l.s.features : package documentation

Part of lp.services

Dynamic feature configuration.


The point of feature flags is to let us turn some features of Launchpad on and off without changing the code or restarting the application, and to expose different features to different subsets of users.

See U{https://dev.launchpad.net/LEP/FeatureFlags} for more discussion and rationale.

The typical use for feature flags is within web page requests but they can also be used in asynchronous jobs or apis or other parts of Launchpad.

Internal model for feature flags

A feature flag maps from a I{name} to a I{value}. The specific value used for a particular request is determined by a set of zero or more I{scopes} that apply to that request, by finding the I{rule} with the highest I{priority}.

Flags are defined by a I{name} that typically looks like a Python identifier, for example C{notification.global.text}. A definition is given for a particular I{scope}, which also looks like a dotted identifier, for example C{user.beta} or C{server.lpnet}. This is just a naming convention, and they do not need to correspond to Python modules.

The value is stored in the database as just a Unicode string, and it might be interpreted as a boolean, number, human-readable string or whatever.

The default for flags is to be None if they're not set in the database, so that should be a sensible baseline default state.

Performance model

Flags are supposed to be cheap enough that you can introduce them without causing a performance concern.

If the page does not check any flags, no extra work will be done. The first time a page checks a flag, all the rules will be read from the database and held in memory for the duration of the request.

Scopes may be expensive in some cases, such as checking group membership. Whether a scope is active or not is looked up the first time it's needed within a particular request.

The standard page footer identifies the flags and scopes that were actually used by the page.

Naming conventions

We have naming conventions for feature flags and scopes, so that people can understand the likely impact of a particular flag and so they can find all the flags likely to affect a feature.

So for any flag we want to say:

  • What application area does this affect? (malone, survey, questions, code, etc)
  • What specific feature does it change?
  • What affect does it have on this feature? The most common is "enabled" but for some other we want to specify a specific value as well such as "date" or "size".

These are concatenated with dots so the overall feature name looks a bit like a Python module name.

A similar approach is used for scopes.

Checking flags in page templates

You can conditionally show some text like this:

<tal:survey condition="features/user_survey.enabled">
  <a href="http://survey.example.com/">Take our survey!</a>

You can use the built-in TAL feature of prepending C{not:} to the condition, and for flags that have a value you could use them in C{tal:replace} or C{tal:attributes}.

If you just want to simply insert some text taken from a feature, say something like:

Message of the day: ${motd.text}

Templates can also check whether the request is in a particular scope, but before using this consider whether the code will always be bound to that scope or whether it would be more correct to define a new feature:

<p tal:condition="feature_scopes/server.staging">
  Staging server: all data will be discarded daily!</p>

Checking flags in code

The Zope traversal code establishes a FeatureController for the duration of a request. The object can be obtained through either request.features or lp.services.features.per_thread.features. This provides various useful methods including getFlag to look up one feature (memoized), and isInScope to check one scope (also memoized).

As a convenience, lp.services.features.getFeatureFlag looks up a single flag in the thread default controller.

To simply check a boolean:

if features.getFeatureFlag('example_flag.enabled'):

and if you want to use the value

value = features.getFeatureFlag('example_flag.enabled')
if value:
   print value

Checking flags without access to the database

Feature flags can also be checked without access to the database by making use of the 'getFeatureFlag' XML-RPC method.

server_proxy = xmlrpclib.ServerProxy(
config.launchpad.feature_flags_endpoint, allow_none=True)
if server_proxy.getFeatureFlag(
'codehosting.use_forking_server', ['user:' + user_name]): pass

Debugging feature usage

The flags active during a page request, and the scopes that were looked up are visible in the comment at the bottom of every standard Launchpad page.

Setting flags in your tests

lp.services.features.testing contains a fixture that can help you temporarily set feature flags during a test run. All existing flags will be removed and the new flag values set. The old flags are restored when the fixture is cleaned up.

The lp.testing.TestCase class has built-in support for test fixtures. To set a flag for the duration of a test:

from lp.services.features.testing import FeatureFixture

def setUp(self):
    self.useFixture(FeatureFixture({'myflag': 'on'}))

You can also use the fixture as a context manager:

with FeatureFixture({'myflag': 'on'}):

You can call the fixture's setUp() and cleanUp() methods for doctests and other environments that have no explicit setup and teardown:

>>> from lp.services.features.testing import FeatureFixture
>>> fixture = FeatureFixture({'my-doctest-flag': 'on'})
>>> fixture.setUp()
>>> fixture.cleanUp()
Package browser No package docstring; 3/3 modules, 0/1 packages documented
Module changelog Classes that manage FeatureFlagChangelogEntry items.
Module flags No module docstring; 3/4 classes documented
Module model No module docstring; 2/2 classes, 1/1 functions documented
Module rulesource Returns rules defining which features are active
Module scopes Connect feature flags into scopes where they can be used.
Module testing Helpers for writing tests that use feature flags.
Package tests No package docstring; 7/7 modules documented
Module webapp Connect Feature flags into webapp requests.
Module xmlrpc FeatureFlagApplication allows access to information about feature flags.

From the __init__.py module:

Function currentScope Get the current scope of the flag for this thread's scopes.
Function defaultFlagValue Undocumented
Function getFeatureFlag Get the value of a flag for this thread's scopes.
Function get_relevant_feature_controller Get a FeatureController for this thread.
Function install_feature_controller Install a FeatureController on this thread.
Function make_script_feature_controller Create a FeatureController for the named script.
Function uninstall_feature_controller Remove, if it exists, the current feature controller from this thread.
def install_feature_controller(controller):
Install a FeatureController on this thread.
def uninstall_feature_controller():
Remove, if it exists, the current feature controller from this thread.

This function is used to create a pristine environment in tests.

def get_relevant_feature_controller():
Get a FeatureController for this thread.
def getFeatureFlag(flag):
Get the value of a flag for this thread's scopes.
def currentScope(flag):
Get the current scope of the flag for this thread's scopes.
def defaultFlagValue(flag):
def make_script_feature_controller(script_name):
Create a FeatureController for the named script.

You can then install this feature controller using install_feature_controller.

API Documentation for Launchpad, generated by pydoctor at 2021-01-18 00:00:02.