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Adam Kennedy > PITA-POE-SupportServer-0.41 > PITA::POE::SupportServer::Specification


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PITA::POE::SupportServer::Specification - Spec for the POE Support Server


PITA's driver design for image-based guest drivers is based on the following rules about how the image will be launched and run.

The Support Server implements these rules.

Surrounding Environment

The Support Server's role is to launch and provide supporting services to guests.

Each guest will be executed from the command line, with the actual command line to run determined in the main class of each driver and provided to the support server as a pre-built command ready to execute.

Any testing data, files, and commands will be provided inside an ISO image that the guest will load as a CD or second hard drive, known as an "injector". Any command line options for loading this image will already have been set as part of the command to be run.

Once the command has been run, an program termed the Image Manager pre-installed into each image will take control of the image immediately at startup time.

As soon as the Image Manager has been started, it will contact the support server to signal a successful startup. This contact will be in the form of a HTTP GET / request to a HTTP server that is integrated into the support server.

After loading the test data from the injector inside the image, one of three named tasks will be done by the image manager.


The "ping" task will cause the image manager to load, contact the support server, and then immediately shut down.

The purpose of the ping command is to validate and verify that the image is a valid PITA test image.


In PITA, a testing context is identified by a testing "scheme" name, and a file-system path that defines the root of the testing context.

However, the definition for the "platform description" element of the testing context is far more complex.

Rather than a simple naming scheme, it is described by a large HASH containing up to 200 key/value pairs, which includes normal items such as architecture but may extend to additional values such as support for threads, or even to a level of detail which includes the details of the individual compiler optimisations Perl was built with.

As such, it is not realistic or practical to expect the user to provide any information about the testing contexts. Instead PITA supports auto-discovery of testing contexts within an image, on the assuption that the image itself valid (which will have been previously determined using the "ping" instruction).

Each test image will contain a simple configuration file that lists only the scheme and root path each of the testing contexts contained on the image.

The "discover" instruction will cause the image manager to check each of the testing contexts contained in the config file and do some processing to extract the platform definition for each one, returning it to the support server via a PUT command.


The "test" instruction is performed on a discovered guest, and processed on a software package included inside the injector.

The guest will launch, test the package (which may or may not result in additional requests being sent to the support server such as CPAN requests) and then on completion of the test run the image will PUT the result of the testing to the support server at a known path.

Functional Requirements

The primary responsibility of the Support Server is to execute a command which starts the guest, to monitor the guest, to accept and record HTTP requests from the guest image, and to track various timeout and error conditions for the image, and finally on shutdown of the guest to return the information gathered during the run to the caller.

Launch and monitoring of the guest

The Support Server will be provided with a pre-compiled command to be run on the command line, appropriate for the host operating system, which will launch the guest instance.

The Support Server should execute the command, and observe that the process starts and continues to run, noting any unexpected crash of the guest. For cases when the guest does not shut down correctly, the Support Server should have the capability to reliably shut down the guest, preferable elegantly, but if needed forcefully.

Detection of the Startup Ping

When the guest image starts, it should issue a HTTP "GET /" request to the internal IP address of the host. The Support Server should operate a HTTP server which will accept the "GET /" request and understand it to meana a successful startup of the guest and the Image Manager process.

The Support Server should understand that, after a configurable period of time, that the startup has failed, and should shut down the process accordingly.

Capture of Testing Results

All discovery testing generates results, and since the injector may well be read-only, it is not a reliably mechanism for extracting the results.

However, since a requirement of a successful start as that the guest image issues a simple HTTP GET request, we can also use the same HTTP mechanism for extracting the results.

The Support Server will be provided at constructor-time with a configurable set of file/path names, for example "/results.xml".

While initially this will most likely be a single file, in the future a more complex specification for the files (multiple, order, compulsory/optional, etc) may be necesary.

At the least, initially the support server should support multiple files.

The Support Server should accept HTTP PUT messages for these paths, accepting and storing the files (most likely in memory initially but that is an implementation detail).

On completion of it's execution run, the files and their contents should be returned to the caller.

Note that the size of the result files may be quite large, and in the future some amount of protection may be required (in the form of an upper limits) for protection of the host from runaway or malicious processes on the guests.

Provision of Supporting Resources

From time to time, the guest image may require additional resources that they were not provided with originally. Again, they will need to request these resources from outside the guest image.

For security reasons, access from the guest to the Internet may not be guarenteed. Access to the Support Server will however be available.

In the Perl case, the Support Server will need to provide the guest image with access to a CPAN mirror or proxy.

The Support Server should be able to provide, configurably, access to files within a directory on the host server, via a HTTP subpath.

For example, a minicpan checkout may exist on the host server at /var/cache/minicpan/. This might be accessed via the HTTP request "GET /cpan/".

All requests to the mirror should be recorded. Ideally this should be done as a list of paths relative to the CPAN mount point, but an absolute path is acceptable as well.

It may be necesary at a later date to also allow the Support Server to act as a full web proxy, but won't be required initially.

Shutdown and Detection of Failure

The Support Server should have the ability to reliably shut down the server.

The conditions for shutdown are.

1. Receiving the result file, or all required result files, from the guest image, plus an optional and configurable timeout period to give an opportunity for the guest to shut itself down.

2. The compulsory, configurable timeout from the initial execution of the guest to the reception of the startup GET / request, indicating a startup failure or that the guest is not a PITA image.

3. A compulsory, configurable timeout from the last time any HTTP request was recieved from the guest image, indicating a hard-loop or some other crash on the guest.

4. A compulsory, configurable timeout for the entire testing run, catching any actively-looping failed installation process.

General Implementation

The Support Server should be implemented as a Process subclass, most likely as a Process::Storable subclass (which also implements the Process::Serializable role.

That is, it should be constructed with new, which should be storable with Storable, it should use a prepare method to set up for execution, initialize POE Sessions, validate the execution environment, and so on. And then it on a run method it should start the POE kernel, run until completion, and then following the shutdown of the POE kernel, tidy up the object to put it into a state that is capable of being put back through Storable again, with all data inside the one storabled object.

See the documentation for the Process family of modules for more information.

Constructor API

As a tentative sample, a notional creation and use of a PITA::POE::SupportServer object might look as follows.

  my $server = PITA::POE::SupportServer->new(
          execute => [
          http_local_addr => '',
          http_local_port => 80,
          http_mirrors => {
                  '/cpan' => '/var/cache/minicpan',
          http_result => '/result.xml',
          http_startup_timeout => 30,
          http_activity_timeout => 3600,
          http_shutdown_timeout => 10,
          ) or die "Failed to create support server";
          or die "Failed to prepare support server";
          or die "Failed to run support server";
  my $result_file = $server->http_result('/result.xml')
          or die "Guest Image execution failed";

Although the use of the Process API may look pointless in this example its use will let us contain the POE process more strictly, and it will allow the actual execution to be done in a seperate Perl instance, on a different CPU, or even on a different host to the main PITA host process.


Adam Kennedy <>


PITA, POE, Process,


Copyright 2006 - 2007 Adam Kennedy.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

The full text of the license can be found in the LICENSE file included with this module.

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