FAQ
Hello all,

I ran into a problem with hiera and in particular, assigning or not
assigning default values to variables within a data source. I'm using the
mcollective module (currently using version 1.1.6) and I've built a very
simple hiera backend to start adding site-specific data into a single
place. Within the mcollective init.pp manifest, I've identified four
places for which I'd like to abstract data into hiera; they are:

$server = hiera('::mcollective::server'),
$client = hiera('::mcollective::client'),
$middleware = hiera('::mcollective::middleware'),
$middleware_hosts = hiera('::mcollective::middleware_hosts'),

I've created a fqdn specific hiera source (ourlocalhost.local.yaml) and
added this:

classes: mcollective
mcollective::middleware: true
mcollective::server: true
mcollective::client: true
mcollective::middleware_hosts:
   - ourlocalhost.local

Upon running puppet on this specific host, the puppet run completes and I
marvel at the wonder of puppet and heiras' co-existence.

Now I'd like to simply add mcollective to any node in my network so I go to
common.yaml and add the following:

classes:
   - mcollective

# mcollective parameters
mcollective::server: true
mcollective::middleware_hosts:
   - outlocalhost.local

However, upon running puppet on a fresh machine, I get the following error:

Error: Could not retrieve catalog from remote server: Error 400 on SERVER:
Could not find data item ::mcollective::client in any Hiera data file and
no default supplied at
/etc/puppet/environments/test/modules/mcollective/manifests/init.pp:5 on
node mynode.local

If I add this line into common.yaml (mcollective::client: false) then I get
the following failure:

Error: Could not retrieve catalog from remote server: Error 400 on SERVER:
Could not find data item ::mcollective::middleware in any Hiera data file
and no default supplied at
/etc/puppet/environments/test/modules/mcollective/manifests/init.pp:6 on
node mynode.local

If I then go back into common.yaml and add 'false' to the values I don't
want, everything works:

classes: mcollective
mcollective::middleware: false
mcollective::server: true
mcollective::client: false
mcollective::middleware_hosts:
   - ourlocalhost.local


I've been searching for answers on the interwebs and haven't been able to
find anything specific for this one so I figured I'd ask a few questions:

1. Is this the expected functionality? If so, am I to understand that I
have to keep track of every hiera call (ex $server =
hiera('::mcollective::server'), $client = hiera('::mcollective::client')),
in my many modules and create defaults for each of these values in the
various hiera source files that I create? My understanding was that I
could create these hiera calls in my classes and a al carte these values
within my hiera source files. Am I mistaken and if not, doesn't that
create redundant data within my hiera source file tree? Also, if future-me
adds one additional hiera call to the init.pp, does that mean I have to
track down every hiera data source and add a default value to each one?

Which brings me to my next question:

2. It seems that things could get messy very quickly if I am declaring
parameters via hiera (let's take this mcollective example) and I have
multiple hiera source files for which these values are declared. As an
example, let's say I have a custom fact which determines that a node is a
'server' based on hostname. I then create a hiera data source called
'server.yaml' and assign the mcollective parameters to that data source and
all is well in the universe.

But if I later I want to create a custom hostname data source for that
server called 'nodename.yaml' and assign parameters from that source, I now
have two places to check for declared values. Additionally, if I go to the
mcollective init.pp file, I simply see the source for that variable is
being called from hiera but since I have two data sources, how will
future-me know which one to check? Further more, if I have a colleague
that is just familiar enough with our infrastructure to check the init.pp
and indeed he/she sees that the data is coming from hiera, he/she won't
know where to look if we've defined the data in our 'server.yaml' our
'node.yaml' and our 'common.yaml'. Obviously this is a simplistic example
but am I thinking about this wrong? Perhaps I've missed/overlooked a major
piece of the overall hiera design? Or, I'm simply a jackass and I'm "using
it wrong?"

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and my apologies for the long post.

Cheers,

Mike







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