a library for organizing and distributing Chef data bag information
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Percolate: A Library for Organizing and Distributing Configuration Settings

Percolate is a library for declaratively managing configuration settings and propagating them to endpoints in a context-dependent manner. It contains adapters for data sources like Chef data bags, with which the user can provision machines appropriately while avoiding the antipattern of storing initialization information in node attributes.

There are three core concepts to Percolate: entities, contexts, and facets. Entities are DRY sources of information retrieved by the library. For example, the two entities mine and theirs below contain various configuration settings in YAML.

    aws_access_key: 00000000000000000000
    aws_secret_key: 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000
    aws_route53_zone_id: 00000000000000
    aws_route53_zone_id: 11111111111111

Contexts represent the type of information to retrieve. Specifying the aws-keys context during a lookup may yield different results from that of the aws-route53 context. Consequently, contexts may contain multiple facets, which are well-defined data mapping rules. For example, the aws-keys context may contain a hostname facet that says "when the organization part of the hostname (i.e., domain of www.domain.com) matches theirs, I actually intend to use the mine entity's AWS keys".

        theirs: mine

A Percolator is what binds entities, contexts, and facets together. Using the above snippets, invoking

percolator.find("aws-keys", :hostname, "www.theirs.org")

yields the mine entity, a plausible scenario if you belong to mine and are managing machines on behalf of theirs.

While we have designed Percolate to support different data sources through the adapter abstraction, currently only the ChefDataBagAdapter is supported. The sections below discuss general installation, followed by instructions for Chef integration.


  1. Get the percolate gem.

    $ gem install percolate

    Use the library in some Ruby code.

    require "percolate"
  2. To hack on Percolate: Clone the Git repository, do the Bundler dance, and run the unit tests.

    $ git clone -- git://github.com/carsomyr/percolate.git
    $ cd -- percolate
    $ bundle install
    $ bundle exec rake

Chef Integration

The percolate cookbook contains a single, default recipe. You can use it by adding the following line to your Chef cookbook's metadata.rb.

depends "percolate"

Any recipe that uses the Chef data bag-based Percolator should have the following line.

class << self
  include Percolate

This will ensure that a Percolator instance is initialized and available to all Chef recipes via the #percolator instance method.

Entities should be declared like so for a data bag named entities with items data_bag_item1 and data_bag_item2 in YAML. (Pretend that it's JSON for Chef purposes.)

id: data_bag_item1
    aws_access_key: 00000000000000000000
    aws_secret_key: 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000
    aws_route53_zone_id: 00000000000000
    aws_access_key: 11111111111111111111
    aws_secret_key: 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111

id: data_bag_item2
    aws_route53_zone_id: 11111111111111

Note that the ChefDataBagAdapter understands how to deep merge entity information declared over multiple data bag items, hence enabling a form of multitenancy whereby different users can contribute without conflict. For example, one could keep mine and theirs entity information in separate files and upload them independently with knife.

$ knife data bag create -- entities
$ knife data bag from file -- entities /path/to/data_bag_item1.json
$ knife data bag from file -- entities /path/to/data_bag_item2.json

By default, the percolate Chef recipe will load entities from the entities data bag. You can specify an alternate data bag by setting the appropriate node attribute.

node["percolate"]["entities_data_bag_name"] = "other_name"

Percolate contexts are data bags in and of themselves. A context (data bag) aws-keys may contain facet declarations like so.

id: data_bag_item1
    type: hostname
        testing.mine.org: mine-testing
        theirs: mine

Three conventions are used in the above example.

  1. A key in facets is the class of the facet referred to during lookups.
  2. The type key of the facet declaration specifies the facet class and defaults to the name of the facet. You can provide it if you want to customize the name, or if you need two facets of the same class.
  3. The attrs key of the facet declaration sets facet attributes that will affect how it maps data.

As is the case for entities, the ChefDataBagAdapter also understands how to merge facets of like names declared over multiple data bag items, although facets are responsible for handling merges with instances of their class.

To put it all together, here is a Chef recipe fragment that synthesizes the above examples.

# Create a Percolator instance and expose it via the `#percolator` getter.
class << self
  include Percolate

# Assume that the Chef node name is the hostname.
hostname = node.name

# Retrieve the entity information.
key_info = percolator.find("aws-keys", :hostname_remap, hostname)
access_key = key_info["aws_access_key"]
secret_key = key_info["aws_secret_key"]

# The key info differs based on the hostname.
# {www.mine.org, www.theirs.org}:
#   access_key: 00000000000000000000
#   secret_key: 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000
# testing.mine.org:
#   access_key: 11111111111111111111
#   secret_key: 1111111111111111111111111111111111111111

Please see the sections below for a list of the facet classes currently available, along with usage examples.

Facet Classes


The hostname facet maps parts of hostnames to entity names.

  • Attributes

    hostnames - A Hash of FQDNs to entity names.

    domains - A Hash of domains (i.e., domain.com of www.domain.com) to entity names.

    organizations - A Hash of organizations (i.e., domain of www.domain.com) to entity names.

  • Output

    The matched entity name in decreasing order of specificity (hostnames, domains, organizations). If no match was found, defaults to the organization part of the hostname.

  • Example

    facet = Percolate::Facet::HostnameFacet.new
    facet.hostnames = {
        "testing.mine.org" => "mine-testing"
    facet.organizations = {
        "theirs" => "mine"
    expect(facet.find("testing.mine.org")).to eq("mine-testing")
    expect(facet.find("www.theirs.org")).to eq("mine")
    expect(facet.find("dev.mine.com")).to eq("mine")
    expect(facet.find("www.some-org.com")).to eq("some-org")


The fixture facet maps objects (usually Strings) to entity names.

  • Attributes

    fixtures - A Hash of objects to entity names.

  • Output

    The matched entity name, or nil if no match was found.

  • Example

    facet = Percolate::Facet::FixtureFacet.new
    facet.fixtures = {
        "a" => "aa",
        "b" => "bb"
    expect(facet.find("a")).to eq("aa")
    expect(facet.find("b")).to eq("bb")
    expect(facet.find("c")).to eq(nil)


The tag facet maps collections of tags to entity names.

  • Attributes

    rules - An array of Hashes with entries (tags, an array of tags) and (value, the entity name).

  • Output

    An array of "most specific" matched entity names. In other words, if the input tags are ["a", "b", "c"] and there are rules for ["a"] and ["a", "b"], the latter rule will be chosen.

  • Example

    facet = Percolate::Facet::TagFacet.new
    facet.rules = [
        {"tags" => ["fast_cpu"],
         "value" => "1"},
        {"tags" => ["high memory"],
         "value" => "2"},
        {"tags" => ["fast_cpu", "high_memory"],
         "value" => "3"},
        {"tags" => ["bg_jobs"],
         "value" => "4"}
                       "bg_jobs"])).to eq(["1", "4"])
                       "bg_jobs"])).to eq(["3", "4"])

Custom Adapters and Facets

Writing your own adapters and facets is easy. When searching for a facet given by the symbol facet_name, the library will first camelize it, append "Facet", and look for it in the Percolate::Facet namespace. For example,

percolator.find("some_context", :my_app, *args)

will try to instantiate the Percolate::Facet::MyAppFacet class. If your facet accepts an attribute attribute_name, then it must have a setter named attribute_name=. Note that the same rules apply to adapters, with mentions of Facet replaced with Adapter.

Version History

0.9.2 (Oct 30, 2014)

  • Move the #percolator instance method from the percolate::default recipe to the Percolate library.

0.9.1 (Jan 13, 2014)

  • Fix the percolate cookbook.

0.9.0 (Jan 12, 2014)

  • Release the percolate gem and Chef cookbook.


Copyright 2014 Roy Liu

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not
use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy
of the License at


Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT
WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the
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