Sentinel Language

Sentinel policies are written using the Sentinel language. This language is easy to learn and easy to write. You can learn the Sentinel language and be productive within an hour. Learning Sentinel doesn't require any formal programming experience.

This language guide will contain many details that are not necessary to be productive with Sentinel or are targeted to those who are looking for exact information about the language (such as what types of line endings are allowed). You can safely ignore these sentences.

You may also view the official language specification This is a specific and detailed document on the syntax and behavior of the language primarily intended for implementation creators and to disambiguate the language.

Simplest Example

The example below is about the simplest practical example of Sentinel. It is reasonable to imagine this as a realistic policy. This shows that in most cases, Sentinel will be extremely simple:

main = rule { request.method is "GET" and request.headers contains "X-Key" }


Sentinel policies are single files that end in the .sentinel file extension. There is currently no built-in mechanism to Sentinel for merging multiple files. This is purposefully done to make Sentinel policies easy to submit to systems that support Sentinel policies.

Sentinel policy files must be UTF-8 encoded and can end in both Unix (LF) or Windows (CRLF) line breaks. When running the auto-formatter, line endings will always use Unix line breaks.


Sentinel policies are executed top-down. For example:

a = 1      // a = 1 here
b = a + 1  // b = 2 here
a = 3      // a = 3, b = 2

In this example, the value of a and b is shown at each line. Since Sentinel executes values top-down, the final value of a is 3 and b is 2. b does not become 4.


Sentinel expects there to be a main rule. The value of this rule is the result of the entire policy.

If the result of main is true, the policy passes. If the value is anything else (false or a non-boolean value), the policy fails. The exact meaning of what happens a policy passes or fails is dependent on the host system.

More Complex Example

The simple example above is a full working example. In our experience with Sentinel, many policies can be representing using this simple form. However, to show more features of the language, a more complex example is shown below. This example is also a realistic example of what Sentinel may be used for.

import "units"

memory = func(job) {
  result = 0
  for job.groups as g {
    for g.tasks as t {
      result += t.resources.memory else 0

  return result

main = rule {
  memory(job) < 1 * units.gigabytes