Miscellaneous Updates

This chapter describes some of the more minor miscellaneous updates and changes to Automate in CloudForms 4.5 & 4.6 (ManageIQ Fine & Gaprindashvili).

Ruby Automate Enhancements

Several new features have been introduced that are useful for Ruby Automate users.

Create Service Provision Request

The ability to be able to programmatically schedule a provisioning or automation request using the $evm.execute('create_provision_request') and $evm.execute('create_automation_request') methods has existed in CloudForms and ManageIQ for several releases.

CloudForms 4.5 (ManageIQ Fine) introduced a sibling method $evm.execute('create_service_provision_request'), that can be used to schedule the provision of services. It can be used as follows:

service_template = $evm.vmdb('ServiceTemplate').where(:name => 'RHEL 7 VM').first
options = {
"service_name" => "Test Service using create_service_provision_request",
"vm_name" => "pemcg-delme-18070601",
"option_0_cores_per_socket" => 2,
"option_0_vm_memory" => 4096,
"option_0_hostname" => "pemcg-delme-18070601.lab.eng.bit63.com",
"option_0_root_password" => "changeme"
$evm.execute('create_service_provision_request', service_template, options)

Methods Removed from $evm.execute

The following service_now_* methods have been removed and are no longer available to run from $evm.execute:

  • service_now_eccq_insert

  • service_now_task_get_records

  • service_now_task_update

  • service_now_task_service

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Ruby Automate methods run in a fully privileged mode by default, and are not subject to the in-built CloudForms or ManageIQ role-based access control. In most cases this is desirable, as automate workflows often need privileged access to objects such as a VMware vCenter external management system, and this is why the Automation -> Automate section of the WebUI is restricted to admin-level user roles.

In some cases however admins are required to write Ruby methods that less privileged users will run to display visible objects, for example when populating a dynamic service dialog element. In this situation it can be advantageous to conditionally enable RBAC so that VMDB searches are always performed in the correct user context.

CloudForms 4.5 (ManageIQ Fine) introduced three new $evm methods to facilitate this:

  • rbac_enabled?

  • enable_rbac

  • disable_rbac

The use of these methods can be illustrated with the following Ruby snippet:

$evm.log(:info, "I am user: #{$evm.root['user'].userid}")
$evm.log(:info, "Current value of $evm.rbac_enabled? is: #{$evm.rbac_enabled?}")
$evm.log(:info, "I can see #{$evm.vmdb(:Vm).all.length} VMs")
$evm.log(:info, "Enabling RBAC")
$evm.log(:info, "Current value of $evm.rbac_enabled? is: #{$evm.rbac_enabled?}")
$evm.log(:info, "I can see #{$evm.vmdb(:Vm).all.length} VMs")

Running this method as a non-privileged user fredf in a tenant that has WebUI visibility of 3 VMs, gives the following results:

... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> I am user: fredf
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> Current value of $evm.rbac_enabled? is: false
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> I can see 18 VMs
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> Enabling RBAC
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> Current value of $evm.rbac_enabled? is: true
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> I can see 3 VMs

Repeating the method run as the admin user gives a different result, as expected:

... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> I am user: admin
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> Current value of $evm.rbac_enabled? is: false
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> I can see 18 VMs
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> Enabling RBAC
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> Current value of $evm.rbac_enabled? is: true
... INFO -- : <AEMethod test> I can see 18 VMs

State Machine Retry Affinity

In a multi-appliance CloudForms or ManageIQ environment, it can be useful to request that a state machine state retry be executed on the same appliance as the currently running method (by default any appliance with the Automation Engine role enabled might de-queue a retry message and execute it). This can now be done using the ae_retry_server_affinity attribute, for example:

$evm.root['ae_result'] = 'retry'
$evm.root['ae_retry_interval'] = '30.seconds'
$evm.root['ae_retry_server_affinity'] = true

VM Naming Enhancement

The VM naming functionality during provisioning provides the ability to request that a VM name be created with a zero-padded numeric sequence appended, to guarantee VM name uniqueness. For example setting a request options hash key :vm_name of "my_vm_$n{3}" prior to the naming process will create a VM named my_vm_003 if my_vm_001 and my_vm_002 have already been provisioned. A challenge has been that the VM naming method is run from request context, and so this flexibility for naming has been unavailable for VMs provisioned from services, where all of the Automate state machines run in task context.

A new enhancement in CloudForms 4.6 / ManageIQ Gaprindashvili (and CloudForms 4.5 from Errata 3) has provided an update_vm_name method that can be called from the miq_provision object in task context, for example during the VM Provision state machine as follows:

prov = $evm.root['miq_provision']
vm_name = prov.miq_request.get_option(:dialog).fetch(dialog_vm_name)
prov.update_vm_name("#{vm_name}$n{3}", :update_request => false)

The optional second :update_request argument determines whether the VM name is also updated in the description field of the request's options hash (the default is true).


In an API context a slug is a shortened resource-specific URL part that can be used to uniquely identify a resource. As an example if the full URI to an API resource is https://cloudforms02.mycompany.org/api/vms/1000000000892 then the slug portion would be vms/1000000000892.

Since CloudForms 4.5 (ManageIQ Fine) all objects have had an href_slug attribute that can be used to reference the same object via the RESTful API if required, for example:

$evm.root['miq_group'].href_slug = groups/1000000000002

Methods with Arguments in Substitution Strings

The automation engine allows substitution strings as instance schema values - for example ${/#miq_provision.placement_auto} - with the actual value of the variable being substituted at run-time.


The automation engine's substitution syntax is ${object#attribute_name} where object can be "/" for the root object, or "" (or ".") for the current object.

For example a substitution string of ${/#dialog_vm_name} would take the value of $evm.root['dialog_vm_name'] at run-time. A substitution string of ${#username} would take the value of $evm.object['username'] at run-time.

The substitution syntax does not permit the use of '[' or ']' characters however, so extracting values from hashes by key reference has traditionally been difficult in a substitution string.

CloudForms 4.5 (ManageIQ Fine) introduced the ability to include methods with arguments in a substitution string, for example:




Built-In Exception Handling

In earlier version of CloudForms and ManageIQ it was advantageous to enclose critical sections of user-written Ruby code in begin and rescue logic, so that exceptions could be handled gracefully. This is no longer needed as the automation engine has built-in Automate method exception handling and correctly handles any errors, calling on_error state machine methods as appropriate.

New Class Schema Field Data Types

Several useful new data types have been introduced for class schemas.

Null Coalescing

The null coalescing data type allows multiple source options to be evaulated in a left-to-right prioritised order. The first non-blank value is used, for example:

${/#owner.email} || ${/#miq_request.get_option(:owner_email)} || ${/#config.to_email_address}

VMDB Objects as Data Types

CloudForms 4.5 (ManageIQ Fine) introduced the ability to have selected VMDB objects as attribute data types (see screenshot New Attribute Field Types).

New Attribute Field Types

When such an attribute type is used the Value field should be an object ID (or a substitution string that resolves to a valid object type ID), and at run-time the corresponding object is loaded into the model. Attributes of that object can then be referenced in other schema field value substitution strings.

Screenshot New Attributes in Use shows a User object data type attribute called owner, populated from the run-time value of $evm.root['vm'].evm_owner_id. This User object's email value is then fed into a Null Coalescing data type attribute called to_email_address.

New Attributes in Use

Dynamic Service Models

Prior to CloudForms 4.6 (ManageIQ Gaprindashvili) all service models were statically defined with a corresponding class definition file in /var/www/miq/vmdb/lib/miq_automation_engine/service_models. A new feature with this release has allowed service models to be dynamically defined from the active record class if no service model class definition file exists.

Defining Automate Methods as Classes

CloudForms 4.2 (ManageIQ Euwe) introduced a new way of writing Ruby Automate methods, as classes within a nested module structure that (approximately) matches the path to the method in the automation datastore. An example of this can be seen with the /AutomationManagement/AnsibleTower/Operations/StateMachines/Job/wait_for_ip method, as follows:

# Description: Wait for the IP address to be available on the VM
# For VMWare for this to work the VMWare tools should be installed
# on the newly provisioned vm's
module ManageIQ
module Automate
module AutomationManagement
module AnsibleTower
module Operations
module StateMachines
module Job
class WaitForIP
def initialize(handle = $evm)
@handle = handle
def main
vm = @handle.root["miq_provision"].try(:destination)
vm ||= @handle.root["vm"]
vm ? check_ip_addr_available(vm) : vm_not_found
def check_ip_addr_available(vm)
ip_list = vm.ipaddresses
@handle.log(:info, "Current Power State #{vm.power_state}")
@handle.log(:info, "IP addresses for VM #{ip_list}")
if ip_list.empty?
@handle.root['ae_result'] = 'retry'
@handle.root['ae_retry_interval'] = 1.minute
@handle.root['ae_result'] = 'ok'
def vm_not_found
@handle.root['ae_result'] = 'error'
@handle.log(:error, "VM not found")

The subsequent two versions of the product have expanded the use of this coding style, and its use is now encouraged for user-written Automate methods.

The main advantage of this style of writing methods as classes is that it enables the use of spec files for unit testing. The corresponding spec file to test the above method is as follows:

describe ManageIQ::Automate::AutomationManagement::AnsibleTower::Operations::StateMachines::Job::WaitForIP do
let(:user) { FactoryGirl.create(:user_with_group) }
let(:vm) { FactoryGirl.create(:vm) }
let(:klass) { MiqAeMethodService::MiqAeServiceVm }
let(:svc_vm) { klass.find(vm.id) }
let(:ip_addr) { [''] }
let(:svc_job) { job_class.find(job.id) }
let(:root_object) { Spec::Support::MiqAeMockObject.new }
let(:service) { Spec::Support::MiqAeMockService.new(root_object) }
it "#main - ok" do
root_object['vm'] = svc_vm
allow_any_instance_of(klass).to receive(:ipaddresses).with(no_args).and_return(ip_addr)
allow_any_instance_of(klass).to receive(:refresh).with(no_args).and_return(nil)
expect(root_object['ae_result']).to eq('ok')
it "#main - retry" do
root_object['vm'] = svc_vm
allow_any_instance_of(klass).to receive(:ipaddresses).with(no_args).and_return([])
allow_any_instance_of(klass).to receive(:refresh).with(no_args).and_return(nil)
expect(root_object['ae_result']).to eq('retry')


This chapter has introduced some of the more minor new features and changes that have occurred since the Mastering Automation in CloudForms 4.2 and ManageIQ Euwe book was published. The remaining sections and chapters in this addendum will discuss the most significant new features.

Further Reading

Convert Automate Methods to New Style Using Classes

VM Naming Change

Dynamic Service Models

An Introduction into the Process of Unit Testing CloudForms Automation Methods