Hiera: Legacy config file syntax (hiera.yaml v4)

This version is out of date. For current versions, see Puppet packages and versions.

Hiera’s config file is called hiera.yaml. It configures the hierarchy for a given layer of data.

This version of Puppet supports three formats for hiera.yaml — you can use any of them, although v4 and v3 are deprecated. This page is about version 4, a transitional format used in Hiera 5’s experimental predecessor (Puppet lookup).

Format Allowed in Description
v5 All three data layers The main version of hiera.yaml, which supports all Hiera 5 features.
v4 Environment and module layers Deprecated. A transitional format, used in the rough draft of Hiera 5 (when we were calling it “Puppet lookup”). Doesn’t support custom backends.
v3 Global layer Deprecated. The classic version of hiera.yaml, which has some problems.

Important: version 4 is deprecated.

Version 4 of hiera.yaml is deprecated, and we plan to remove support for it in Puppet 6.

More importantly, version 4 can’t use some of Hiera 5’s best new features, like custom backends.

hiera.yaml (Version 4) in a nutshell

# /etc/puppetlabs/code/environments/production/hiera.yaml
version: 4
datadir: data
  - name: "Nodes"
    backend: yaml
    path: "nodes/%{trusted.certname}"

  # Putting a JSON level between YAML levels like this
  # was impossible in the old format.
  - name: "Exported JSON nodes"
    backend: json
      # Puppet checks these in order. Even though this is a single
      # item in the hierarchy, it acts like multiple hierarchy levels.
      - "nodes/%{trusted.certname}"
      - "insecure_nodes/%{facts.fqdn}"

  - name: "virtual/%{facts.virtual}"
    backend: yaml

  - name: "common"
    backend: yaml

The hiera.yaml (version 4) file goes in the main directory of a module or environment. It is a YAML hash that contains three keys:

  • version — Required. Must always be 4.
  • datadir — Optional. The default datadir, for any hierarchy levels that omit it. It is a relative path, from the root of the environment or module. The default is data.
  • hierarchy — Optional. A hierarchy of data sources to search, in the new format. If omitted, it defaults to a single source called common that uses the YAML backend.

The hierarchy is an array of hashes. Unlike in classic Hiera, each hierarchy level must specify its own backend, and can optionally use a separate datadir.

Each hierarchy level can contain the following keys:

  • name — Required. An arbitrary human-readable name, used for debugging and for puppet lookup --explain.

    This is also used as the default path if you don’t specify any paths. (If the name interpolates variables, Hiera will interpolate when finding data files but leave it uninterpolated when reporting the level’s name.)

  • backend — Required. Which backend to use. Currently only yaml and json are supported.
  • path — Optional; mutually exclusive with paths. The path to a data file. Can interpolate variables, to use different files depending on a node’s facts.
  • paths — Optional; mutually exclusive with path. An array of paths to data files, which can interpolate variables. This acts like multiple hierarchy levels, and is shorthand for writing consecutive levels that use the same backend and datadir.
  • datadir — Optional. A one-off datadir to use instead of the default one specified at top level.

Changes to version 4 for Hiera 5

In the experimental Puppet lookup, you had to use a setting to enable Hiera: for environments you had to set environment_data_provider = hiera in environment.conf or puppet.conf, and for modules you had to set "data_provider":"hiera" in metadata.json.

That’s no longer necessary. As of Puppet 4.9, Puppet automatically enables Hiera for a module or environment if a hiera.yaml file is present. This works for both v4 and v5 hiera.yaml files.

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