Backend Drivers for oslo.config

Currently, oslo.config is tightly bound to the plain text configuration files. This spec describes changes to allow deployers to store configuration data in other places, such as secret stores managed by castellan, by adding a driver layer to oslo.config.

Problem description

Various regulations and best practices say that passwords and other secret values should not be stored in plain text in configuration files. There are “secret store” services to manage values that should be kept secure. Castellan provides an abstraction API for accessing those services. Castellan also depends on oslo.config, which means oslo.config cannot use castellan directly.

This spec describes a new driver API for oslo.config to allow us to (separately) write a driver in castellan that can be used when it is installed but will not cause errors when it is missing.

Proposed change

oslo.config is updated so that multiple backends can be used and the existing INI parser is turned into one driver.

As part of initializing the ConfigOpts instance and loading settings, all known drivers will be interrogated to determine if they can provide one or more “sources” of data. The driver is responsible for defining its own configuration options and interpreting them to define a data “source”.

A new configuration option DEFAULT.config_sources is added to define sources other than those provided by --config-file and --config-dir on the command line. The value for config_sources is a list of source identifiers used to find configuration settings for other sources. Each source identifier corresponds to a configuration option group, which provides the details for a single source of configuration data.

When ConfigOpts looks for an option value, it goes through the defined sources in the order they are provided, starting with the command line, then any configuration files, and finally the sources loaded from config_sources. The first source that provides a configured value for an option causes the search to end (sources are not “merged” internally).

An occurance of --config-dir will continue to be treated as a single source, as it is now (all of the options are merged into one namespace) using the INI file driver.

Implementation details

When ConfigOpts is done parsing the command line options and loading configuration files, it will iterate over the items in DEFAULT.config_sources. Each string in the list value will be interpreted as the name of an option group that defines another configuration source. The driver setting in each group will specify which oslo.config driver to use to load a source from the option group using open_source_from_opt_group().

def open_source_from_opt_group(self, conf, group_name):
    """Return an open option source.

    Use group_name to find the configuration settings for the new
    source then open the source and return it.

    If a source cannot be open, raise an appropriate exception.

    :param conf: The active configuration option handler from which
                 to seek configuration values.
    :type conf: ConfigOpts
    :param group_name: The configuration option group name where the
                       options for the source are stored.
    :type group_name: str
    :return: instance of subclass of ConfigurationSource

Each ConfigurationSource instance is expected to retain any information it needs to maintain a connection. Whether the connection is long-lived or opened each time a configuration value is needed is up to the driver.

The ConfigurationSource is not explicitly closed. If a connection is lost, it is the responsibility of the driver to re-open it, or emit a hard failure exception.

Each time ConfigOpts is asked for the value of an option, it will iterate over the drivers and sources in the order they were registered and call get() on the source, always passing an explicit group name and option name.

def get(self, group_name, option_name, opt):
    """Return the value of the option from the group.

    :param group_name: Name of the group.
    :type group_name: str
    :param option_name: Name of the option.
    :type option_name: str
    :param opt: The option definition.
    :type opt: Opt
    :return: Option value or NoValue.

The source should return the value of the option, if it is present in the data store being accessed. The return value should either match the type for the Opt, or another type such as a string that can be coerced into the required type. The caller will perform the type conversion in that case.

Converting complex types such as lists and dictionaries for storage is left up to the driver to specify, though if the values need to be encoded it would be good if that happened either as JSON or using the same syntax that the INI files use.

If the value is not available in the data store, the source should return oslo_config.drivers.NoValue. We cannot use None as a sentinel indicating a missing value because it may be a valid value or default, so we use a custom singleton instead.

The opt parameter is provided in case the driver needs to do advanced coercion (such as mapping an integer value to a choice). It should not be used for type coercion except in special circumstances.

The driver is not responsible for handling deprecated option names. The caller will look for a value using the current option name then search again using the deprecated name(s) if no source has a value under the current name.

New error classes with more generic names need to be derived from ConfigFilesNotFoundError and ConfigFilesPermissionDeniedError to be used in similar situations by the drivers.

All other errors raised from the drivers will be trapped by ConfigOpts and logged as warnings and the driver will be treated as though it returned NoValue.

Drivers will be implemented inside the oslo.config library, and loaded through entry points managed by stevedore using the namespace oslo.config.driver. This will allow us, for example, to add a driver to the castellan library without introducing a circular dependency between castellan and oslo.config.

Caching and Mutable Option Handling

The existing “mutate configuration” behavior, which allows a service to tell oslo.config to reload the configuration file, is extended to work with the new configuration sources.

Values retrieved from a ConfigurationSource may be cached by the ConfigOpts instance to avoid repeated calls to a remote service (they should not be cached by the driver). When the ConfigOpts class is told to mutate its options, it discards any cached values it holds, as well as any open ConfigurationSource instances. It will then load its configuration sources again, from scratch. This avoids the need for a cache-flushing API in the ConfigurationSource class, keeping the drivers simple.

The existing behavior for detecting changes to options not configured as mutable is retained, as is the existing callback system for notifying applications that options have been reloaded.


An earlier version of this spec focused on an etcd driver for container use cases. That problem has been solved using a different approach.

Other backends, such as castellan, consul, zookeeper, MySQL, and etcd, can be implemented separately without writing additional specs, unless implementing them will require modifying the API defined for the drivers.

There is another proposal that introduces a proxy interface to configuration options. However, it does not provide any mechanism to make it configurable.

Impact on Existing APIs

There are no changes to the existing public API for oslo.config.

The ConfigurationSource class and the new exceptions will be added to the API.

The behavior when oslo.config is told to “mutate” its configuration will change, but the call to perform the mutation is the same.

Security impact

We assume that any remote access would occur over an encrypted connection.

Performance Impact

Because configuration options can be registered by a service at any time during operation, it may not always be possible for a driver initialized early in the process start up to load “all” of the settings in one call. Therefore some configuration accesses may be slower than when reading just from an INI file. We can use caching in the top layer in oslo.config to mitigate this impact. Drivers are free to implement their own optimizations internally (such as fetching all of the keys in a namespace or all of the rows from a table), but the ability to do so is not assumed in the driver API.

Configuration Impact

Deployers using a secret store will need to load configuration values into their database using a native tool. The scheme for each backend service must be documented in order for them to be able to do this.

We may want to build a tool to read an INI file and publish it to a remote system, but that is not part of this spec and would have to be described separately before being implemented. Deployment tools such as Tripleo may provide their mechanism for doing this, or contribute to doing the work through oslo.config to be shared. It is expected that drivers will need a set() method to support uploading configuration settings.

Below is an example using a configuration file and hypothetical secret store set up via the config file.

The program is started using the standard --config-file option on the command line.

$ app --config-file /path/to/file.conf

and the configuration file file.conf contains:

config_sources = secret

driver = castellan
mapping_file = /path/to/mapping.ini

Developer Impact

Developers will not notice any difference in their use of oslo.config.

Testing Impact

We will need unit tests for the priority resolution algorithm.

We will need unit tests for the driver(s).

We will need functional tests for the driver(s).



Primary assignee:

  • Samuel Pilla (spilla)

Other contributors:

  • Doug Hellmann (dhellmann)


queens-3 or rocky-2

Work Items

  • Define the base class for a configuration driver.
  • Define the ConfigurationSource base class.
  • Set up the namespace for entry points for drivers.
  • Define a new driver for loading configuration from simple URLs to be used as a test case.
  • Extend ConfigOpts to load and use the drivers, as described above. This will add URL handling without changing the way file loading works.
  • Update ConfigOpts to use the ConfigurationSource search algorithm described above in addition to its current search algorithm.
  • Ensure that ConfigOpts only caches non-mutable values.
  • Change mutate_config_files() to discard all of the existing data and reload it, without performing any validation. Fix tests and erase dead code left by rewriting that feature.







Anticipated API Stabilization


Documentation Impact