Upgrading OpenBSD with Ansible

This article is best enjoyed with basic knowledge of OpenBSD autoinstall and Ansible

My router runs OpenBSD -current

A few months ago, I needed software that had just hit the ports tree. I didn't want to wait for the next release, so I upgraded my router to use -current. Since then, I've continued running -current, which means upgrading to a newer snapshot every so often. Running -current is great, but the process of updating to a newer snapshot was cumbersome. Initially, I had to plug in a serial cable and then reboot into bsd.rd, hit enter ten times, then reboot, run sysmerge and update packages.

I eventually switched to upobsd to be able to upgrade without the need for a serial connection. The process was better, but still tiresome. Usually, I would prepare the special version of bsd.rd, boot on bsd.rd, and do something like wash the dishes in the meantime. After about ten minutes, I would dry my hands and then go back to my workstation to see whether the bsd.rd part had finished so I could run sysmerge and pkg_add, and then return to the dishes while it upgraded packages.

Out of laziness, I thought: "I should automate this," but what happened instead is that I simply didn't upgrade that machine very often. (Yes, laziness). With my router out of commission, life is very dull, because it is my gateway to the Internet. Even services hosted at my place (like my Mastodon instance) are not reachable when the router is down because I use multiple VLANs (so I need the router to jump across VLANs).

Ansible Reboot Module

I recently got a new job, and one of my first tasks was auditing the Ansible roles written by my predecessors. In one role, the machine rebooted and they used the wait_for_connection module to wait for it to come back up. That sounded quite hackish to me, so out of curiosity, I tried to determine whether there was a better way. I also thought I might be able to use something similar to further automate my OpenBSD upgrades, and wanted to assess the cleanliness of this method. ;-)

I learned that with the then-upcoming 2.7 Ansible release, a proper reboot module would be included. I went to the docs, which stated that for a certain parameter:

- On Linux and macOS, this is converted to minutes and
  rounded down. If less than 60, it will be set to 0.
- On Solaris and FreeBSD, this will be seconds.

I took this to mean that there was no support for OpenBSD. I looked at the code and, indeed, there was not. However, I believed that it wouldn't be too hard to add it. I added the missing pieces for OpenBSD, tested it on my poor Pine64 and then submitted it upstream. After a quick back and forth, the module's author merged it into devel (having a friend working at Red Hat helped the process, merci Cyril !) A couple days later, the release engineer merged it into stable-2.7.

I proceeded to actually write the playbook, and then I hit a bug. The parameter reboot_timeout was not recognized by Ansible. This feature would definitely be useful on a slow machine (such as the Pine64 and its dying SD card). Again, my fix was merged into master by the module's author and then merged into stable-2.7. 2.7.1 will be the first release to feature these fixes, but if you use OpenBSD -current, you already have access to them. I backported the patches when I updated ansible.

Fun fact about Ansible and reboots: "The win_reboot module was [...] included with Ansible 2.1," while for unix systems it wasn't added until 2.7. :D For more details, you can read the module's author blog article.

The Playbook

Initially, my playbook did the upgrade as usual (i.e., it fetched the sets in bsd.rd). During this process, of course, my machine is not performing its function as a router. My Internet access is not super great, so fetching the sets takes awhile. I got frustrated while I was testing it and looked into lessening the amount of time spent inside bsd.rd.

To speed up the process, I wrote a basic shell script to fetch the sets before rebooting into bsd.rd. It enabled me to remove some tasks I had to do in order to get working Internet access in bsd.rd. (This is specific to my case).

The playbook itself

- name: Upgrade OpenBSD
  hosts: apu-root
    arch: amd64
    date: "{{ lookup('pipe', 'date +%Y-%m-%d') }}"
    disk: "sd0"
    mirror: "fastly.cdn.openbsd.org"
    path_sets: "/home/danj/sets"

    - name: fetch sets
      command: /home/danj/bin/fetch-sets
      when: path_sets is defined
    - name: create answer file for upobsd
        src: answer.j2
        dest: answer
      delegate_to: localhost
    - name: create kernel with upobsd
      command: "upobsd -v -a {{ arch }} -u ./answer -m https://{{ mirror }}/pub/OpenBSD -V snapshots"
      delegate_to: localhost
    - name: copy bsd.rd created by upobsd
        src: bsd.rd
        dest: /bsd
    - name: reboot host
        msg: "rebooting into bsd.rd to upgrade"
        reboot_timeout: 900
    - name: archive kernel
        src: "/bsd"
        dest: "/bsd-{{ date }}"
        mode: 0700
        remote_src: "yes"
    - name: upgrade all packages
      command: "pkg_add -u -Dsnap"

The answer file

The answer file is automatically mailed to root at the end of the upgrade, so it's easy to get it!

In my case, the answer file transformed into a jinja2 template is:

Which disk is the root disk = sd0
Force checking of clean non-root filesystems = no
{% if path_sets is defined %}
Location of sets = disk
Is the disk partition already mounted = yes
Pathname to the sets = {{ path_sets }}
{% else %}
Location of sets = http
HTTP proxy URL = none
HTTP Server = {{ mirror }}
Server directory = pub/OpenBSD/snapshots/{{ arch }}
{% endif %}
Set name(s) = done
Location of sets = done

The explanations

Ansible runs my script on the remote host to fetch the sets. It creates an answer file from the template and then gives it to upobsd. Once upobsd has created the kernel, Ansible copies it in place of /bsd on the host. The router reboots and boots on /bsd, which is upobsd's bsd.rd. The installer runs in auto_update mode. Once it comes back from bsd.rd land, it archives the kernel and finishes by upgrading all the packages.

It also supports upgrading without fetching the sets ahead of time. For instance, I upgrade this way on my Pine64 because if I cared about speed, I wouldn't use this weak computer with its dying SD card. For this case, I just comment out the path_sets variable and Ansible instead creates an answer file that will instruct the installer to fetch the sets from the designated mirror.

I've been archiving my kernels for a few years. It's a nice way to fill up / keep a history of my upgrades. If I spot a regression, I can try a previous kernel ... which may not work with the then-desynchronized userland, but that's another story.

sysmerge already runs with rc.sysmerge in batch mode and sends the result by email. I don't think there's merit to running it again in the playbook. The only perk would be discovering in the terminal whether any files need to be manually merged, rather than reading exactly the same output in the email.

Initially, I used the openbsd_pkg module, but it doesn't work on -current just before a release because pkg_add automatically looks for pub/OpenBSD/${release}/packages/${arch} (which is empty). I wrote and tested this playbook while 6.4 was around the corner, so I switched to command to be able to pass the -Dsnap parameter.

The result

I'm very happy with the playbook! It performs the upgrade with as little intervention as possible and minimal downtime. \o/

Thanks Pamela for the proof-reading!

By Vigdis in
Tags : #OpenBSD, #ansible,
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