Puppet hiera Configuration System

hiera is part of Puppet. It is a hierarchical configuration system that allows us to:

  • Store configuration in separate files;
  • Include the relevant configuration files for every server we automate with Puppet.

hiera Configuration Files

Each hierarchy allows to one choose the proper configuration file for a resource, based on certain criteria. For example criteria may include node names, node groups, operating systems, or datacenters. Hierarchies are defined in a hiera.yaml file, which also defines a path for the files in each hierarchy.

Puppet facts are commonly used to select the proper files to use. For example, a path may be defined as "os/%{facts.os.name}.yaml". In this case, each resource will use a file named after the operating system it uses, in the os directory. You may need to use custom facts, for example to check which microservices will use a MariaDB server, or in which datacenter it runs.

We do not have to create a file for each possible value of a certain fact. We can define a default configuration file with settings that are reasonable for most resources. Other files, when included, will override some of the default settings.

A hiera configuration file will look like this:

version: 5
  datadir: global
  data_hash: yaml_data

  - name: "Node data"
    path: "nodes/%{trusted.certname}.yaml"

  - name: "OS data"
    path: "os/%{facts.os.family}.yaml"

  - name: "Per-datacenter business group data" # Uses custom facts.
    path: "location/%{facts.whereami}/%{facts.group}.yaml"

This file would include the global files, the OS-specific files and the node-specific files. Each hierarchy will override settings from previous hierarchies.

We can actually have several hiera configuration files. hiera.yaml is the global file. But we will typically have additional hiera configuration files for each environment. So we can include the configuration files that apply to production, staging, etc, plus global configuration files that should be included for every environment.

Importantly, we can also have hiera configuration files for each module. So, for example, a separate mariadb/hiera.yaml file may defined the hierarchies for MariaDB servers. This allow us to define, for example, different configuration files for MariaDB and for MaxScale, as most of the needed settings are typically different.

Configuration files

You probably noticed that, in the previous example, we defined data_hash: yaml_data, which indicates that configuration files are written in YAML. Other allowed formats are JSON and HOCON. The data_hash setting is defined in defaults, but it can be overridden by hierarchies.

Content initially contributed by Vettabase Ltd.


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