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Using prefixes to operate multiple DCI environments

Prefixes allow you to control the inventory and settings of different DCI environments from a single central directory. We hope this article will convince you of the convenience of using prefixes in your DCI labs and will serve as a solid foundation for you to start leveraging their potential.

Although most of the examples here deal with the dci-openshift-agent, other DCI agents follow the same usage of prefixes and the examples are valid.

The basic use case

In the most basic use case, the DCI agents need the hosts and settings.yml files to exist in their configuration directory.


The hosts file identifies the target systems the agent will operate when launched, along with those Ansible variables related to the infrastructure.

The settings.yml file contains the main DCI related variables like the topic, the list of components or the job type the agent will be running.

The agent's configuration directory is the file system path where it looks for its input files. For the dci-openshift-agent it defaults to /etc/dci-openshift-agent and it goes likewise for the other DCI agents. As we'll see later, the path can be changed to some other location.

So... this being clarified, we were discussing the basic use case. In this scenario we just need to make sure the two files described above exist in the configuration directory and launch the agent:

    $ dci-openshift-agent-ctl -s -- -v

With this simple command line, the agent assumes default values are used so it just goes in the configuration directory and makes sure the hosts and settings.yml files exist. If they don't the agent will just fail reporting the missing file, otherwise, the agent will launch the Ansible playbook setting the inventory to point to the hosts file, and including the settings.yml variables file.

This is just an example of what the resulting ansible-playbook command would look like:

    $ ansible-playbook -e @/etc/dci-openshift-agent/settings.yml \
          -i /etc/dci-openshift-agent/hosts \
          -v dci-openshift-agent.yml

Some more complicated use cases

Now, the basic use case is great when you just have one lab with a single OpenShift cluster and you don't even need to persist your settings. But you may be asking yourself:

  • What if I have one lab with multiple OpenShift clusters?

  • What if I have a fleet of labs?

  • What if I just have one lab, with one cluster, but I want to run different deployment scenarios (IPI, UPI, upgrades...)?

  • What if I have any combination of the above?

  • Do I need to keep editing the hosts and settings.yml files or swapping them for every testing scenario?

Here is where prefixes come in handy.

Prefixes to the rescue

Prefixes are just what their name imply: prefixes you may add to the hosts and settings.yml file name so you may manage multiple operation setups from the same config directory without having to edit any files and on an almost seamless fashion.

So, let's say you have your lab, and in that lab you have two different clusters which, in a sheer effort of imagination, we'll call cluster1 and cluster2.


Each cluster has its own Provision Host and its own set of master and worker nodes with their individual addressess and BMC consoles.

With the tools and information we have so far, in order to have the dci-openshift-agent deploying over these two cluster we would have two copies of the hosts file somewhere in the filesystem and would keep placing the right one under /etc/dci-openshift-agent before running the agent.

Now, what at this point you may be guessing you can do instead of the above is just renaming each copy of the hosts file after the cluster they belong to just by adding the cluster name as a prefix:


This way the two files may exist under /etc/dci-openshift-agent and remain static for the rest of your lab life span.

Likewise, if each cluster is aimed at a different testing scope (target versions, type of jobs, etc.) you may create copies of the settings.yml file and name them with the same prefixes. In this example:



The next time we run the agent, we can provide it with a prefix by passing the parameter -p with the target cluster prefix. For instance:

    $ dci-openshift-agent-ctl -s -p cluster1 -- -v

What happens then with the agent is that it implements a logic that allows it to look for the given prefixed file or fail back into the default file names if none is found. In other words, when a prefix is provided:

  1. The agent tries to read the prefixed settings file (cluster1-settings.yml).

  2. If the file exists, the agent passes the variables to the Ansible playbook.

  3. If it does not exists, the agent tries to read the default settings.yml file.

  4. If it exists, the agent passes the variables to the Ansible playbook.

  5. If it does not exist, the agent fails reporting the missing file.

  6. The agent tries to read the prefixed inventory file cluster1-hosts from the configuration directory.

  7. If the file exists, the agent sets it as the inventory for the Ansible playbook.

  8. If it does not exists, the agent tries to read the default hosts file.

  9. If it does not exist, the agent reports the missing file and goes on with the execution.

The reason why the agent does not fail if the inventory file is missing is because there are other means to provide the Ansible playbook with an inventory, like the ansible.cfg file. However, if no hosts file is provided after all, the agent will most likely end up failing.

What about the different scenarios?

The most straight scenario now would be that we have a lab with different clusters. In this case, the initial setup we'd go with is prefixed copies of the hosts and settings files for each lab.

An exception to this would be that we had several clusters, forcing us to have dedicated inventory files per cluster, but the scope of the testing would be the same for each cluster. In this case, we could simply have the default settings.yml file defined in our configuration directory. This way, when running the agent, regardless of the cluster we indicate by the prefix, the agent will always default to the only settings file in the directory.


Another scenario would be where we have a single cluster, and different scopes of the tests we want to run. In this case, we would only need the hosts file, but then we'd create several copies fo the settings file and name them after the different scopes. For instance:

      +-> hosts
      +-> install-settings.yml
      +-> upgrade-settings

A particular case for this scenario is where you have a default scope of testing and them some corner cases to test. In this case, we could just keep one non-prefixed copy of the settings file, and only create duplicates for the alternative test scenarios:

      +-> hosts
      +-> settings.yml
      +-> upgrade-settings.yml

Finally, you could use any combination of the scenarios above:

      +-> cluster1-install-hosts
      +-> cluster1-upgrade-hosts
      +-> cluster1-upgrade-settings.yml
      +-> cluster2-install-hosts
      +-> cluster2-upgrade-hosts
      +-> cluster2-upgrade-settings.yml
      +-> settings.yml

So, in the example above, both cluster1 and cluster2 share the settings file when installing OCP, but they'll use a different settings file when testing upgrades (for instance because they have a different upgrade path each).

Some bonus tips

Below we present you with some extra features that can be helpful in combination with prefixes.

Changing the config directory path

As we explained above, the config directory paths default, respectively, to /etc/dci-openshift-agent and /etc/dci-openshift-app-agent. This means these are the directories the DCI agents will look for the settings and hosts files (and the hooks as well, for that matter).

This poses some inconveniences when, for instance, you plan on keeping your configuration resources in a git repository and you want to update your local copy with a system user different than root.

To overcome this, the agents give you the option of storing the settings and hosts files on a different path. The only thing you need to do is creating the file /etc/dci-openshift-agent/config and populating it with the variable:


Now you can have your configuration files (prefixed or not) stored on your alternative path so, when the agent is run, it will first check if the config file and CONFIG_DIR variable exist and load the proper settings and hosts files after applying the prefix logic described in this post.

Other commands that may use prefixes

But the use of prefixes is not only limited to the dci-openshit(-app)-agent command.

The dci-check-change command is used to create a temporary environment with copies of the code repositories you want to test at a given developement state.

In a standard execution, the command loads the settings defined in the /etc/dci-openshift-agent/config file, including the CONFIG_DIR variable.

If, however, one of the changed repositories cloned is a config directory, the CONFIG_DIR variable is overridden to point to the cloned directory.

Now, whether we use the system's configuration directory or a cloned one, dci-check-change may take not one, but two prefixes with format:

    -p doa-prefix -p2 doaa-prefix

This is so because, in order to test a workload, dci-check-change may need to deploy the cluster first, and this way you may provide the command with prefixes for both, the dci-ocp-agent (-p) and the dci-ocp-app-agent (-p2).

An example command would look like:

    $ dci-check-change 123456 -p ocp2 -p2 app2

Which would set the DCI openshift agent to run with prefix ocp2 and the app agent to run with prefix app2.

Using prefixes in queues

Finally, let's discuss how DCI queues may leverage and benefit from prefixes.

When scheduling a job with dci-queue schedule you place your job in a queue by providing the pool name in the command.

A pool will contain one or more resources, which represent clusters available in your lab so, when your job gets to the top of the queue and one of the resources becomes available it'll get assigned to the cluster and will get started.

This is achieved by running a test-runner process provided with the settings for your job, after setting the environment variable RES which encodes the cluster the job will run upon.

If you have a solution based on prefixes and are considering on using queues to run your jobs asynchronously, we have an out-of-the-box solution for you.

The only change needed would be editing (o creating) the file /etc/dci-openshift-agent/config and adding the variable:


If you then schedule a job and wait for it to start, you'll see the prefix arguments being added to the command line.