The Configuration as Code plugin and "id must be specified" errors 21 Aug 2019
jenkins job-dsl casc

Yesterday we rebuilt and re-deployed one of the Jenkins containers we use at work, and much to my chagrin the Jenkins environment no longer wanted to boot. We use Jenkins on top of Kubernetes, integrated with Hashicorp Vault, configured with the Configuration as Code plugin and the Job DSL plugin. While I am pleased with this stack of tools, it is not a “simple” set up. It had been three weeks since the last rebuild and redeploy, and the name of the game was: what of the dozen changes that have happened in one of these tools over the last three weeks was the culprit.

Any time Jenkins fails to boot, I immediately consult the daemon’s log. The beginning of the log looked mostly normal except for these sort of lines at the top:

WARNING: Configuration import: Found unresolved variable GITLAB_TOKEN. Will default to empty string

Meanwhile at the bottom of the logs were the actual stacktraces which caused Jenkins to stop. The way I understood the stacktraces at the bottom of the logs, was that they were relating to these warnings at the top of the logs. The Job DSL script being used was referencing this credential configured from the GITLAB_TOKEN variable.

My primitive monkey logic was: a warning that a secret variable is not present must mean that Jenkins is not getting secrets from Vault, and therefore the credential ID being referenced in the Job DSL script is empty causing a problem.

Looking more seriously at Vault, my leading hypothesis was that we had recently added secret strings which were tripping up the secret parsing in the Jenkins Configuration as Code plugin. The plugin is what actually connects to Vault, fetches secrets, and makes them available as variables for expansion in its configuration YAML. My first step was to make the log level much more granular to see if Jenkins and Vault were still communicating properly. Sifting through 6MB of logs, I confirmed that communication with Vault was in tact.

The build of our Docker container defaults to take the latest plugins at build time. Some might consider this risky, but I believe that it’s better to risk upgrades, than to fall behind on Jenkins plugin versions which itself can be a difficult hole to dig out of. I noticed in our build logs that the Configuration as Code plugin upgraded from 1.24 to 1.27 between the two built versions of the container. The release notes for 1.25 looked suspicious as there were secrets related changes, but mostly in the context of the “Export” functionality that the plugin supports. Either way, I tried using the old version of the container and that still didn’t seem to work for some reason!

It had to be Vault, I concluded.

The next rock I looked under was whether the secrets were malformed in Vault. With help from a member of our security team, we started spelunking around in Vault and even tried deleting some secrets recently added. That didn’t appear to be the issue either!

At this point in the afternoon, I was pretty annoyed. Nothing made sense. I did a little bit of a mental reset and decided to bring the Vault configuration to my local machine and started testing out with a purely ephemeral version of the container, e.g. docker run --rm -ti myjenkins.

In my local environment, I was able to boot the old version of the container, but not the new version of the container. I was also unable to boot a newer version of the container with an explicitly pinned 1.24 version of the configuration as code plugin. Mysteries abound! In this local testing what I noticed was that I was still seeing these warnings:

WARNING: Configuration import: Found unresolved variable GITLAB_TOKEN. Will default to empty string

Yet, the credentials would still show up properly in the instance. The Configuration as Code plugin was warning about secrets but they still managed to show up anyways. This smelled quite fishy to me, and I posited in the configuration-as-code-plugin Gitter room that there’s a race condition related to the fetching of secrets from Vault and the configuration that the plugin is trying to set. With this hypothesis in place, I returned to the bottom of the log where the Job DSL plugin stacktrace was:

Caused by: javaposse.jobdsl.dsl.DslScriptException: (script, line 37) id must be specified

Between the old and new versions of the container, the Job DSL plugin went from 1.74 to 1.75. By pinning the Job DSL plugin back one version ended up resolving the issue! Noticing and reading this migration note for 1.75 confirmed the problem.

I had not been able to reproduce this in Kubernetes previously, due to the persistent volume which was effectively caching exploded plugin directories between restarts. In /var/jenkins_home/plugins/ there are directories of plugins which have been expanded from their .jpi files, and in cases of a plugin downgrade in the container, this wasn’t getting updated. Good to know for the future!

In essence, the Configuration as Code plugin fetches secrets from Vault in an asynchronous manner but it appears not to wait for results to come back before it triggers the Job DSL seed job. With the release of Job DSL 1.75, the referencing of credentials IDs went from unchecked/lazy to checked/strict. The fact that the seed job was running before the credentials actually existed became a fatal error which didn’t previously exist.

UPDATE: The maintainer of the Job DSL plugin, Daniel Spilker pointed out that I cannot read English properly. The breaking change between Job DSL 1.74 and 1.75 has nothing to do with Credentials or the Configuration as Code plugin, and was a complete red herring. The id property must now be applied for all Git/GitHub branch source configuration. Basically, there’s a breaking API change in Job DSL between these two point releases which tripped us up here.

Over the past decade I have become intimately familiar with many different failure scenarios in Jenkins, more so than any other piece of software. It’s nice to know that there are still new things to explore in our relationship together.