Writing RSpec tests for charts

The following are notes and conventions used for creating RSpec tests for the GitLab chart.

Filtering RSpec tests

To aid in development it is possible to filter which tests are executed by adding the :focus tag to one or more tests. With the :focus tag only tests that have been specifically tagged will be run. This allows quick development and testing of new code without having to wait for all the RSpec tests to execute. The following is an example of a test that has been tagged with:focus.

describe 'some feature' do
  it 'generates output', :focus => true do
    ...
  end
end

The :focus tag can be added to describe, context or it blocks which allows a test or a group of tests to be executed.

Generating YAML from the chart

Much of the testing of the chart is that it generates the correct YAML structure given a number of chart inputs. This is done using the HelmTemplate class as in the following:

obj = HelmTemplate.new(values)

The resulting obj encodes the YAML documents returned by the helm template command indexed by the Kubernetes object kind and the object name (metadata.name). This indexed valued is used by most of the methods to locate values within the YAML.

For example:

obj.dig('ConfigMap/test-gitaly', 'data', 'config.toml.erb')

This will return the contents of the config.toml.erb file contained in the test-gitaly ConfigMap.

note
Using the HelmTemplate class will always use the release name of “test” when executing the helm template command.

Chart inputs

The input parameter to the HelmTemplate class constructor is a dictionary of values that represents the values.yaml that is used on the Helm command line. This dictionary mirrors the YAML structure of the values.yaml file.

describe 'some feature' do
  let(:default_values) do
    YAML.safe_load(%(
      certmanager-issuer:
        email:
          test@example.com
    ))
  end

  describe 'global.feature.enabled' do
    let(:values) do
      YAML.safe_load(%(
        global:
          feature:
            enabled: true
      )).deep_merge(default_values)
    end

    ...
  end
end

The above snippet demonstrates a common pattern of setting a number of default values that are common across multiple tests that are then merged into the final values that are used in the HelmTemplate constructor for a specific set of tests.

Using property merge patterns

Throughout the RSpec of this project, you will find different forms of merge. There are a few guidelines and considerations to take into account when choosing which to make use of.

Ruby’s native Hash.merge will replace keys in the destination, it will not deeply walk an object. This means that all properties under a tree will be removed if the source has a matching entry. In an attempt to address, this we’ve been using the hash-deep-merge gem to perform naive deep merge of YAML documents. When adding properites, this has worked well. The drawback is that this does not provide a means to cause the overwrite of nested structures.

Helm merges / coalesces configuration properties via coalesceValues function, which has some distinctly different behaviors to deep_merge as implemented here. We continue to refine how this functions within our RSpec.

General guidelines:

  1. Be aware of and wary of the behavior of Hash.merge.
  2. Be aware of and wary of the behavior of Hash.deep_merge as offered by hash-deep-merge gem.
  3. When you need to overwrite a specific key, do so explicitly with non-empty content.
  4. When you need to remove a specific key, set it to null.
  5. Do not use imperative forms (merge!) unless expressly needed. When doing so, comment why.

Breakdown of considerations for merge operations

Here is a direct comparison of Ruby’s Hash.merge versus Hash.deep_merge from the hash-deep-merge gem.

2.7.2 :002 > require 'yaml'
 => true
2.7.2 :003"> example = YAML.safe_load(%(
2.7.2 :004">   a:
2.7.2 :005">     b: 1
2.7.2 :006">     c: [ 1, 2, 3]
2.7.2 :007 >  ))
 => {"a"=>{"b"=>1, "c"=>[1, 2, 3]}}
2.7.2 :008"> source = YAML.safe_load(%(
2.7.2 :009">   a:
2.7.2 :010">     d: "whee"
2.7.2 :011 >  ))
 => {"a"=>{"d"=>"whee"}}
2.7.2 :012 > example.merge(source)
 => {"a"=>{"d"=>"whee"}}
2.7.2 :013 > require 'hash_deep_merge'
2.7.2 :014 > example = {"a"=>{"b"=>1, "c"=>[1, 2, 3]}}
 => {"a"=>{"b"=>1, "c"=>[1, 2, 3]}}
2.7.2 :015 > source = {"a"=>{"b"=> 2, "d"=>"whee"}}
 => {"a"=>{"b"=>2, "d"=>"whee"}}
2.7.2 :016 > example.deep_merge(source)
 => {"a"=>{"b"=>2, "c"=>[1, 2, 3], "d"=>"whee"}}

Let us compare the output of Ruby’s values.deep_merge(xyz) and that of Helm’s helm template . -f xyz.yaml, so that we can examine the differences between deep_merge and coalesceValues within Helm. The desired behavior is the equavilent of merge.WithOverride from github.com/imdario/mergo Go module as used within Helm and Sprig.

The Ruby code for this is effectively:

require 'yaml'
require 'hash_deep_merge'

values = YAML.safe_load(File.read('values.yaml'))
xyz = YAML.safe_load(File.read('xyz.yaml'))

puts values.deep_merge(xyz).to_yaml
---
file: values.yaml
gitlab:
  gitaly:
    securityContext:
      user: 1000
      group: 1000
---
file: empty.yaml     # sets `securityContext: {}`
gitlab:
  gitaly:
    securityContext:
      user: 1000
      group: 1000
---
file: null.yaml      # sets `securityContext: null`
gitlab:
  gitaly:
    securityContext:
---
file: null_user.yaml # sets `securityContext.user: null`
gitlab:
  gitaly:
    securityContext:
      user:
      group: 1000

The Helm template contains only {{ .Values | toYaml }}

---
# Source: example/templates/output.yaml
file: values.yaml
gitlab:
  gitaly:
    securityContext:
      group: 1000
      user: 1000
---
# Source: example/templates/output.yaml
file: empty.yaml     # sets `securityContext: {}`
gitlab:
  gitaly:
    securityContext:
      group: 1000
      user: 1000
---
# Source: example/templates/output.yaml
file: null.yaml      # sets `securityContext: null`
gitlab:
  gitaly: {}
---
# Source: example/templates/output.yaml
file: null_user.yaml # sets `securityContext.user: null`
gitlab:
  gitaly:
    securityContext:
      group: 1000

First observation: When we set an “empty” hash ({}), both Ruby and Helm patterns result in no change. This is because the base value, and the “new” value are both the same type. To remove a hash, you must set it to null.

Second observation: This is a stark difference. When we set the hash to null in the YAML, we get slightly different results. Helm removes the entire key, but leaves the parent type intact. Ruby leaves the key present, but with nil value. Similar can be seen when we change an individual key. Helm removes this key while Ruby retains it in a nil state.

Last, but not least! Do not confuse scalars with maps. The following YAML, when merged in Ruby or Helm, will result in the array being []. Neither deep_merge or coalesceValues walks into arrays. Scalar data will be overwritten.

---
complex:
  array: [1,2,3]
  hash:
    item: 1
---
complex:
  array: []
  hash:
    item:
---
# Ruby: puts values.deep_merge(xyz).to_yaml
complex:
  array: []
  hash:
    item:
---
# Source: example/templates/output.yaml
complex:
  array: []
  hash: {}

Testing the results

The HelmTemplate object has a number of methods that assist with writing RSpec tests. The following are a summary of the available methods.

  • .exit_code()

This returns the exit code of the helm template command used to create the YAML documents that instantiates the chart in the Kubernetes cluster. A successful completion of the helm template will return an exit code of 0.

  • .dig(key, ...)

Walk down the YAML document returned by the HelmTemplate instance and return the value residing at the last key. If no value is found, then nil is returned.

  • .labels(item)

Return a hash of the labels for the specified object.

  • .template_labels(item)

Return a hash of the labels used in the template structure for the specified object. The specified object should be a Deployment, StatefulSet or a CronJob object.

  • .annotations(item)

Return a has of the annotations for the specified object.

  • .template_annotations(item)

Return a hash of the annotations used in the template structure for the specified object. The specified object should be a Deployment, StatefulSet or a CronJob object.

  • .volumes(item)

Return an array of all the volumes for the specified deployment object. The returned array is a direct copy of the volumes key from the deployment object.

  • .find_volume(item, volume_name)

Return a dictionary of the specified volume from the specified deployment object.

  • .projected_volume_sources(item, mount_name)

Return an array of sources for the specified projected volume. The returned array has the following structure:

- secret:
    name: test-rails-secret
    items:
     - key: secrets.yml
       path: rails-secrets/secrets.yml
  • .stderr()

Return the STDERR output from the execution of helm template command.

  • .values()

Return a dictionary of all values that were used in the execution of the helm template command.

Tests that require a Kubernetes cluster

The majority of the RSpec tests execute helm template and then analyze the generated YAML for the correct structures given the feature being tested. Occasionally an RSpec test requires access to a Kubernetes cluster with the GitLab Helm chart deployed to it. Tests that interact with the chart deployed in a Kubernetes cluster should be placed in the features directory.

If the RSpec tests are being executed and a Kubernetes cluster is not available, then the tests in the features directory will be skipped. At the start of an RSpec run kubectl get nodes will be checked for results and if it returns successfully the tests in the features directory will be included.