Puppet 4.9 reference manual

An external node classifier (ENC) is an arbitrary script or application which can tell Puppet which classes a node should have. It can replace or work in concert with the node definitions in the main site manifest (site.pp).

Depending on the external data sources you use in your infrastructure, building an external node classifier can be a valuable way to extend Puppet.

What is an ENC?

An external node classifier is an executable that Puppet Server or Puppet apply can call; it doesn’t have to be written in Ruby. Its only argument is the name of the node to be classified, and it returns a YAML document describing the node.

Inside the ENC, you can reference any data source you want, including PuppetDB. But from Puppet’s perspective, it just puts in a node name and gets back a hash of information.

ENCs can co-exist with standard node definitions in site.pp, and the classes declared in each source are merged together.

How merging works

Every node always gets a node object (which might be empty or might contain classes, parameters, and an environment) from the configured node_terminus. (This setting takes effect where the catalog is compiled; on Puppet Server when using an agent/master arrangement, and on the node itself when using Puppet apply. The default node terminus is plain, which returns an empty node object; the exec terminus calls an ENC script to determine what should go in the node object.) Every node might also get a node definition from the main manifest.

When compiling a node’s catalog, Puppet includes all of the following:

  • Any classes specified in the node object it received from the node terminus
  • Any classes or resources which are in the site manifest but outside any node definitions
  • Any classes or resources in the most specific node definition in site.pp that matches the current node (if site.pp contains any node definitions)
    • Note 1: If site.pp contains at least one node definition, it must have a node definition that matches the current node; compilation fails if a match can’t be found.
    • Note 2: If the node name resembles a dot-separated fully qualified domain name, Puppet makes multiple attempts to match a node definition, removing the right-most part of the name each time. Thus, Puppet would first try agent1.example.com, then agent1.example, then agent1. This behavior isn’t mimicked when calling an ENC, which is invoked only once with the agent’s full node name.
    • Note 3: If no matching node definition can be found with the node’s name, Puppet tries one last time with a node name of default; most users include a node default {} statement in their site.pp file. This behavior isn’t mimicked when calling an ENC.

Considerations and differences from node definitions

  • The YAML returned by an ENC isn’t an exact equivalent of a node definition in site.pp — it can’t declare individual resources, declare relationships, or do conditional logic. The only things an ENC can do are declare classes, assign top-scope variables, and set an environment. This means an ENC is most effective if you’ve done a good job of separating your configurations out into classes and modules.
  • In Puppet 3 and later, ENCs can set an environment for a node, overriding whatever environment the node requested. However, previous versions of Puppet use ENC-set and node-set environments inconsistently, with the ENC’s used during catalog compilation and the node’s used when downloading files.
  • Even if you aren’t using node definitions, you can still use site.pp to do things like set global resource defaults.
  • Unlike regular node definitions, where a node can match a less specific definition if an exactly matching one isn’t found (depending on Puppet’s strict_hostname_checking setting), an ENC is called only once, with the node’s full name.

Connecting an ENC

To tell Puppet Server to use an ENC, you need to set two settings: node_terminus has to be set to “exec”, and external_nodes must have the path to the executable.

[master]
  node_terminus = exec
  external_nodes = /usr/local/bin/puppet_node_classifier

ENC output format

ENCs must return either a YAML hash or nothing. This hash can contain classes, parameters, and environment keys, and must contain at least either classes or parameters. ENCs should exit with an exit code of 0 when functioning normally, and can exit with a non-zero exit code if you want Puppet to behave as though the requested node was not found.

If an ENC returns nothing or exits with a non-zero exit code, the catalog compilation fails with a “could not find node” error, and the node is unable to retrieve configurations.

Classes

If present, the value of classes must be either an array of class names or a hash whose keys are class names. That is, the following are equivalent:

classes:
  - common
  - puppet
  - dns
  - ntp

classes:
  common:
  puppet:
  dns:
  ntp:

Parameterized classes cannot be used with the array syntax. When using the hash key syntax, the value for a parameterized class should be a hash of the class’s parameters and values. Each value can be a string, number, array, or hash. String values should be quoted, since YAML parsers like to treat certain magical unquoted strings (like on) as booleans. Non-parameterized classes can have empty values.

classes:
    common:
    puppet:
    ntp:
        ntpserver: 0.pool.ntp.org
    aptsetup:
        additional_apt_repos:
            - deb localrepo.example.com/ubuntu lucid production
            - deb localrepo.example.com/ubuntu lucid vendor

Parameters

If present, the value of the parameters key must be a hash of valid variable names and associated values; these are exposed to the compiler as top scope variables. Each value can be a string, number, array, or hash.

parameters:
    ntp_servers:
        - 0.pool.ntp.org
        - ntp.example.com
    mail_server: mail.example.com
    iburst: true

Environment

If present, the value of environment must be a string representing the desired environment for this node. In Puppet 3 and later, this is the only environment used by the node in its requests for catalogs and files. In Puppet 2.7 ENC-set environments are not reliable, as noted above.

environment: production

Complete example

---
classes:
    common:
    puppet:
    ntp:
        ntpserver: 0.pool.ntp.org
    aptsetup:
        additional_apt_repos:
            - deb localrepo.example.com/ubuntu lucid production
            - deb localrepo.example.com/ubuntu lucid vendor
parameters:
    ntp_servers:
        - 0.pool.ntp.org
        - ntp.example.com
    mail_server: mail.example.com
    iburst: true
environment: production
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