plainbox-template-units (7)


This page documents the Plainbox template units syntax and runtime behavior


The template unit is a variant of Plainbox unit types. A template is a skeleton for defining additional units, typically job definitions. A template is defined as a typical RFC822-like Plainbox unit (like a typical job definition) with the exception that all the fields starting with the string template- are reserved for the template itself while all the other fields are a definition of all the eventual instances of the template.

Template-Specific Fields

There are four fields that are specific to the template unit:


Name of the unit type this template will generate. By default job definition units are generated (as if the field was specified with the value of job) eventually but other values may be used as well.

This field is optional.


Name of the resource job (if it is a compatible resource identifier) to use to parametrize the template. This must either be a name of a resource job available in the namespace the template unit belongs to or a valid resource identifier matching the definition in the template-imports field.

This field is mandatory.


A resource import statement. It can be used to refer to arbitrary resource job by its full identifier and (optionally) give it a short variable name.

The syntax of each imports line is:

IMPORT_STMT ::  "from" <NAMESPACE> "import" <PARTIAL_ID>
              | "from" <NAMESPACE> "import" <PARTIAL_ID>
                 AS <IDENTIFIER>

The short syntax exposes PARTIAL_ID as the variable name available within all the fields defined within the template unit. If it is not a valid variable name then the second form must be used.

This field is sometimes optional. It becomes mandatory when the resource job definition is from another provider namespace or when it is not a valid resource identifier and needs to be aliased.


A resource program that limits the set of records from which template instances will be made. The syntax of this field is the same as the syntax of typical job definition unit’s requires field, that is, it is a python expression.

When defined, the expression is evaluated once for each resource object and if it evaluates successfully to a True value then that particular resource object is used to instantiate a new unit.

This field is optional.


Name of the template engine to use, default is python string formatting (See PEP 3101). Currently the only other supported engine is jinja2.

This field is optional.


When a template is instantiated, a single record object is used to fill in the parametric values to all the applicable fields. Each field is formatted using the template-engine (default is python formatting language. Within each field the record is exposed as the variable named by the template_resource field. Record data is exposed as attributes of that object.

The special parameter __index__ can be used to iterate over the devices matching the template-filter field.

Migrating From Local Jobs

Migration from local jobs is mostly straightforward. Apart from one gotcha the process is as follows:

  1. Look at the data that was used to instantiate job definitions by the old local job. Write them down.
  2. Ensure that all of the instantiated template data is exposed by exactly one resource. This may be the commonly-used checkbox device resource job or any custom resource job but it has to be all contained in one resource. Data that used to be computed partially by the resource and partially by the local job needs to be computed as additional attributes (fields) of the resource instead.
  3. Replace the boilerplate of the local job (typically a cat, here-document piped to run-templates and filter-templates) with the equivalent template-resource and template-filter fields.
  4. Remove the indentation so that all of the job definition is aligned to the left of the paragraph.
  5. Re-validate the provider to ensure that everything looks okay.
  6. Re-test the job by running it.

The only gotcha is related to step two. It is very common for local jobs to do some additional computation. For example many storage tests compute the path name of some sysfs file. This has to be converted to a readily-available path that is provided by the resource job.

Another thing to remember is that Plainbox templates use Python syntax for their fields. That means that some characters have to be escaped. For instance, ${PLAINBOX_SESSION_SHARE}/test-file has to be escaped to ${{PLAINBOX_SESSION_SHARE}}/test-file.


Basic example

The following example contains a simplified template that instantiates to a simple storage test. The test is only instantiated for devices that are considered physical. In this example we don’t want to spam the user with a long list of loopback devices. This is implemented by exposing that data in the resource job itself:

id: device
plugin: resource
    echo 'path: /dev/sda'
    echo 'has_media: yes'
    echo 'physical: yes'
    echo 'path: /dev/cdrom'
    echo 'has_media: no'
    echo 'physical: yes'
    echo 'path: /dev/loop0'
    echo 'has_media: yes'
    echo 'physical: no'

The template defines a test-storage-XXX test where XXX is replaced by the path of the device. Only devices which are physical according to some definition are considered for testing. This means that the record related to /dev/loop0 will be ignored and will not instantiate a test job for that device. This feature can be coupled with the existing resource requirement to let the user know that we did see their CD-ROM device but it was not tested as there was no inserted media at the time:

unit: template
template-resource: device
template-filter: device.physical == 'yes'
requires: device.has_media == 'yes'
id: test-storage-{path}
plugin: shell
command: perform-testing-on --device {path}

Real life example

Here is a real life example from a provider. We have the following local job that generates a job for each hard drive available on the system:

plugin: local
_summary: Check stats changes for each disk
id: disk/stats
requires: device.category == 'DISK'
 This test generates some disk activity and checks the stats to ensure drive
 activity is being recorded properly.
 cat <<'EOF' | run_templates -t -s 'udev_resource | filter_templates -w "category=DISK"'
 plugin: shell
 category_id: com.canonical.plainbox::disk
 id: disk/stats_`ls /sys$path/block`
 flags: deprecated
  device.path == "$path"
  block_device.`ls /sys$path/block`_state != 'removable'
 user: root
 command: disk_stats_test `ls /sys$path/block | sed 's|!|/|'`
 description: This test checks disk stats, generates some activity and rechecks stats to verify they've changed. It also verifies that disks appear in the various files they're supposed to.

After migration to a template unit job, it looks like this:

unit: template
template-resource: device
template-filter: device.category == 'DISK'
plugin: shell
category_id: com.canonical.plainbox::disk
id: disk/stats_{name}
 device.path == "{path}"
 block_device.{name}_state != 'removable'
user: root
command: disk_stats_test {name}
_description: This test checks {name} disk stats, generates some activity and rechecks stats to verify they've changed. It also verifies that disks appear in the various files they're supposed to.

The template-resource used here (device) refers to a resource job using the udev_resource script to get information about the system. The udev_resource script returns a list of items with attributes such as path and name, so we can use these directly in our template.

We end up with a shorter (from 19 lines to 11!) and more readable template.

Simple Jinja templates example

Jinja2 can be used as the templating engine instead of python string formatting. This allows the author to access some powerful templating features including expressions.

First here is the previous disk stats example converted to jinja2:

unit: template
template-resource: device
template-filter: device.category == 'DISK'
template-engine: jinja2
plugin: shell
category_id: com.canonical.plainbox::disk
id: disk/stats_{{ name }}
device.path == "{{ path }}"
block_device.{{ name }}_state != 'removable'
user: root
command: disk_stats_test {{ name }}
_description: This test checks {{ name }} disk stats, generates some activity and rechecks stats to verify they've changed. It also verifies that disks appear in the various files they're supposed to.

Template engine additional features

Plainbox populates the template parameter dictionary with some extra keys to aid the author.

If a template unit can result in N content jobs then this variable is equal to how many jobs have been created so far.

When the plainbox encounters a template to render it will populate this variable with the executing shell’s enviroment variables as os.environ

Available for template-engine: jinja2

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