Single Executable Application Plugin


The Marionette Collective 1.1.1 and newer supports a single executable - called mco - and have a plugin type called application that lets you create applications for this single executable.

In the past we tended to write small standalone scripts to interact with MCollective, this had a number of issues:

  • Large number of executables in /usr/sbin
  • Applications behave inconsistently with regard to error handling and reporting
  • Discovering new applications is difficult since they are all over the filesystem
  • Installation and packaging of plugins is complex

We’ve attempted to address these concerns by creating a single point of access for all applications - the mco script - with unified help, error reporting and option parsing.

Below you can see the single executable system in use:

The Marionette Collective version 2.0.0

usage: /usr/bin/mco: command <options>

Known commands:

   cap                  controller           exim
   facts                filemgr              find
   help                 inventory            iptables
   nettest              nrpe                 package
   pgrep                ping                 plugin
   puppetd              rpc                  service

Type 'mco help' for a detailed list of commands and 'mco help command'
to get detailed help for a command
$ mco help
The Marionette Collection version 2.0.0

  facts           Reports on usage for a specific fact
  filemgr         Generic File Manager Client
  find            Find hosts matching criteria
  help            Application list and RPC agent help
  inventory       Shows an inventory for a given node
  ping            Ping all nodes
  rpc             Generic RPC agent client application
$ mco rpc package status package=zsh
Determining the amount of hosts matching filter for 2 seconds .... 51

 * [ ============================================================> ] 51 / 51

These applications are equivalent to the old mc-rpc and similar applications but without the problem of lots of files in /usr/sbin.

Basic Application

Applications goes in libdir/mcollective/application/echo.rb, the one below is a simple application that speaks to a hypothetical echo action of a helloworld agent. This agent has been demonstrated in : writing agents.

class MCollective::Application::Echo<MCollective::Application
   description "Reports on usage for a specific fact"

   option :message,
          :description    => "Message to send",
          :arguments      => ["-m", "--message MESSAGE"],
          :type           => String,
          :required       => true

   def main
      mc = rpcclient("helloworld")

      printrpc mc.echo(:msg => configuration[:message], :options => options)


Here’s the application we wrote in action:

$ mco echo
The message option is mandatory

Please run with --help for detailed help
$ mco echo -m test

 * [ ============================================================> ] 1 / 1
   Message: test
      Time: Mon Jan 31 21:27:03 +0000 2011

Finished processing 1 / 1 hosts in 68.53 ms

Most of the techniques documented in SimpleRPC Clients can be reused here, we’ve just simplified a lot of the common used patterns like CLI arguments and incorporated it all in a single framework.


Usage Messages

To add custom usage messages to your application we can add lines like this:

class MCollective::Application::Echo<MCollective::Application
   description "Reports on usage for a specific fact"

   usage "mco echo [options] --message message"

You can add several of these messages by just adding multiple such lines.

Application Options

A standard options hash is available simply as options you can manipulate it and pass it into the RPC Client like normal. See the SimpleRPC Clients reference for more on this.

CLI Argument Parsing

There are several options available to assist in parsing CLI arguments. The most basic option is:

class MCollective::Application::Echo<MCollective::Application
   option :message,
          :description    => "Message to send",
          :arguments      => ["-m", "--message MESSAGE"]

In this case if the user used either -m message or --message message on the CLI the desired message would be in configuration[:message]

Required Arguments

You can require that a certain parameter is always passed:

option :message,
  :description    => "Message to send",
  :arguments      => ["-m", "--message MESSAGE"],
  :required       => true

Argument data types

CLI arguments can be forced to a specific type, we also have some additional special types that the default ruby option parser cant handle on its own.

You can force data to be of type String, Fixnum etc:

option :count,
  :description    => "Count",
  :arguments      => ["--count MESSAGE"],
  :type           => Fixnum

You can force an argument to be boolean:

option :detail,
  :description    => "Detailed view",
  :arguments      => ["--detail"],
  :type           => :bool

If you have an argument that can be called many times you can force that to build an array:

option :args,
  :description    => "Arguments",
  :arguments      => ["--argument ARG"],
  :type           => :array

Here if you supplied multiple arguments configuration[:args] will be an array with all the options supplied.

Argument validation

You can validate input passed on the CLI:

option :count,
  :description    => "Count",
  :arguments      => ["--count MESSAGE"],
  :type           => Fixnum,
  :validate       => {|val| val < 10 ? true : "The message count has to be below 10" }

Should the supplied value be 10 or more a error message will be displayed.

Disabling standard sections of arguments

By default every Application get all the RPC options enabling filtering, discovery etc. In some cases this is undesirable so we let users disable those.

class MCollective::Application::Echo<MCollective::Application
   exclude_argument_sections "common", "filter", "rpc"

This application will only have –help, –verbose and –config as options, all the other options will be removed.

Post argument parsing hook

Right after all arguments are parsed you can have a hook in your program called, this hook could perhaps parse the remaining data on ARGV after option parsing is complete.

class MCollective::Application::Echo<MCollective::Application
   description "Reports on usage for a specific fact"

   def post_option_parser(configuration)
      unless ARGV.empty?
         configuration[:message] = ARGV.shift
         STDERR.puts "Please specify a message on the command line"
         exit 1

   def main
      # use configuration[:message] here to access the message

Validating configuration

After the options are parsed and the post hook is called you can validate the contents of the configuration:

class MCollective::Application::Echo<MCollective::Application
   description "Reports on usage for a specific fact"

   # parse the first argument as a message
   def post_option_parser(configuration)
      configuration[:message] = ARGV.shift unless ARGV.empty?

   # stop the application if we didnt receive a message
   def validate_configuration(configuration)
      raise "Need to supply a message on the command line" unless configuration.include?(:message)

   def main
      # use configuration[:message] here to access the message

Exiting your application

You can use the normal exit Ruby method at any time to exit your application and you can supply any exit code as normal.

The supplied applications have a standard exit code convention, if you want your applications to exhibit the same behavior use the halt helper. The exit codes are below:

Code Description
0 Nodes were discovered and all passed
0 No discovery was done but responses were received
1 No nodes were discovered
2 Nodes were discovered but some responses failed
3 Nodes were discovered but no responses were received
4 No discovery were done and no responses were received
class MCollective::Application::Echo<MCollective::Application
   description "Reports on usage for a specific fact"

   def main
      mc = rpcclient("echo")

      printrpc mc.echo(:msg => "Hello World", :options => options)


      halt mc.stats

As you can see you pass the halt helper an instance of the RPC Client statistics and it will then use that to do the right exit code.

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