The future parser in puppet is the compatibility shim to use before moving to Puppet 4.0, whose release is imminent. The future parser in 3.7 allows us to run the stable version with the parser of the new version, making manifests and modules ready for a seamless upgrade. Here I’ll describe the steps I needded to make this move.


To make the transition possible and easy, I’ve two goals. first, I want to make sure that I change as little as possible. This avoids trying too much in a single pass of the codebase, which helps general stability. Secondly, the code needs to run on both the old and the new parser to avoid having a flag day across all people using the example42 modules.


First I’ve upgraded to the most recent stable puppet version (3.7.4). This ensure that I have a up-to-date iteration of the future parser, and I’m developing against the state of the art.

Then I’ve created a new puppet.conf to use while testing. This way I can leave the rest of my system running without impact while hacking on the future branch. More sensible people would use vagrant, but being my own biggest customer in this prod environment makes things easier.

--- /etc/puppet/puppet.conf 2015-02-04 12:45:02.000000000 +0100
+++ /etc/puppet/future.conf 2015-02-04 12:45:16.000000000 +0100
@@ -32,21 +32,17 @@
   listen = false
   runinterval = 1800
   localconfig = $vardir/localconfig
-  environment = production
+  environment = future
+  masterport = 8888
+  noop = true

   bindaddress =
   autosign = false

-  environment = production
-  manifest    = /srv/puppet/configuration/manifests/site.pp
-  modulepath  = /srv/puppet/configuration/modules
-  manifestdir=/srv/puppet/configuration/manifests
+  masterport = 8888
+  pidfile = /var/run/puppet/
+  parser = future
+  environment = future
+  environmentpath = /srv/puppet/environments


puppet master --no-daemonize --verbose --config=/etc/puppet/future.conf
puppet agent --test --config=/etc/puppet/future.conf --noop

I hadn’t enabled directory environments and manifest directory, so you see that there too. They are required to get access to a more nuanced deployment workflow, caching and getting rid of “import”, which helps the autoloader to actually notice that things have changed.

Puppet changes

After those preparations, puppet now can tell me what I’m doing wrong, let’s get to the various things to fix:

  • Error: This 'if' statement is not productive. A non productive construct may only be placed last in a block/sequence
  • Error: Evaluation Error: Use of 'import' has been discontinued in favor of a manifest directory.

  • Error: Evaluation Error: No matching entry for selector parameter with value '6': this one is nasty. Here’s the code:

    # Cope with Debian's folies
    $debian_isc_era = $::operatingsystem ? {
      /(?i:Ubuntu)/ => $::lsbmajdistrelease ? {
        8       => '5',
        9       => '5',
        default => '6',
      /(?i:Debian)/ => $::lsbmajdistrelease ? {
        5       => '5',
        default => '6',
      default   => '6',
    ### Application related parameters
    $package = $::operatingsystem ? {
      /(?i:Debian|Ubuntu|Mint)/ => $debian_isc_era ? {
        5 => 'dhcp3-server',
        6 => 'isc-dhcp-server',   # <<<<<  Error HERE
      /(?i:SLES|OpenSuSE)/      => 'dhcp-server',
      default                   => 'dhcp',

    The error is flagged on the marked line with “Error HERE”, luckily, because this selector has no default case. What happens, is that facter delivers $::lsbmajdistrelease as a string and the ? { 5 => is not matching "5" as it is a different type. The first selectors all have default statements that fall through to the default label due to the mismatch.

    The recommended solution is to use scanf to type-convert safely.


Using scanf brings several problems. First, it is only available in the future parser. Secondly, there is no good way to find all instances where the stricter interpretation will cause mismatches.

To actually prepare for a safe and regression-free migration, I’ve also upgraded travis files to actually test against the future parser.

Or, at least, tried to. The module I was working on proved to be of the older sort and testing @garethr’s puppet-module-skeleton didn’t really work out either.


This post was written at the Puppet Contributor Summit Gent 2015, graciously sponsored by Puppetlabs.