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The Indirector - Puppet Extension Points 3

9 minute read

This article is a follow-up of those previous two articles of this series on Puppet Internals:

Today we’ll cover the The Indirector. I believe that at the end of this post, you’ll know exactly what is the indirector and how it works.

The scene

The puppet source code needs to deal with lots of different abstractions to do its job. Among those abstraction you’ll find:

  • Certificates
  • Nodes
  • Facts
  • Catalogs

Each one those abstractions can be found in the Puppet source code under the form of a model class. For instance when Puppet needs to deal with the current node, it in fact deals with an instance of the node model class. This class is called Puppet::Node.

Each model can exist physically under different forms. For instance Facts can come from Facter or a YAML file, or Nodes can come from an ENC, LDAP, site.pp and so on. This is what we call a Terminus.

The Indirector allows the Puppet programmer to deal with model instances without having to manage herself the gory details of where this model instance is coming/going.

For instance, the code is the same for the client call site to find a node when it comes from an ENC or LDAP, because it’s irrelevant to the client code.


So you might be wondering what the Indirector allows to do with our models. Basically the Indirector implements a basic CRUD (Create, Retrieve, Update, Delete) system. In fact it implements 4 verbs (that maps to the CRUD and REST verb sets):

  • Find: allows to retrieve a specific instance, given through the key
  • Search: allows to retrieve some instances with a search term
  • Destroy: remove a given instance
  • Save: stores a given instance

You’ll see a little bit later how it is wired, but those verbs exist as class and/or instance methods in the models class.

So back to our Puppet::Node example, we can say this:

  # Finding a specific node
  node = Puppet::Node.find('')
  # here I can use node, being an instance of Puppet::Node
  puts "node: #{}"
  # I can also save the given node (if the terminus allows it of course)
  # Note: save is implemented as an instance method
  # we can also destroy a given node (if the terminus implements it):

And this works for all the managed models, I could have done the exact same code with certificate instead of nodes.


For the Latin illiterate out-there, terminii is the latin plural for terminus.

So a terminus is a concrete class that knows how to deal with a specific model type. A terminus exists only for a given model. For instance the catalog indirection can use the Compiler or the YAML terminus among half-dozen of available terminus.

The terminus is a class that should inherit somewhere in the class hierarchy from Puppet::Indirector::Terminus. This last sentence might be obscure but if your terminus for a given model directly inherits from Puppet::Indirector::Terminus, it is considered as an abstract terminus and won’t work.

  def find(request)
    # request.key contains the instance to find

  def destroy(request)

  def search(request)

  def save(request)
    # request.instance contains the model instance to save

The request parameter used above is an instance of Puppet::Indirector::Request. This request object contains a handful property that might be of interest when implementing a terminus. The first one is the key method which returns the name of the instance we want to manipulate. The other is instance which is available only when saving is a concrete instance of the model.

Implementing a terminus

To implement a new terminus of a given model, you need to add a ruby file of the terminus name in the puppet/indirector/<indirection>/<terminus>.rb.

For instance if we want to implement a new source of puppet nodes like storing node classes in DNS TXT resource records, we’d create a puppet/node/dns.rb file whose find method would ask for TXT RR using request.key.

Puppet already defines some common behavior like yaml based files, rest based, code based or executable based. A new terminus can inherit from one of those abstract terminus to inherit from its behavior.

I contributed (but hasn’t been merged yet) and OCSP system for Puppet. This one defines a new indirection: ocsp. This indirection contains two terminus:

The real concrete one that inherits from Puppet::Indirector::Code, it in fact delegates the OCSP request verification to the OCSP layer:

require 'puppet/indirector/ocsp'
require 'puppet/indirector/code'
require 'puppet/ssl/ocsp/responder'

class Puppet::Indirector::Ocsp::Ca < Puppet::Indirector::Code
  desc "OCSP request revocation verification through the local CA."

  def save(request)

It also has a REST terminus. This allows for a given implementation to talk to a remote puppet process (usually a puppetmaster) using the indirector without modifying client or server code:

require 'puppet/indirector/ocsp'
require 'puppet/indirector/rest'

class Puppet::Indirector::Ocsp::Rest < Puppet::Indirector::REST
  desc "Remote OCSP certificate REST remote revocation status."


As you can see we can do a REST client without implementing any network stuff!

Indirection creation

To tell Puppet that a given model class can be indirected it’s just a matter or adding a little bit of Ruby metaprogramming.

To keep my OCSP system example, the OCSP request model class is declared like this:

class Puppet::SSL::Ocsp::Request < Puppet::SSL::Base
  extend Puppet::Indirector
  # this will tell puppet that we have a new indirection
  # and our default terminus will be found in puppet/indirector/ocsp/ca.rb
  indirects :ocsp, :terminus_class => :ca


Basically we’re saying the our model Puppet::SSL::Ocsp::Request declares an indirection ocsp, whose default terminus class is ca. That means, if we straightly try to call Puppet::SSL::Ocsp::Request.find, the puppet/indirection/ocsp/ca.rb file will be used.

Terminus selection

There’s something I didn’t talk about. You might ask yourself how Puppet knows which terminus it should use when we call one of the indirector verb. As seen above, if nothing is done to configure it, it will default to the terminus given on the indirects call.

But it is configurable. The Puppet::Indirector module defines the terminus_class= method. This methods when called can be used to change the active terminus.

For instance in the puppet agent, the catalog indirection has a REST terminus, but in the master the same indirection uses the compiler:

  # puppet agent equivalent code
  Puppet::Resource::Catalog.terminus_class = :rest
  # puppet master equivalent code
  Puppet::Resource::Catalog.terminus_class = :compiler

In fact the code is a little bit more complicated than this for the catalog but in the end it’s equivalent.

There’s also the possibility for a puppet application to specify a routing table between indirection and terminus to simplify the wiring.

More than one type of terminii

There’s something I left aside earlier. There are in fact two types of terminii per indirection:

  • regular terminus as we saw earlier
  • cache terminus

For every model class we can define the regular indirection terminus and an optional cache terminus.

Then when finding for an instance the cache terminus will first be asked for. If not found in the cache (or asked to not get from the cache) the regular terminus will be used. Afterward the instance will be saved in the cache terminus.

This cache is exploited in lots of place in the Puppet code base.

Among those, the catalog cache terminus is set to :yaml on the agent. The effect is that when the agent retrieves the catalog from the master through the :rest regular terminus, it is locally saved by the yaml terminus. This way if the next agent run fails when retrieving the catalog through REST, it will used the previous one locally cached during the previous run.

Most of the certificate stuff is handled along the line of the catalog, with local caching with a file terminus.

REST Terminus in details

There is a direct translation between the REST verbs and the indirection verbs. Thus the :rest terminus:

  1. transforms the indirection and key to an URI: /<environment>/<indirection>/<key>
  2. does an HTTP GET PUT DELETE POST depending on the indirection verb

On the server side, the Puppet network layer does the reverse, calling the right indirection methods based on the URI and the REST verb.

There’s also the possibility to sends parameters to the indirection and with REST, those are transformed into URL request parameters.

The indirection name used in the URI is pluralized by adding a trailing ‘s’ to the indirection name when doing a search, to be more REST. For example:

  • GET /production/certificate/ is find
  • GET /production/certificates/unused is a search

When indirecting a model class, Puppet mixes-in the Puppet::Network::FormatHandler module. This module allows to render and convert an instance from and to a serialized format. The most used one in Puppet is called pson, which in fact is json in disguised name.

During a REST transaction, the instance can be serialized and deserialized using this format. Each model can define its preferred serialization format (for instance catalog use pson, but certificates prefer raw encoding).

On the HTTP level, we correctly add the various encoding headers reflecting the serialization used.

You will find a comprehensive list of all REST endpoint in puppet here

Puppet 2.7 indirection

The syntax I used in my samples are derived from the 2.6 puppet source. In Puppet 2.7, the dev team introduced (and are now contemplating removing) an indirection property in the model class which implements the indirector verbs (instead of being implemented directly in the model class).

This translates to:

  # 2.6 way, and possibly 2.8 onward
  # 2.7 way

Gory details anyone?

OK, so how it works?

Let’s focus on Puppet::Node.find call:

  1. Ruby loads the Puppet::Node class
  2. When mixing in Puppet::Indirector we created a bunch of find/destroy… methods in the current model class
  3. Ruby execute the indirects call from the Puppet::Indirector module
    1. This one creates a Puppet::Indirector::Indirection stored locally in the indirection class instance variable
    2. This also registers the given indirection in a global indirection list
    3. This also register the given default terminus class. The terminus are loaded with a Puppet::Util::Autoloader through a set of Puppet::Util::InstanceLoader
  4. When this terminus class is loaded, since it somewhat inherits from Puppet::Indirector::Terminus, the Puppet::Indirector:Terminus#inherited ruby callback is executed. This one after doing a bunch of safety checks register the terminus class as a valid terminus for the loaded indirection.
  5. We’re now ready to really call Puppet::Node.find. find is one of the method that we got when we mixed-in Puppet::Indirector
    1. find first create a Puppet::Indirector::Request, with the given key.
    2. It then checks the terminus cache if one has been defined. If the cache terminus finds an instance, this one is returned
    3. Otherwise find delegates to the registered terminus, by calling terminus.find(request)
    4. If there’s a result, this one is cached in the cache terminus
    5. and the result is returned

Pretty simple, isn’t it? And that’s about the same mechanism for the three other verbs.

It is to be noted that the terminus are loaded with the puppet autoloader. That means it should be possible to add more indirection and/or terminus as long as paths are respected and they are in the RUBYLIB. I don’t think though that those paths are pluginsync’ed.


I know that the indirector can be intimidating at first, but even without completely understanding the internals, it is quite easy to add a new terminus for a given indirection.

On the same subject, I highly recommends this presentation about Extending Puppet by Richard Crowley. This presentation also covers the indirector.

This article will certainly close the Puppet Extension Points series. The last remaining extension type (Faces) have already been covered thoroughly on the Puppetlabs Docs site.

The next article will I think cover the full picture of a full puppet agent/master run.

Puppet Extension Points - part 2

15 minute read

After the first part in this series of article on Puppet extensions points, I’m proud to deliver a new episode focusing on Types and Providers.

Note that there’s a really good chapter on the same topic in James Turnbull and Jeff McCune Pro Puppet (which I highly recommend if you’re a serious puppeteer). Also note that you can attend Puppetlabs Developper Training, which covers this topic.

Of Types and Providers

One of the great force of Puppet is how various heterogenous aspects of a given POSIX system (or not, like the Network Device system I contributed) are abstracted into simple elements: types.

Types are the foundation bricks of Puppet, you use them everyday to model how your systems are formed. Among the core types, you’ll find user, group, file, …

In Puppet, manifests define resources which are instances of their type. There can be only one resource of a given name (what we call the namevar, name or title) for a given catalog (which usually maps to a given host).

A type models what facets of a physical entity (like a host user) are managed by Puppet. These model facets are called “properties” in Puppet lingo.

Essentially a type is a name, some properties to be managed and some parameters. Paramaters are values that will help or direct Puppet to manage the resource (for instance the managehome parameter of the user type is not part of a given user on the host, but explains to Puppet that this user’s home directory is to be managed).

Let’s follow the life of a resource during a puppet run.

  1. During compilation, the puppet parser will instantiate Puppet::Parser::Resource instances which are Puppet::Resource objects. Those contains the various properties and parameters values defined in the manifest.

  2. Those resources are then inserted into the catalog (an instance of Puppet::Resource::Catalog)

  3. The catalog is then sent to the agent (usually in json format)

  4. The agent converts the catalog individual resources into RAL resources by virtue of Puppet::Resource#to_ral. We’re now dealing with instances of the real puppet type class. RAL means Resource Abstraction Layer.

    1. The agent then applies the catalog. This process creates the relationships graph so that we can manage resources in an order obeying require/before metaparameters. During catalog application, every RAL resource is evaluated. This process tells a given type to do what is necessary so that every managed property of the real underlying resource match what was specified in the manifest. The software system that does this is the provider.

So to summarize, a type defines to Puppet what properties it can manage and an accompanying provider is the process to manage them. Those two elements forms the Puppet RAL.

There can be more than one provider per type, depending on the host or platform. For instance every users have a login name on all kind of systems, but the way to create a new user can be completely different on Windows or Unix. In this case we can have a provider for Windows, one for OSX, one for Linux… Puppet knows how to select the best provider based on the facts (the same way you can confine facts to some operating systems, you can confine providers to some operating systems).

Looking Types into the eyes

I’ve written a combination of types/providers for this article. It allows to manage DNS zones and DNS Resource Records for DNS hosting providers (like AWS Route 53 or Zerigo). To simplify development I based the system on Fog DNS providers (you need to have the Fog gem installed to use those types on the agent). The full code of this system is available in my puppet-dns github repository.

This work defines two new Puppet types:

  • dnszone: manage a given DNS zone (ie a domain)
  • _dnsrr: _manage an individual DNS RR (like an A, AAAA, … record). It takes a name, a value and a type.

Here is how to use it in a manifest:

Let’s focus on the dnszone type, which is the simpler one of this module:

Note, that the dnszone type assumes there is a /etc/puppet/fog.yaml file that contains Fog DNS options and credentials as a hash encoded in yaml. Refer to the aforementioned github repository for more information and use case.

Exactly like parser functions, types are defined in ruby, and Puppet can autoload them. Thus types should obey to the Puppet type ruby namespace. That’s the reason we have to put types in puppet/type/. Once again this is ruby metaprogramming (in its all glory), to create a specific internal DSL that helps describe types to Puppet with simple directives (the alternative would have been to define a datastructure which would have been much less practical).

Let’s dive into the dnszone type.

  • Line 1, we’re calling the Puppet::Type#newtype method passing, first the type name as a ruby symbol (which should be unique among types), second a block (from line 1 to the end). The newtype method is imported in Puppet::Type but is in fact defined in Puppet::Metatype::ManagerNewtype job is to create a new singleton class whose parent is Puppet::Type (or a descendant if needed). Then the given block will be evaluated in class context (this means that the block is executed with self being the just created class). This singleton class is called Puppet::TypeDnszone in our case (but you see the pattern).

  • Line 2: we’re assigning a string to the Puppet::Type class variable @doc. This will be used to to extract type documentation.

  • Line 4: This straight word ensurable, is a class method in Puppet::Type. So when our type block is evaluated, this method will be called. This methods installs a new special property Ensure. This is a shortcut to automatically manage creation/deletion/existence of the managed resource. This automatically adds support for ensure =&gt; (present|absent) to your type. The provider still has to manage ensurability, though.

  • Line 6: Here we’re calling Puppet::Type#newparam. This tells our type that we’re going to have a parameter called “name”. Every resource in Puppet must have a unique key, this key is usually called the name or the title. We’re giving a block to this newparam method. The job of newparam is to create a new class descending of Puppet::Parameter, and to evaluate the given block in the context of this class (which means in this block self is a singleton class of Puppet::Parameter). Puppet::Parameter defines a bunch of utility class methods (that becomes apparent directives of our parameter DSL), among those we can find isnamevar which we’ve used for the name parameter. This tells Puppet type system that the name parameter is what will be the holder of the unique key of this type. The desc method allows to give some documentation about the parameter.

  • Line 12: we’re defining now the email parameter. And we’re using the newvalues class method of Puppet::Parameter. This method defines what possible values can be set to this parameter. We’re passing a regex that allows any string containing an ‘@’, which is certainly the worst regex to validate an e-mail address :) Puppet will raise an error if we don’t give a valid value to this parameter.

  • Line 17: and again a new parameter. This parameter is used to control Fog behavior (ie give to it your credential and fog provider used). Here we’re using defaultto, which means if we don’t pass a value then the defaultto value will be used.

  • Line 22: there is a possibility for a given resource to auto-require another resource. The same way a file resource can automatically add ‘require’ to its path ancestor. In our case, we’re autorequiring the yaml_fog_file, so that if it is managed by puppet, it will be evaluated before our dnszone resource (otherwise our fog provider might not have its credentials available).

Let’s now see another type which uses some other type DSL directives:

We’ll pass over the bits we already covered with the first type, and concentrate on new things:

  • Line 12: our dnszone type contained only parameters. Now it’s the first time we define a property. A property is exactly like a parameter but is fully managed by Puppet (see the chapter below). A property is an instance of a Puppet::Property class, which itself inherits from Puppet::Parameter, which means all the methods we’ve covered in our first example for parameters are available for properties. This type property is interesting because it defines discrete values. If you try to set something outside of this list of possible values, Puppet will raise an error. Values can be either ruby symbols or strings.

  • Line 17: a new property is defined here. With the isrequired method we tell Puppet that is is indeed necessary to have a value. And the validate methods will store the given validate block so that when Puppet will set the desired value to this property it will execute it. In our case we’ll report an error if the given value is empty.

  • Line 24: here we defined a global validation system. This will be called when all properties will have been assigned a value. This block executes in the instance context of the type, which means that we can access all instance variables and methods of Puppet::Type (in particualy the [] method that allows to access parameters/properties values). This allows to perform validation across the boundaries of a given parameter/property.

  • Line 25: finally, we declare a new parameter that references a dnszone. Note that we use a dynamic defaultto (with a block), so that we can look up the given resource name and derive our zone from the FQDN. This raises an important feature of the type system: the order of the declarations of the various blocks is important. Puppet will always respect the declaration order of the various properties when evaluating their values. That means a given property can access a value of another properties defined earlier.

I left managing RR TTL as an exercise to the astute reader :) Also note we didn’t cover all the directives the type DSL offers us. Notably, we didn’t see value munging (which allows to transform a string representation coming from the manifest to an internal (to the type) format). For instance that can be used to transform string IP address to the ruby IPAddr type for later use. I highly recommend you to browse the default types in the Puppet source distribution and check the various directives used there. You can also read Puppet::Parameter, Puppet::Property and Puppet::Type source code to see the ones we didn’t cover.

Life and death of Properties

So, we saw that a Puppet::Parameter is just a holder for the value coming from the manifest. A Puppet::Property is a parameter that along with the desired value (the one coming from the manifest) contains the current value (the one coming from the managed resource on the host). The first one is called the “should”, and the later one is called the “value”. Those innocently are methods of the Puppet::Property object and returns respectively those values. A property implements the following aspects:

  • it can retrieve a value from the managed resource. This is the operation of asking the real host resource to fetch its value. This is usually performed by delegation to the provider.

  • it can report its should which is the value given in the manifest

  • it can be insync?. This returns true if the retrieved value is equal to the “should” value.

  • and finally it might sync. Which means to the necessary so that “insync?” becomes true. If there is a provider for the given type, this one will be called to take care of the change.

When Puppet manages a resource, it does it with the help of a Puppet::Transaction. The given transaction orders the various properties that are not insync? to sync. Of course this is a bit more complex than that, because this is done while respecting resource ordering (the one given by the require/before metaparameter), but also propagating change events (so that service can be restarted and so on), and allowing resources to spawn child resources, etc… It’s perfectly possible to write a type without a provider, as long as all properties used implement their respective retrieve and sync methods. Some of the core types are doing this.


We’ve seen that properties usually delegate to the providers for managing the underlying real resource. In our example, we’ll have two providers, one for each defined type. There are two types of providers:

  • prefetch/flush
  • per properties

The per properties providers needs to implement a getter and a setter for every property of the accompanying type. When the transaction manipulates a given property its provider getter is called, and later on the setter will be called if the property is not insync?. It is the responsibility of those setters to flush those values to the physical managed resource. For some providers it is highly impractical or inefficient to flush on every property value change. To solve this issue, a given provider can be a prefetch/flush one. A prefetch/flush provider implements only two methods:

  • prefetch, which given a list of resources will in one call return a set of provider instances filled with the value fetched from the real resource.
  • flush will be called after all values will have been set, and that they can be persisted to the real resource.

The two providers I’ve written for this article are prefetch/flush ones, because it was impractical to call Fog for every property.

Anatomy of the dnszone provider

We’ll focus only on this provider, and I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader the analysis of the second one. Providers, being also ruby extensions, must live in the correct path respecting their ruby namespaces. For our dnszone fog provider, it should be in the puppet/provider/dnszone/fog.rb file. Unlike what I did for the types, I’ll split the provider code in parts so that I can explain them with the context. You can still browse the whole code.

This is how we tell Puppet that we have a new provider for a given type. If we decipher this, we’re fetching the dnszone type (which returns the singleton class of our dnszone type), and call the class method “provide”, passing it a name, some options and a big block. In our case, the provider is called “fog”, and our parent should be Puppet::Provider::Fog (which defines common methods for both of our fog providers, and is also a descendant of Puppet::Provider). Like for types, we have a desc class method in Puppet::Provider to store some documentation strings. We also have the confine method. This method will help Puppet choose the correct provider for a given type, ie its suitability. The confining system is managed by Puppet::Provider::Confiner. You can use:

  • a fact or puppet settings value, as in: confine :operatingsystem =&gt; :windows
  • a file existence: confine :exists =&gt; "/etc/passwd"
  • a Puppet “feature”, like we did for testing the fog library presence
  • an arbitrary boolean expression confine :true =&gt; 2 == 2

A provider can also be the default for a given fact value. This allows to make sure the correct provider is used for a given type, for instance the apt provider on debian/ubuntu platforms.

And to finish, a provider might need to call executables on the platform (and in fact most of them do). The Puppet::Provider class defines a shortcut to declare and use those executables easily:

Let’s continue our exploration of our dnszone provider

mk_resource_methods is an handy system that creates a bunch of setters/getters for every parameter/properties for us. Those fills values in the @property_hash hash.

The prefetch methods calls fog to fetch all the DNS zones, and then we match those with the ones managed by Puppet (from the resources hash).

For each match we instantiate a provider filled with the values coming from the underlying physical resource (in our case fog). For those that don’t match, we create a provider whose only existing properties is that ensure is absent.

Flush does the reverse of prefetch. Its role is to make sure the real underlying resource conforms to what Puppet wants it to be.

There are 3 possibilities:

  • the desired state is absent. We thus tell fog to destroy the given zone.
  • the desired state is present, but during prefetch we didn’t find the zone, we’re going to tell fog to create it.
  • the desired state is present, and we could find it during prefetch, in which case we’re just refreshing the fog zone.

To my knowledge this is used only for ralsh (puppet resource). The problem is that our provider can’t know how to access fog until it has a dnszone (which creates a chicken and egg problem :)

And finally we need to manage the Ensure property which requires our provider to implement: create, destroy and exists?.

In a prefetch/flush provider there’s no need to do more than controlling the ensure value.

Things to note:

  • a provider instance can access its resource with the resource accessor
  • a provider can access the current catalog through its resource.catalog accessor. This allows as I did in the dnsrr/fog.rb provider to retrieve a given resource (in this case the dnszone a given dnsrr depends to find how to access a given zone through fog).


We just surfaced the provider/type system (if you read everything you might disagree, though).

For instance we didn’t review the parsed file provider which is a beast in itself (the Pro Puppet book has a section about it if you want to learn how it works, the Puppet core host type is also a parsed file provider if you need a reference).

Anyway make sure to read the Puppet core code if you want to know more :) feel free to ask questions about Puppet on the puppet-dev mailing list or on the #puppet-dev irc channel on freenode, where you’ll find me under the masterzen nick.

And finally expect a little bit of time before the next episode, which will certainly cover the Indirector and how to add new terminus (but I first need to find an example, so suggestions are welcome).

Puppet Extension Points - part 1

8 minute read

It’s been a long time since my last blog post, almost a year. Not that I stopped hacking on Puppet or other things (even though I’m not as productive as I had been in the past), it’s just that so many things happened last year (Memoir’44 release, architecture work at Days of Wonder) that I lost the motivation of maintaining this blog.

But that’s over, I plan to start a series of Puppet internals articles. The first one (yes this one) is devoted to Puppet Extension Points.

Since a long time, Puppet contains a system to dynamically load ruby fragments to provide new functionalities both for the client and the master. Among the available extension points you’ll find:

  • manifests functions
  • custom facts
  • types and providers
  • faces

Moreover, Puppet contains a synchronization mechanism that allows you to ship your extensions into your manifests modules and those will be replicated automatically to the clients. This system is called pluginsync.

This first article will first dive into the ruby meta-programming used to create (some of) the extension DSL (not to be confused with the Puppet DSL which is the language used in the manifests). We’ll talk a lot about DSL and ruby meta programming. If you want to know more on those two topics, I’ll urge you to read those books:

Anatomy of a simple extension

Let’s start with the simplest form of extension: Parser Functions.

Functions are extensions of the Puppet Parser, the entity that reads and analyzes the puppet DSL (ie the manifests). This language contains a structure which is called “function”. You already use them a lot, for instance “include” or “template” are functions.

When the parser analyzes a given manifest, it detects the use of functions, and later on during the compilation phase the function code is executed and the result may be injected back into the compilation.

Here is a simple function:

The given function uses the puppet functions DSL to load the extension code into Puppet core code. This function is simple and does what its basename shell equivalent does: stripping leading paths in a given filename. For this function to work you need to drop it in the lib/puppet/parser/functions directory of your module. Why is that? It’s because after all, extensions are written in ruby and integrate into the Puppet ruby namespace. Functions in puppet live in the Puppet::Parser::Functions class, which itself belongs to the Puppet scope.

The Puppet::Parser::Functions class in Puppet core has the task of loading all functions defined in any puppet/parser/functions directories it will be able to find in the whole ruby load path. When Puppet uses a module, the modules’ lib directory is automatically added to the ruby load path. Later on, when parsing manifests and a function call is detected, the Puppet::Parser::Functions will try to load all the ruby files in all the puppet/parser/functions directory available in the ruby load path. This last task is done by the Puppet autoloader (available into Puppet::Util::Autoload). Let’s see how the above code is formed:

  • Line 1: this is ruby way to say that this file belongs to the puppet function namespace, so that Puppet::Parser::Functions will be able to load it. In real, we’re opening the ruby class Puppet::Parser::Functions, and all that will follow will apply to this specific puppet class.

  • Line 2: this is where ruby meta-programming is used. Translated to standard ruby, we’re just calling the “newfunction” method. Since we’re in the Puppet::Parser::Functions class, we in fact are just calling the class method Puppet::Parser::Functions#newfunction.

We pass to it 4 arguments:

  • the function name, encoded as a symbol. Functions name should be unique in a given environment
  • the function type: either your function is a rvalue (meaning a right-value, an entity that lies on the right side of an assignment operation, so in real English: a function that returns a value), or is not (in which case the function is just a side-effect function not returning any values).
  • a documentation string (here we used a ruby heredoc) which might be extracted later.
  • and finally we’re passing a ruby code block (from the do on line 5, to the inner end on line 10). This code block won’t be executed when puppet loads the functions.

  • Line 5 to 10. The body of the methods. When ruby loads the function file on behalf of Puppet, it will happily pass the code block to newfunction. This last one will store the code block for later use, and make it available in the Puppet scope class under the name function_basename (that’s one of the cool thing about ruby, you can arbitrarily create new methods on classes, objects or even instances).

So let’s see what happens when puppet parses and executes the following manifest:

The first thing that happens when compiling manifests is that the Puppet lexer triggers. It will read the manifest content and split it in tokens that the parser knows. So essentially the above content will be transformed in the following stream of tokens:

The parser, given this input, will reduce this to what we call an Abstract Syntax Tree. That’s a memory data structure (usually a tree) that represents the orders to be executed that was derived from the language grammar and the stream of tokens. In our case this will schematically be parsed as:

In turns, when puppet will compile the manifest (ie execute the above AST), this will be equivalent to this ruby operation:

Remember how Puppet::Parser::Functions#newfunction created the function_basename. At that time I didn’t really told you the exact truth. In fact newfunction creates a function in an environment specific object instance (so that functions can’t leak from one Puppet environment to another, which was one of the problem of 0.25.x). And any given Puppet scope which are instances of Puppet::Parser::Scope when constructed will mix in this environment object, and thus bring to life our shiny function as if it was defined in the scope ruby code itself.


Let’s talk briefly about the way your modules extensions are propagated to the clients. So far we’ve seen that functions live in the master, but some other extensions types (like facts or types) essentially live in the client. Since it would be cumbersome for an admin to replicate all the given extensions to all the clients manually, Puppet offers pluginsync, a way to distribute this ruby code to the clients. It’s part of every puppet agent run, before asking for a catalog to the master. The interesting thing (and that happens in a lot of place into Puppet, which always amazes me), is that this pluginsync process is using Puppet itself to perform this synchronization. Puppet is good at synchronizing remotely and recursively a set of files living on the master. So pluginsync just create a small catalog containing a recursive File resource whose source is the plugins fileserver mount on the master, and the destination the current agent puppet lib directory (which is part of the ruby load path). Then this catalog is evaluated and the Puppet File resource mechanism does its magic and creates all the files locally, or synchronizes them if they differ. Finally, the agent loads all the ruby files it synchronized, registering the various extensions it contains, before asking for its host catalog.

Wants some facts?

The other extension point that you certainly already encountered is adding custom facts. A fact is simply a key, value tuple (both are strings). But we also usually call a fact the method that dynamically produces this tuple. Let’s see what it does internally. We’ll use the following example custom fact:

It’s no secret that Puppet uses Facter a lot. When a puppet agent wants a catalog, the first thing it does is asking Facter for a set of facts pertaining to the current machine. Then those facts are sent to the master when the agent asks for a catalog. The master injects those facts as variables in the root scope when compiling the manifests.

So, facts are executed in the agent. Those are pluginsync’ed as explained above, then loaded into the running process.

When that happens the add method of the Facter class is called. The block defined between line 2 and 6 is then executed in the Facter::Util::Resolution context. So the Facter::Util::Resolution#setcode method will be called and the block between line 3 and 5 will be stored for later use.

This Facter::Util::Resolution instance holding our fact code will be in turn stored in the facts collection under the name of the fact (see line 2).

Why is it done in this way? Because not all facts can run on every hosts. For instance our above facts does not work on Windows platform. So we should use facter way of confining our facts to architectures on which we know they’ll work. Thus Facter defines a set of methods like “confine” that can be called during the call of Facter#add (just add those outside of the setcode block).  Those methods will modify how the facts collection will be executed later on. It wouldn’t have been possible to confine our facts if we stored the whole Facter#add block and called it directly at fact resolution, hence the use of this two-steps system.


And, that’s all folks for the moment. Next episode will explain types and providers inner workings. I also plan an episode about other Puppet internals, like the parser, catalog evaluation, and/or the indirector system.

Tell me (though comments here or through my twitter handle @masterzen) if you’re interested in this kind of Puppet stuff, or if there are any specific topics you’d like me to cover :)