Provider Name-Spaces

Name-spaces are a new feature in the 0.5 release. They alter typically short job identifiers (names) and prefix them with a long and centrally-managed name space identifier to ensure that jobs created by different non-cooperating but well-behaving authors are uniquely distinguishable.

Theoretical Considerations

About name-spaces

Starting with the 0.5 release, Plainbox supports name-spaces for job identifiers. Each job has a partial identifier which is encoded by the id: or the legacy name: field in job definition files. That partial identifier is prefixed with the name-space of the provider that job belongs to. This creates unique names for all jobs.


Historically the Checkbox project used to ship with a collection of job definitions for various testing tasks. Since there was only one organization controlling all jobs there was no problem of undesired clashes as all the involved developers could easily coordinate and resolve issues.

With the rewrite that brought Plainbox the core code and the pluggable data concept was becoming easier to work with and during the 0.4 development cycle we had decided to offer first-class support for external developers to work on their own test definitions separately of the Canonical Hardware Certification team that maintained the Checkbox project.

The first concern that became obvious as we introduced test providers was that the name-space for all identifiers (job names at the time) was flat. As additional test authors started using providers and, devoid of the baggage of experience with legacy Checkbox, used natural, generic names for job definitions it became clear that in order to work each test author needs to have a private space where no clashes are possible.

Name-Space Organization Guide

This section documents some guidelines for using name-spaces in practice.

Provider Name Spaces and IQN

Plainbox name-spaces are based on the iSCSI IQN concept. It is a simple extension of the usage of DNS names to create name-spaces. As DNS is externally managed anyone owning a domain name can use that domain name and have a high chance of avoiding clashes (as long as no party is maliciously trying to create clashing names). IQN extends that with a year code. Since DNS name ownership can and does change (people don’t extend domains, companies change ownership, etc.) it was important to prevent people from having to own a domain forever to ensure name-space collisions are avoided. By prepending the four-digit year number when a domain was owned by a particular entity, anyone that ever owned a domain can create unique identifiers.

Sole Developers

If you are a sole developer you need to own at least one domain name at least once. You can create arbitrary many name-spaces starting with It is advisable to use at least one sub-domain if you know up front that the tests you are working on are for a particular, well-defined task. For example, you could use

Within that name-space you can create arbitrary many test providers (typically to organize your dependencies so that not everything needs to be installed at once). An example provider could be called If you have two jobs inside that provider, say test-1 and test-2 they would be called (surprise) and

Organizations and Companies

If you are working as a part of an organization you should coordinate within that organization and use the same rules as the sole developer above. The primary difference is that you should really always use a sub-domain (so for example, to differentiate your tests from tests that may be independently developed by other people within the same company. It is recommended that managers of particular organizational units decide on the particular name-space to use.

Important Notes

There are two important notes that apply to everyone:


Remember that provider namespace is derived from the provider name, the part after the colon, including the colon, is discarded. Providers are a way to organize tests together for dependencies. Namespaces are a way to organize tests regardless of dependencies.

Technical Details

Implicit Provider Name-Space

As mentioned above, the provider name-space is derived from the provider name:

  provider namespace

         provider name

The part of the provide name before the colon is used as the name-space. The colon is not a part of the name-space.

The implicit name-space is used to construct non-partial job definition names as well as to implicitly prefix each pattern inside test plans.

Using Explicit Name-Spaces

Explicit name-spaces need to be used in two situations:

  1. When running a single job by name, e.g.: plainbox run -i com.canonical.plainbox::stub/true.

    This is required as any partial ID may silently change the job it resolves to and we didn’t want to introduce that ambiguity.

  2. When including a job from another name-space inside a test plan, e.g.:

    ~/com.example.some:provider$ cat units/test-plan.pxu

    Here the test plan names three jobs:

    • com.example.some::job-a
    • com.example.some::job-b
    • com.example.other::job-a

    Note that the dots are escaped with \ to prevent them from matching arbitrary character.

Custom Executables & Execution Environment

When Plainbox needs to execute a job with a shell command it constructs a special execution environment that includes additional executables specific to some providers. The execution environment is comprised of a directory with symbolic links to all the private executables of all of the provides that have the same name-space as the provider that owns the job that is to be executed.

Names of custom executables should be treated identically as job identifiers, they share a private name-space (though separate from job names) and need to be managed in the same way.

Limitations and Known Issues

List of issues as of version 0.5

  • It is impossible to use a resource from one name-space in a job definition from another name-space. This restriction should be lifted with the introduction of additional syntax in subsequent versions.
  • It is impossible for a local job to generate a new job definition in a different name-space than the one of the local job itself. This limitation is likely not to be lifted.
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