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Auto Provisioning System For Choria Server

Choria Server supports a Provisioning mode that assists bootstrapping the system in large environments or dynamic cloud based environments that might not be under strict CM control.

When an unconfigured Choria Server is in provisioning mode it will connect to a compiled-in Middleware network and join the provisioning sub collective. It will optionally publish it's metadata and expose it's facts.

You can think of this as a similar setup as the old Provisioning VLANs where new servers would join to PXE boot etc. but here we expose an API that let the provisioning environment control the node.

The idea is that an automated system will discover nodes in the provisioning subcollective and guide them through the on-boarding process. The on-boarding process can be entirely custom, one possible flow might be:

  • Discover all nodes in the provisioning sub-collective with the choria_provision agent
    • For every discovered nodes
      • Retrieve facts and metadata
      • Based on it's facts programmatically determine which Member Collective in a Federation this node should belong to.
      • Ask the node for a CSR, potentially supplying a custom CN, OU, O, C and L
      • Sign the CSR the node provided against your own CA
      • Construct a configuration tailored to this node, setting things like SRV domain or hard coded brokers
      • Send the configuration, certificate and CA chain to the node where it will configure itself
      • Request the node restarts itself within a provided splay time

After this flow the node will join it's configured Member Collective with it's signed Certificate and CA known it becomes a normal node like any other.

You can invoke the choria_provision#reprovision action to ask it to leave its Member Collective and re-enter the provisioning flow.

If you have a token compiled in you can restart a server when not in provisioning mode with the token via the choria_provision#restart action.

This project includes a provisioner that you can use, it will call a helper that you provide and can write in any language to integrate with your CA and generate configuration.

Configuring Choria Server

Provisioning is enabled in the Open Source server by means of a JWT token that you create during provisioning. The JWT token holds all of the information the server needs to find it's provisioning server and will present that token also to the provisioning server for authentication.

The token is signed using a trusted private key, the provisioner will only provision nodes presenting a trusted key.

$ choria tool jwt provisioning.jwt key.pem --srv --token toomanysecrets

Here we create a provisioning.jwt that will instruct Choria to look for SRV records to find the server to connect to.

Other options can be set for example to hard code provisioning URLs, username and passwords and more.

When this file is placed in /etc/choria/provisioning.jwt and Choria starts without a configuration it will provision via these settings.

Choria also support provisioning plugins to resolve this information dynamically but this requires custom binaries and should in general be avoided.

Preparing a Broker Environment

The broker used for provisioning is the same as for our fleet, in a special mode the broker will accept unverified TLS connections on the same port as verified mTLS ones. The unverified connections may only be used for servers in provisioning mode with a provisioning.jwt token and very strict permissions are applied. These unverified TLS connections may not communicate with any other node.

A further mitigation is in place by using the Choria Broker multi tenancy features these provisioning node servers are completely isolated from any provisioned machine.

The Provisioner continues to connect over verified mTLS and presents a Username and Password to communicate with these fenced off servers. = /etc/choria-provisioner/signer-public.pem = provS3cret

This is the relevant snippet in the broker.conf, here the /etc/choria-provisioner/signer-public.pem is the public certificate used to sign the provisioning.jwt.

When this broker starts it will log the following warning:

WARN[0001] Allowing non TLS connections for provisioning purposes  component=network

High Availability

The Choria Provisioner can be run in a HA cluster of any size, they will campaign for leadership using Choria Streams and whichever instance is leader will provision nodes.

Campaigning will be on a backoff schedule up to 20 second between campaigns, this means there can be up to a minute of downtime during a failover scenario, generally that's fine for the Provisioner.

If a Provisioner was on standby and becomes leader it will immediately perform a discovery to pick up any nodes ready for provisioning.

To enable the Choria Broker must be of the kind described above in Preparing a Broker Environment and Choria Streams must be enabled.

Setting leader_election_name: PROVISIONER in the Provisioner configuration will enable campaigns, when this is set the Provisioners will start in the Paused mode.

Provisioning nodes

The agent has the following actions:

  • gencsr - generates a private key and CSR on the node, returns the CSR and directory they were stored in
  • configure - configures a node with the given configuration, signed certificate and ca and path to the ssl store
  • restart - restarts the server after a random splay
  • reprovision - re-enter provisioning mode
  • release_update - update the choria binary in-place from a repository

Each action takes an optional token which should match that compiled into the Choria binary via the ProvisionToken flag.

You can either write your own provisioner end to end or use one we provide and plug into it with just the logic to hook into your CA and logic for generating configuration.

Use our provisioner

A provisioner project is included that can be used to provision your nodes, it allows you to hook in a program to compute the config and integrate with your SSL. It has this generic flow:

Nodes will be discovered at startup and then every interval period:

  • Discover all nodes
    • Add each node to the work list

It will also listen on the network for registration and lifecycle events:

  • Listen for node registration and lifecycle events
    • Add each node to the work list

Regardless of how a node was found, this is the flow it will do:

  • Pass every node to a worker
    • Fetch the inventory using rpcutil#inventory
    • Request a CSR if the PKI feature is enabled using choria_provision#gencsr
    • Call the helper with the inventory and CSR, expecting to be configured
      • If the helper sets defer to true the node provisioning is ended and next cycle will handle it
    • Configure the node using choria_provision#configure
    • Restart the node using choria_provision#restart

When this provisioner start up it will emit a choria:lifecycle:startup:1 event with component provisioner.

Writing the helper

Your helper can be written in any language, it will receive JSON on its STDIN and should return JSON on its STDOUT. It should complete within 10 seconds and could be called concurrently.

The input is in the format:

	"identity": "",
	"csr": {
        "public_key": "-----BEGIN PUBLIC KEY-----....-----END PUBLIC KEY-----",
		"ssldir": "/path/to/ssldir"
	"inventory": "{\"agents\":[\"choria_provision\",\"choria_util\",\"discovery\",\"rpcutil\"],\"facts\":{},\"classes\":[],\"version\":\"0.0.0\",\"data_plugins\":[],\"main_collective\":\"provisioning\",\"collectives\":[\"provisioning\"]}"

The CSR structure will be empty when the PKI feature is not enabled, the inventory is the output from rpcutil#inventory, you'll be mainly interested in the facts hash I suspect. The data is JSON encoded. The public_key entry is available since Choria 0.23.0.

The output from your script should be like this:

  "defer": false,
  "msg": "Reason why the provisioning is being defered",
  "certificate": "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----......-----END CERTIFICATE-----",
  "ca": "-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----......-----END CERTIFICATE-----",
  "opa_policies": {
    "default.rego": "....."
  "action_policies": {
    "rpcutil.policy": "....."
  "configuration": {
    "plugin.choria.server.provision": "false",
    "identity": ""

If you set the ProvisionModeDefault compile time flag to "true" then you must set plugin.choria.server.provision to "false" else provisioning will fail to avoid a endless loop.

If you want to defer the provisioning - like perhaps you are still waiting for facts to be generated - set defer to true and supply a reason in msg which will be logged. The node will be tried again on the following cycle.

If you do not care for PKI then do not set certificate and ca.

The configuration contains the config in key value pairs where everything should be strings, this gets written directly into the Choria Server configuration.

Sample CFSSL Helper

Here's a sample helper that support enrolling nodes into a CFSSL CA, the CA is assumed to be running and listening on localhost:8888. We use this helper in production and can provision 1000 nodes in under a minute using it - including enrolling in the CA.

For this to work place the CA bundle in /etc/choria-provisioner/ca.pem.


require "json"
require "open3"

input =

request = JSON.parse(input)
request["inventory"] = JSON.parse(request["inventory"])

reply = {
  "defer" => false,
  "msg" => "",
  "certificate" => "",
  "ca" => "",
  "configuration" => {}

identity = request["identity"]
brokers = ""
registerinterval = "300"
registration_data = "/etc/node/metadata.json"

# PKI is optional, if you do enable it in the provisioner this code will kick in
if request["csr"] && request["csr"]["csr"]
    out, err, status = Open3.capture3("/path/to/cfssl sign -remote http://localhost:8888 -", :stdin_data => request["csr"]["csr"])
    if status.exitstatus > 0 || err != ""
      raise("Could not sign certificate: %s" % err)

    signed = JSON.parse(out)

    if signed["cert"]
      reply["ca"] ="/etc/choria-provisioner/ca.pem")
      reply["certificate"] = signed["cert"]
      raise("Did not received a signed certificate from cfssl")

    ssldir = request["csr"]["ssldir"]

      "" => "file",
      "" => File.join(ssldir, "certificate.pem"),
      "" => File.join(ssldir, "private.pem"),
      "" => File.join(ssldir, "ca.pem"),
      "" => File.join(ssldir, "cache")
    reply["defer"] = true
    reply["msg"] = "cfssl integration failed: %s: %s" % [$!.class, $!.to_s]

  "identity" => identity,
  "registerinterval" => registerinterval,
  "plugin.choria.middleware_hosts" => brokers,
  "" => registration_data,
  # include any other settings you wish to set

puts reply.to_json

Configuring the provisioner

The provisioner takes a YAML or JSON configuration file, something like:

# how many concurrent provisions can be run
workers: 4

# how frequently to start the cycle in go duration format
interval: 5m

# where to log
logfile: "/var/log/provisioner.log"

# loglevel - debug, info, warn, error
loglevel: info

# path to your helper script
helper: /usr/local/bin/provision

# the token you compiled into choria or stored into the jwt
token: toomanysecrets

# a site name exposed to the backplane to assist with discovery, also used in stats
site: testing

# sets a custom lifecycle component to listen on for events that trigger provisioning
# not compatible with leader election based HA
lifecycle_component: acme_provisioning

# Certificate patterns that should never be signed from CSRs, these are ones choria
# set aside as client only certificates and someone might configure a node to obtain
# a signed cert otherwise.  When not set below is the default value
  - "\.choria$"
  - "\.mcollective$"
  - "\.privileged.choria$"
  - "\.privileged.mcollective$"

# if not 0 then /metrics will be prometheus metrics
monitor_port: 9999

# provisioning server will connect with this password to connect
# the same one configured on the broker with
broker_provisioning_password: provS3cret

# a public cert that will be used to verify the JWT on the node is one we know and signed by us
# the same one configured on the broker with
jwt_verify_cert: /etc/choria_provisioner/jwt-signer.pem

  # enables fetching of the CSR
  pki: true
  # fetches the provisioning jwt and verify it against jwt_verify_cert
  jwt: false

# Standard Backplane specific configuration here, see
# for full reference
# if this is unset the backplane is not enabled
    name: provisioner
    logfile: /var/log/provisioner-backplane.log
    loglevel: info
        scheme: puppet

            - sre.mcollective

            - 1stline.mcollective


A choria client configuration should be made in /etc/choria-provisioner/choria.cfg, it looks like a normal choria client config and would support SRV and all the usual settings.


The provisioner includes a Choria Backplane with Pausable and FactSource features enabled. Using this you can emergency pause the provisioner and all calls to RPC, Helpers and Discovery will be stopped. No new nodes will be added via the event source.

Full details of configuration, RBAC and the backplane management utility can be found on the above project page.


The daemon keeps a number of Prometheus format stats and will expose it in /metrics if the monitor_port settings is over 0.

Statistic Descriptions
choria_provisioner_rpc_time How long each RPC request takes
choria_provisioner_helper_time How long the helper takes to run
choria_provisioner_discovered How many nodes are discovered using the broadcast discovery
choria_provisioner_event_discovered How many nodes were discovered due to events being fired about them
choria_provisioner_discover_cycles How many discovery cycles were ran
choria_provisioner_rpc_errors How many times a RPC request failed
choria_provisioner_helper_errors How many times the helper failed to run
choria_provisioner_discovery_errors How many times the discovery failed to run
choria_provisioner_provision_errors How many times provisioning failed
choria_provisioner_paused 1 when the backplane paused operations, 0 otherwise
choria_provisioner_busy_workers How many workers are busy processing servers
choria_provisioner_provisioned Host many nodes were successfully provisioned

A Grafana dashboard is included in dashboard.json that produce a set of graphs like here:


RPMs are hosted in the Choria yum repository for el6 and 7 64bit systems, packages are called choria-provisioner: