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· 2 min read
Jeffrey Aven

Big fan of GitLab (and GitLab CI in particular). I had a recent requirement to push changes to a wiki repo associated with a GitLab project through a GitLab CI pipeline (using the SaaS version of GitLab) and ran into a conundrum…

Using the GitLab SaaS version - deploy tokens can’t have write api access, so the next best solution is to use deploy keys, adding your public key as a deploy key and granting this key write access to repositories is relatively straightforward.

This issue is when you attempt to create a masked GitLab CI variable using the private key from your keypair, you get this…

I was a bit astonished to see this to be honest… Looks like it has been raised as an issue several times over the last few years but never resolved (the root cause of which is something to do with newline characters or base64 encoding or the overall length of the string).

I came up with a solution! Not pretty but effective, masks the variable so that it cannot be printed in CI logs as shown here:


Add a masked and protected GitLab variable for each line in the private key, for example:

The Code#

Add the following block to your .gitlab-ci.yml file:

now within Jobs in your pipeline you can simply do this to clone, push or pull from a remote GitLab repo:

as mentioned not pretty, but effective and no other cleaner options as I could see…

· 6 min read
Mark Stella

Recently I found myself at a client that were using a third party tool to scan all their enterprise applications in order to collate their data lineage. They had spent two years onboarding applications to the tool, resulting in a large technical mess that was hard to debug and impossible to extend. As new applications were integrated onto the platform, developers were forced to think of new ways of connecting and tranforming the data so it could be consumed.

The general approach was: setup scanner -> scan application -> modify results -> upload results -> backup results -> cleanup workspace -> delete anything older than 'X' days

Each developer had their own style of doing this - involving shell scripts, python scripts, SQL and everything in between. Worse, there was slabs of code replicated across the entire repository, with variables and paths changed depending on the use case.

My tasks was to create a framework that could orchestrate the scanning and adhered to the following philosophies:

  • DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself)
  • Config driven
  • Version controlled
  • Simple to extend
  • Idempotent

It also had to be written in Python as that was all the client was skilled in.

After looking at what was on the market (Airflow and Prefect being the main contenders) I decided to roll my own simplified orchestrator that required as little actual coding as possible and could be setup by configuration.

In choosing a configuration format, I settled on HOCON as it closely resembled JSON but has advanced features such as interpolation, substitions and the ability to include other hocon files - this would drastically reduce the amount of boilerplate configuration required.

Because I had focused so heavily on being configuration driven, I also needed the following charecteristics to be delivered:

  • Self discovery of task types (more on this later)
  • Configuration validation at startup

Tasks and self discovery#

As I wanted anyone to be able to rapidly extend the framework by adding tasks, I needed to reduce as much repetition and boilerplate as possible. Ideally, I wanted a developer to just have to think about writing code and not have to deal with how to integrate this.

To achieve this, we needed a way of registering new 'tasks' that would become available to the framework. I wanted a developer to simply have to subclass the main Task class and implement a run function - the rest would be taken care of.

class TaskRegistry:
    def __init__(self) -> None:        self._registry = {}
    def register(self, cls: type) -> None:        n = getattr(cls, 'task_name', cls.__name__).lower()        self._registry[n] = cls
    def registered(self) -> List[str]:        return list(self._registry.keys())
    def has(self, name: str) -> bool:        return name in self._registry
    def get(self, name: str) -> type:        return self._registry[name]
    def create(self, name: str, *args, **kwargs) -> object:        try:            return self._registry[name](*args, **kwargs)        except KeyError:            raise ClassNotRegisteredException(name)

registry = TaskRegistry()

Once the registry was instantiated, any new Tasks that inherited from 'Task' would automatically be added to the registry. We could then use the create(name) function to instantiate any class - essentially a pythonic Factory Method

class Task(ABC):
    def __init__(self) -> None:        self.logger = logging.getLogger(self.__class__.__name__)
    def __init_subclass__(cls) -> None:        registry.register(cls)
    @abstractmethod    def run(self, **kwargs) -> bool:        raise NotImplementedError

For the framework to automatically register the classes, it was important to follow the project structure. As long as the task resided in the 'tasks' module, we could scan this at runtime and register each task.

└── simple_tasker    ├──    ├──    └── tasks        ├──        ├──        └──

This was achieved with a simple dynamic module importer

modules = glob.glob(join(dirname(__file__), "*.py"))
for f in modules:    if isfile(f) and not f.endswith(""):        __import__(f"{Task.__module__}.{basename(f)[:-3]}")

The configuration#

In designing how the configuration would bind to the task, I needed to capture the name (what object to instanticate) and what args to pass to the instantiated run function. I decided to model it as below with everything under a 'tasks' array

tasks: [    {        name: shell_script        args: {            script_path: uname            script_args: -a        }    },    {        name: shell_script        args: {            script_path: find            script_args: [${CWD}/simple_tasker/tasks, -name, "*.py"]        }    },    {        name: archive        args: {            input_directory_path: ${CWD}/simple_tasker/tasks            target_file_path: /tmp/${PLATFORM}_${TODAY}.tar.gz        }    }]

Orchestration and validation#

As mentioned previously, one of the goals was to ensure the configuration was valid prior to any execution. This meant that the framework needed to validate whether tha task name referred to a registered task, and that all mandatory arguments were addressed in the configuration. Determining whether the task was registered was just a simple key check, however to validate the arguments to the run required some inspection - I needed to get all args for the run function and filter out 'self' and any asterisk args (*args, **kwargs)

def get_mandatory_args(func) -> List[str]:
    mandatory_args = []    for k, v in inspect.signature(func).parameters.items():        if (            k != "self"            and v.default is inspect.Parameter.empty            and not str(v).startswith("*")        ):            mandatory_args.append(k)
    return mandatory_args

And finally onto the actual execution bit. The main functionality required here is to validate that the config was defined correctly, then loop through all tasks and execute them - passing in any args.

class Tasker:
    def __init__(self, path: Path, env: Dict[str, str] = None) -> None:
        self.logger = logging.getLogger(self.__class__.__name__)        self._tasks = []
        with wrap_environment(env):            self._config = ConfigFactory.parse_file(path)

    def __validate_config(self) -> bool:
        error_count = 0
        for task in self._config.get("tasks", []):            name, args = task["name"].lower(), task.get("args", {})
            if registry.has(name):                for arg in get_mandatory_args(registry.get(name).run):                    if arg not in args:                        print(f"Missing arg '{arg}' for task '{name}'")                        error_count += 1            else:                print(f"Unknown tasks '{name}'")                error_count += 1
            self._tasks.append((name, args))
        return error_count == 0
    def run(self) -> bool:
        if self.__validate_config():
            for name, args in self._tasks:                exe = registry.create(name)      "About to execute: '{name}'")                if not**args):                    self.logger.error(f"Failed tasks '{name}'")                    return False
            return True        return False

Putting it together - sample tasks#

Below are two examples of how easy it is to configure the framework. We have a simple folder archiver that will tar/gz a directory based on 2 input parameters.

class Archive(Task):
    def __init__(self) -> None:        super().__init__()
    def run(self, input_directory_path: str, target_file_path: str) -> bool:"Archiving '{input_directory_path}' to '{target_file_path}'")
        with, "w:gz") as tar:            tar.add(                input_directory_path,                arcname=os.path.basename(input_directory_path)            )        return True

A more complex example would be the ability to execute shell scripts (or os functions) by passing in some optional variables and variables that can either be a string or list.

class ShellScript(Task):
    task_name = "shell_script"
    def __init__(self) -> None:        super().__init__()
    def run(        self,        script_path: str,        script_args: Union[str, List[str]] = None,        working_directory_path: str = None    ) -> bool:
        cmd = [script_path]
        if isinstance(script_args, str):            cmd.append(script_args)        else:            cmd += script_args
            result = subprocess.check_output(                cmd,                stderr=subprocess.STDOUT,                cwd=working_directory_path            ).decode("utf-8").splitlines()
            for o in result:      
        except (subprocess.CalledProcessError, FileNotFoundError) as e:            self.logger.error(e)            return False
        return True

You can view the entire implementation here

· 2 min read
Jeffrey Aven

Identity and Access Management is a critical component of any application or SaaS architecture. I’m currently doing a spike of the Okta solution for an application development project I am on. Okta is a comprehensive solution built on the open OAuth2 and OIDC protocols, as well as supporting more conventional identity federation approaches such as SAML.

Okta has a clean and easy to use web-based Admin interface which can be used to create applications, users, claims, identity providers and more.

During my spike, which was done in a crash and burn test Okta organisation, I had associated my user account with a Microsoft Identity Provider for SSO, and subsequently had issues accessing the Microsoft Account my user was associated with, as a result I managed to lock myself (the super admin) out of the Okta Admin Console.

Fortunately, prior to doing this I had created an API token for my user. So, I went about looking at ways I could interact with Okta programmatically. My first inclination was to use a simple CLI for Okta to get me out of jail… but I found there wasn’t one that suited. There are, however, a wealth of SDKs for Okta across multiple front-end and back-end oriented programming languages (such as JavaScript, Golang, Python and more).

Being in lockdown and having some free time on my hands, I decided to create a simple open source command line tool which could be used to administer an Okta organisation. The result of this weekend lockdown is okta-admin

okta-admin cli

For this project I used the Golang SDK for Okta, along with the Cobra and Viper Golang packages (used by docker, kubectl and other popular command line utilities). To provide a query interface to JSON response payloads I use GJson.

Will keep adding to this so stay tuned...

Complete source code for this project is available at

· One min read
Jeffrey Aven

Snowflake allows roles to be assigned to other roles, so when a user is assigned to a role, they may inherit the ability to use countless other roles.

Challenge: recursively enumerate all roles for a given user

One solution would be to create a complex query on the “SNOWFLAKE"."ACCOUNT_USAGE"."GRANTS_TO_ROLES" object.

An easier solution is to use a stored procedure to recurse through grants for a given user and return an ARRAY of roles for that user.

This is a good programming exercise in tail call recursion (sort of) in JavaScript. Here is the code:

To call the stored proc, execute:

One drawback of stored procedures in Snowflake is that they can only have scalar or array return types and cannot be used directly in a SQL query, however you can use the table(result_scan(last_query_id())) trick to get around this, as shown below where we will pivot the ARRAY into a record set with the array elements as rows:


This query must be the next statement run immediately after the CALL statement and cannot be run again until you run another CALL statement.

More adventures with Snowflake soon!

· 3 min read
Tom Klimovski

When defining event-driven architectures, it's always good to keep up with how the landscape is changing. How do you connect microservices in your architecture? Is Pub/Sub the end-game for all events? To dive a bit deeper, let's talk through the benefits of having a single orchestrator, or perhaps a choreographer is better?

Orchestration versus choreography refresher#

My colleague @jeffreyaven did a recent post explaining this concept in simple terms, which is worth reviewing, see:

Microservices Concepts: Orchestration versus Choreography

Should there really be a central orchestrator controlling all interactions between services.....or, should each service work independently and only interact through events?

  • Orchestration is usually viewed as a domain-wide central service that defines the flow and control of communication between services. In this paradigm, in becomes easier to change and ultimately monitor policies across your org.
  • Choreography has each service registering and emitting events as they need to. It doesn't direct or define the flow of communication, but using this method usually has a central broker passing around messages and allows services to be truly independent.

Enter Workflows, which is suited for centrally orchestrated services. Not only Google Cloud service such as Cloud Functions and Cloud Run, but also external services.

How about choreography? Pub/Sub and Eventarc are both suited for this. We all know and love Pub/Sub, but how do I use EventArc?

What is Eventarc?#

Announced in October-2020, it was introduced as eventing functionality that enables you, the developer, to send events to Cloud Run from more than 60 Google Cloud sources.

But how does it work?#

Eventing is done by reading those sweet sweet Audit Logs, from various sources, and sending them to Cloud Run services as events in Cloud Events format. Quick primer on Cloud Events: its a specification for describing event data in a common way. The specification is now under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Hooray! It can also read events from Pub/Sub topics for custom applications. Here's a diagram I graciously ripped from Google Cloud Blog:


Why do I need Eventarc? I have the Pub/Sub#

Good question. Eventarc provides and easier path to receive events not only from Pub/Sub topics but from a number of Google Cloud sources with its Audit Log and Pub/Sub integration. Actually, any service that has Audit Log integration can be an event source for Eventarc. Beyond easy integration, it provides consistency and structure to how events are generated, routed and consumed. Things like:


They specify routing rules from events sources, to event sinks. Listen for new object creation in GCS and route that event to a service in Cloud Run by creating an Audit-Log-Trigger. Create triggers that also listen to Pub/Sub. Then list all triggers in one, central place in Eventarc:

gcloud beta eventarc triggers list

Consistency with eventing format and libraries#

Using the CloudEvent-compliant specification will allow for event data in a common way, increasing the movement towards the goal of consistency, accessibility and portability. Makes it easier for different languages to read the event and Google Events Libraries to parse fields.

This means that the long-term vision of Eventarc to be the hub of events, enabling a unified eventing story for Google Cloud and beyond.

Eventarc producers and consumers

In the future, you can excpect to forego Audit Log and read these events directly and send these out to even more sinks within GCP and any HTTP target.

This article written on inspiration from Thanks Mete Atamel!