specification is versioned using semantic versioning, with a major.minor.patch format of the version. The specification version is associated to a git version (tag) in the cdevents/spec repository, in the format vMajor.Minor.Patch.

  • A specification that includes only cosmetic fixes is identified by a change in the patch version, for instance 0.1.0 -> 0.1.1

  • A specification that includes only backwards compatible change is identified by a change in the minor version, for instance 0.1.3 -> 0.2.0

  • A specification that includes at least one backward incompatible change, is identified by a change in the major version, for instance 0.1.2 -> 2.0.0

While a version of the specification is work in progress, its version is tagged with an extra -draft at the end, for instance 0.1.0-draft.

The version is in each schema as part of the schema id and it’s included in each event in the “version” field. The version field does not include enum nor default values in the schema because that would require changing the event version every time the spec version is changed.


  • Schema: "$id": "https://cdevents.dev/0.1.1/schema/artifact-packaged-event",
  • Event: "version": "0.1.1"

Development of a new version

The specification on the main branch is versioned with the number of the next version followed by a -draft. If any event is modified, its version is changed accordingly, followed by a -draft as well.

Once a specification is ready for release, its number if updated, the event versions are finalized (-draft is removed), schemas are updated and a git tag is created for this last commit.

Extending CDEvents

The CDEvents specification is designed to evolve over time, to accommodate the need of CDEvents users and cover a growing number of use cases. In all cases we prefer backward compatible changes, which could be new fields in existing events or new event types. Versioning of messages is used for producers to validate messages before they are sent, and for consumer to know how to parse them.

Adding new data to CDEvents

If the data model of a CDEvent is not sufficient, events producers may choose to pass extra data through the customData field. Using customData can be an effective interim step, as it’s easy to implement and can be used to help the migration process from existing events to CDEvents.

In most cases though customData should not be considered as a permanent solution, since consumers don’t know how to process this extra data, unless they implement producer specific logic and sacrifice part of the interoperability benefit of using CDEvents.

Adding a new field to an existing CDEvent type is considered a backward compatible change - see the versioning for more details. Aspects to consider when proposing a new field are:

  • is the field generally useful to the CD community? Data that is unique to a single platform is likely to be rejected
  • what are the use cases where this field will be used?
  • what is the format for the new field? Please be as specific as possible
  • what is the name of the new field? Check the SIG interoperability vocabulary if a standard name exists. If not, propose the new field name for the vocabulary as well.

Adding new event types

If a new event type is needed, it’s good practice to contribute the new type into the CDEvents specification. Custom events can be used, but they should not use the “dev.cdevents” namespace for their type.

Custom events are not interoperable, so existing CDEvents consumers won’t be able to handle them. Introducing a custom event is simple enough on the producer side but it doesn’t scale well with the number of consumers.

Adding a new event to an existing CDEvents bucket is a backward compatible change. Aspects to consider when proposing a new event type are:

  • is the event generally useful to the CD community? Events that are very specific to a single platform are likely to be rejected. If the event represents a functionality that is currently only implemented in one platform, but nonetheless generally useful, it can still be introduced in CDEvents
  • what are the use cases where this event will be used?
  • what are the sources of these events?
  • if the event includes a new kind of subject, what is the data model of the subject? What is the format of its ID? Please be as specific as possible
  • what is the name of the new type? Check the SIG interoperability vocabulary if a standard name exists. If not consider proposing the new field name for the vocabulary as well.

Adopting CDEvents

When adopting CDEvents, producers and consumers alike may adopt different strategies to support existing event producers and consumers that want to consider existing messaging systems, formats and event producers and consumers that are in place. CDEvents is a new specification, but neither CloudEvents nor events in general are a new idea, and several tools may already be using events or webhooks with a tool specific data model.

Below we consider a set of common scenarios and how CDEvents may be incrementally introduced in an existing system.

Producer-side architectures

In the first three scenarios, CDEvents are introduced in the producer side, either directly in the tool or through some external component.

External event producer

If a tool does not produce events, it may be possible to use an external component to “watch” a tool output (for instance logs) and produce CDEvents. If the output does not contain all information required for the events, this limitation can be worked-around by adding the missing data in the tool output.

This solution may be brittle, because the tool output may not be a stable interface for the tool, and it may change over time without notice.


This approach is certainly valid to build a proof-of-concept or to experiment with events in an existing environment.

If the output of the tool is structured and part of the tool API, this may also be adopted as a permanent solution, to keep separation of concerns between the tool itself and the process of generating events.

External event adapter

If a tool does produce events, it may be possible to use an external adapter component to convert the existing events into CDEvents.


Similar to the previous case, incoming events may be missing data required by CDEvents. If the events come from a tool that we do not control, we cannot alter the content of the events, so we may request the tool maintainers to either add the extra data or, like in the next scenario, start producing CDEvents natively.

Multiple event formats produced

A tool may start producing CDEvents natively. If the tool previously produced events, some consumers may expect the pre-existing event format. This can be solved on the producer side by sending both format of events in parallel. In some cases it may be possible to use a single broker for both event types, for instance if both formats are CloudEvents based.


Consumer-side architectures

Typically it won’t be possible for all existing event consumers to switch to CDEvents at the same time. The following scenarios show how an incremental approach can be used to migrate consumers towards CDEvents gradually.

Multiple event formats through adapter

In a variation of the previously mentioned producer-side architectures, the tool produces only one format of events, which is sent to the broker. The adapter subscribes to the events, converts them and publishes them back to the broker. Consumer may then subscribe to the type of events that they prefer.


With this architecture, the adapter may even be able to convert messages from different tools, instead of just one.

Consumer-side adapters

In this scenario, the tool and some consumers use CDEvents. New consumers are added that do not understand CDEvents, or that do not support events in general. An adapter can be used to convert a CDEvent into the consumer specific format or to extract data from a CDEvent and use it to invoke an API for the receiving side.


Multiple event formats consumed

In this scenario, a new tool is added that produces CDEvents. An existing consumer wants to benefit from existing events as well as the events from the new tool.


A single consumer may receive events from heterogenous sources.

Use Cases

There are two root use cases that we are considering:

  • Interoperability through CDEvents: In this use case, platforms from the CD landscape either produce or consume CDEvents. On the producing side, a system broadcasts that certain value has been produced, like a code change, an artifact or a test result. On the consumer-side, a system takes an action that takes advantage of that value that has been produced.

  • Observability & Metrics: In this use case, platforms from the CD landscape produce CDEvents that describe the start and end of parts of an end of end CD workflow, for instance build started and finished, artifact packaged and published and deployment started and finished. We want to visualize the end to end CD workflow, for instance from a change being written, through its build, test, release, deployment and possibly rollback in case a remediation is required. To achieve that, events are sent to an event router and collected by a pipeline visualization application, that uses the information in the events to correlate them with each other and build an end to end view. With the same events, we want to measure DevOps performance as well. The same events can be used to track different metrics over time, to be visualized through a dashboard. The current events provide enough data to calculate two of the four DORA DevOps metrics:

    • Lead time for changes: the amount of time it takes a commit to get into production
    • Deployment frequency: how often an organization successfully releases to production


The CDF Interoperability Special Interest Group has produced a table of the terms used by different CI/CD tools and how they relate to each other. The SIG Interoperability is also working on distilling a recommended shared terminology. CDEvents strives to adopt to the shared terminology and collaborate with the SIG Interoperability.

Work to align terms to those identified by the SIG Interoperability will continue in upcoming CDEvents releases.

Design Decisions

Keys, Values and Types

The CDEvents specification defines event types, keys and, for ENUM types, values.

Event types are defined as all lowercase, separated by dots. The first part of each type is always “dev.cdevents” which is the reverse DNS domain of the CDEvents project.

Keys and ENUM values are always written in lowerCamelCase for readability purposes.

Simplified data model

In the initial version of CDEvents we tackled a simple scenario in which each artifact is built from a single repository and each service is deployed from a single artifact.

This data model is somewhat limited, but is has allowed us to put more focus on the overall structure of the protocol in the first release.

We plan to extend the data model to support more complex scenarios in upcoming releases.


The specification has chosen for v0.1.0 to adopt package-urls (or purls) as the format for any artifact identifier included in the spec. Purls provide a consistent format for artifact identifiers across different package types.

CDEvents wishes for a format that can be used to reference to an artifact, or package, that is independent from the hosting storage, which is a property which purls satisfy for several artifact types.


The CDEvents whitepaper was originally published on June 7, 2022 on the CDF blog. It is intended for an audience of DevOps Engineers, Project Managers/Directors, CTOs, and Cloud Architects who are interested in learning more about CDEvents, why it was created and its mission.


The initial structure of the CDEvents specification format was based on the specification of the CloudEvents project.