Exposing microversions in SDKs

Exposing microversions in SDKs

While we are striving to design OpenStack API as easy to use as possible, SDKs for various programming languages will always be an important part of experience for developers, consuming it. This documentation contains recommendations on how to deal with microversions in SDKs (software development kits) targeting OpenStack.

This document recognizes two types of deliverables that we usually call SDKs. They will differ in the recommended approaches to exposing microversions to their consumers.

  • High-level SDK or just SDK is one that hides details of the underlying API from consumers, building its own abstraction layers. Its approach to backward and forward compatibility, as well as feature discovery, is independent of the one used by the underlying API. Shade is an example of such SDK for OpenStack.
  • Language binding closely follows the structure and design of the underlying API. It usually tries to build as little additional abstraction layers on top of the underlying API as possible. Examples include all OpenStack python-<service-name>client libraries.

Note

If in doubt, you should write a high-level SDK. The benefit of using an SDK is in consuming API in a way, natural to the programming language and any used frameworks. Things like microversions are likely to look foreign and confusing for developers who do not specialize on API design.

Concepts used in this document:

consumer
programming code that interfaces with an SDK, as well as its author.
microversion

API version as defined in :doc:microversion_specification. For simplicity, this guideline uses version as a synonym of microversion.

Note

When using the word microversion in your SDK, be careful to avoid associations with semantic versioning. A microversion is not the same as a patch version, and can be even major in a sense of semantic versioning.

major version

is not really an API version in a sense of :doc:microversion_specification, but rather a separate generation of the API, co-existing with other generations in the same HTTP endpoints tree.

Major versions are distinguished in the URLs by /v<NUMBER> parts and are the first components of a microversion. For example, in microversion 1.42, 1 is a major version.

Note

We don’t seem to have an established name for the second component.

As major versions may change the structure of API substantially, including changing the very mechanism of the microversioning, an SDK should generally try to stay within the requested major version, if any.

negotiation
process of agreeing on the most suitable common version between the client and the server. Negotiation should happen once, and its results should be cached for the whole session.

Note

We will use the Python programming language in all examples, but the recommendations will apply to any programming languages, including statically compiled ones. For examples here we will use a fictional Cats-as-a-Service API and its python-catsclient SDK.

High-level SDK

Generally, SDKs should not expose underlying API microversions to users. The structure of input and output data should not depend on the microversion used. Means, specific to the programming language and/or data formats in use, should be employed to indicate absence or presence of certain features and behaviors.

For example, a field, missing in the current microversion, can be expressed by None value in Python, null value in Java or its type can be Option<ActualDataType> in Rust:

import catsclient

sdk = catsclient.SDK()

cat = sdk.get_cat('fluffy')
if cat.color is None:
    print("Cat colors are not supported by this cat server")
else:
    print("The cat is", cat.color)

In this example, the SDK negotiates the API microversion that can return as much information as possible during the get_cat call. If the resulting version does not contain the color field, it is set to None.

An SDK should negotiate the highest microversion that will allow it to serve consumer’s needs better. However, it should never negotiate a microversion outside of the range it was written and tested with to avoid confusing breakages on future changes to the API. It goes without saying that an SDK should not crush or exhibit undefined behavior on any microversion returned by a server. Any incompatibilities should be expressed as soon as possible in a form that is natural for the given programming language.

For example, a Python SDK should raise an exception when a method is called that is not possible to express in any microversion supported by both the SDK and the server:

import catsclient

sdk = catsclient.SDK()

cat = sdk.get_cat('fluffy')
try:
    cat.bark()
except catsclient.UnsupportedFeature:
    cat.meow()

It is also useful to allow detecting supported features before using them:

import catsclient

sdk = catsclient.SDK()

cat = sdk.get_cat('fluffy')
if cat.can_bark():
    cat.bark()
else:
    cat.meow()

In this example, can_bark uses the negotiated microversion to check if it is possible for the bark call to work.

Note

If possible, an SDK should inform the consumer of the required API microversion and why it is not possible to use it. This is probably the only place where microversions can and should leak to a consumer.

If possible, major versions should be treated the same way, and should not be exposed to users. If not possible, an SDK should pick the most recent major version from the available.

Language binding

A low-level SDKs, which is essentially just a language binding for the API, stays close to the underlying API. Thus, it must expose microversions to consumers, and must do it in a way, closest to how API does it. We recommend that all calls accept an explicit API microversion that is sent directly to the underlying API. If none is provided, no version should be sent:

import catsclient

client = catsclient.v1.get_client()

cat = client.get_cat('fluffy')  # executed with no explicit version
try:
    cat.bark(api_version='1.42')  # executed with 1.42
except catsclient.IncompatibleApiVersion:
    # no support for 1.42, falling back to older behavior
    cat.meow()  # executed with no explicit version

Note

In some programming languages, particularly those without default arguments for functions, it may be inconvenient to add a version argument to all calls. Other means may be used to achieve the same result, for example, temporary context objects:

import catsclient

client = catsclient.v1.get_client()

cat = client.get_cat('fluffy')  # executed with no explicit version
with cat.use_api_version('1.42') as new_cat:
    new_cat.bark()  # executed with 1.42

Major versions

A low-level SDK should make it explicit which major version it is working with. It can be done by namespacing the API or by accepting an explicit major version as an argument. The preferred approach depends on how different the major versions of an API are.

Using Python as an example, either

import catsclient
client = catsclient.v1.get_client()

or

import catsclient
client = catsclient.get_client(1)

Supported versions

It’s highly recommended to provide a way to query the server for the supported version range:

import catsclient

client = catsclient.v1.get_client()
min_version, max_version = client.supported_api_versions()

cat = client.get_cat('fluffy')  # executed with no explicit version
if max_version >= (1, 42):
    cat.bark(api_version='1.42')  # executed with 1.42
else:
    # no support for 1.42, falling back to older behavior
    cat.meow()  # executed with no explicit version

Minimum version

Applications often have a base minimum API version they are capable of working with. It is recommended to provide a way to accept such version and use it as a default when no explicit version is provided:

import catsclient

try:
    client = catsclient.v1.get_client(api_version='1.2')
except catsclient.IncompatibleApiVersion:
    sys.exit("Cat API version 1.2 is not supported")

cat = client.get_cat('fluffy')  # executed with version 1.2
try:
    cat.bark(api_version='1.42')  # executed with 1.42
except catsclient.IncompatibleApiVersion:
    # no support for 1.42, falling back to older behavior
    cat.meow()  # executed with version 1.2

As in this example, an SDK using this approach must provide a clear way to indicate that the requested version is not supported and do it as early as possible.

List of versions

As a simplification extension, a language binding may accept a list of versions as a base version. The highest version supported by the server must be picked and used as a default.

import catsclient

try:
    client = catsclient.v1.get_client(api_version=['1.0', '1.42'])
except catsclient.IncompatibleApiVersion:
    sys.exit("Neither Cat API 1.0 nor 1.42 is supported")

cat = client.get_cat('fluffy')  # executed with either 1.0 or 1.42
                                # whichever is available
if client.current_api_version == (1, 42):
    # Here we know that the negotiated version is 1.42
    cat.bark()  # executes with 1.42
else:
    # Here we know that the negotiated version is 1.0
    cat.meow()  # executes with 1.0

# The default version can still be overwritten
try:
    cat.drink(catsclient.MILK, api_version='1.66')  # executed with 1.66
except catsclient.IncompatibleApiVersion:
    # no support for 1.66, falling back to older behavior
    cat.drink()  # executed with either 1.0 or 1.42 whichever is available
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