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2. Provider

hardening

Overview

The provider API defines interfaces that Provider Authors can use to abstract a particular flag management system, thus enabling the use of the evaluation API by Application Authors.

Providers are the "translator" between the flag evaluation calls made in application code, and the flag management system that stores flags and in some cases evaluates flags. At a minimum, providers should implement some basic evaluation methods which return flag values of the expected type. In addition, providers may transform the evaluation context appropriately in order to be used in dynamic evaluation of their associated flag management system, provide insight into why evaluation proceeded the way it did, and expose configuration options for their associated flag management system. Hypothetical provider implementations might wrap a vendor SDK, embed an REST client, or read flags from a local file.

Provider

2.1. Feature Provider Interface

Requirement 2.1.1

The provider interface MUST define a metadata member or accessor, containing a name field or accessor of type string, which identifies the provider implementation.

provider.getMetadata().getName(); // "my-custom-provider"

2.2 Flag Value Resolution

Providers are implementations of the feature provider interface, which may wrap vendor SDKs, REST API clients, or otherwise resolve flag values from the runtime environment.

Requirement 2.2.1

The feature provider interface MUST define methods to resolve flag values, with parameters flag key (string, required), default value (boolean | number | string | structure, required) and evaluation context (optional), which returns a resolution details structure.

// example flag resolution function
resolveBooleanValue(flagKey, defaultValue, context);

see: flag resolution structure, flag value resolution

Condition 2.2.2

The implementing language type system differentiates between strings, numbers, booleans and structures.

Conditional Requirement 2.2.2.1

The feature provider interface MUST define methods for typed flag resolution, including boolean, numeric, string, and structure.

// example boolean flag value resolution
ResolutionDetails resolveBooleanValue(string flagKey, boolean defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);

// example string flag value resolution
ResolutionDetails resolveStringValue(string flagKey, string defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);

// example number flag value resolution
ResolutionDetails resolveNumberValue(string flagKey, number defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);

// example structure flag value resolution
ResolutionDetails resolveStructureValue(string flagKey, JsonObject defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);

Requirement 2.2.3

In cases of normal execution, the provider MUST populate the resolution details structure's value field with the resolved flag value.

Requirement 2.2.4

In cases of normal execution, the provider SHOULD populate the resolution details structure's variant field with a string identifier corresponding to the returned flag value.

For example, the flag value might be 3.14159265359, and the variant field's value might be "pi".

The value of the variant field might only be meaningful in the context of the flag management system associated with the provider. For example, the variant may be a UUID corresponding to the variant in the flag management system, or an index corresponding to the variant in the flag management system.

Requirement 2.2.5

The provider SHOULD populate the resolution details structure's reason field with "STATIC", "DEFAULT", "TARGETING_MATCH", "SPLIT", "CACHED", "DISABLED", "UNKNOWN", "STALE", "ERROR" or some other string indicating the semantic reason for the returned flag value.

As indicated in the definition of the resolution details structure, the reason should be a string. This allows providers to reflect accurately why a flag was resolved to a particular value.

Requirement 2.2.6

In cases of normal execution, the provider MUST NOT populate the resolution details structure's error code field, or otherwise must populate it with a null or falsy value.

Requirement 2.2.7

In cases of abnormal execution, the provider MUST indicate an error using the idioms of the implementation language, with an associated error code and optional associated error message.

The provider might throw an exception, return an error, or populate the error code object on the returned resolution details structure to indicate a problem during flag value resolution.

See error code for details.

// example throwing an exception with an error code and optional error message.
throw new ProviderError(ErrorCode.INVALID_CONTEXT, "The 'foo' attribute must be a string.");

Condition 2.2.8

The implementation language supports generics (or an equivalent feature).

Conditional Requirement 2.2.8.1

The resolution details structure SHOULD accept a generic argument (or use an equivalent language feature) which indicates the type of the wrapped value field.

// example boolean flag value resolution with generic argument
ResolutionDetails<boolean> resolveBooleanValue(string flagKey, boolean defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);

// example string flag value resolution with generic argument
ResolutionDetails<string> resolveStringValue(string flagKey, string defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);

// example number flag value resolution with generic argument
ResolutionDetails<number> resolveNumberValue(string flagKey, number defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);

// example structure flag value resolution with generic argument
ResolutionDetails<MyStruct> resolveStructureValue(string flagKey, MyStruct defaultValue, context: EvaluationContext);
Requirement 2.2.9

The provider SHOULD populate the resolution details structure's flag metadata field.

Requirement 2.2.10

flag metadata MUST be a structure supporting the definition of arbitrary properties, with keys of type string, and values of type boolean | string | number.

2.3. Provider hooks

A provider hook exposes a mechanism for provider authors to register hooks to tap into various stages of the flag evaluation lifecycle. These hooks can be used to perform side effects and mutate the context for purposes of the provider. Provider hooks are not configured or controlled by the application author.

Requirement 2.3.1

The provider interface MUST define a provider hook mechanism which can be optionally implemented in order to add hook instances to the evaluation life-cycle.

class MyProvider implements Provider {
//...

readonly hooks: Hook[] = [new MyProviderHook()];

// ..or alternatively..
getProviderHooks(): Hook[] {
return [new MyProviderHook()];
}

//...
}

Requirement 2.3.2

In cases of normal execution, the provider MUST NOT populate the resolution details structure's error message field, or otherwise must populate it with a null or falsy value.

Requirement 2.3.3

In cases of abnormal execution, the resolution details structure's error message field MAY contain a string containing additional detail about the nature of the error.

2.4 Initialization

experimental

Requirement 2.4.1

The provider MAY define an initialize function which accepts the global evaluation context as an argument and performs initialization logic relevant to the provider.

Many feature flag frameworks or SDKs require some initialization before they can be used.
They might require the completion of an HTTP request, establishing persistent connections, or starting timers or worker threads.
The initialization function is an ideal place for such logic.

// MyProvider implementation of the initialize function defined in Provider
class MyProvider implements Provider {
//...

// the global context is passed to the initialization function
void initialize(EvaluationContext initialContext) {
/*
A hypothetical initialization function: make an initial call doing some bulk initial evaluation, start a worker to do periodic updates
*/
this.flagCache = this.restClient.bulkEvaluate(initialContext);
this.startPolling();
}

//...
}

Requirement 2.4.2

The provider MAY define a status field/accessor which indicates the readiness of the provider, with possible values NOT_READY, READY, STALE, or ERROR.

Providers without this field can be assumed to be ready immediately.

The diagram below illustrates the possible states and transitions of the status fields.

see provider status

Requirement 2.4.3

The provider MUST set its status field/accessor to READY if its initialize function terminates normally.

If the provider supports the status field/accessor and initialization succeeds, setting the status to READY indicates that the provider is initialized and flag evaluation is proceeding normally.

Requirement 2.4.4

The provider MUST set its status field to ERROR if its initialize function terminates abnormally.

If the provider supports the status field/accessor and initialization fails, setting the status to ERROR indicates the provider is in an error state. If the error is transient in nature (ex: a connectivity failure of some kind) the provider can attempt to resolve this state automatically.

Requirement 2.4.5

The provider SHOULD indicate an error if flag resolution is attempted before the provider is ready.

It's recommended to set an informative error code, such as PROVIDER_NOT_READY if evaluation in attempted before the provider is initialized.

see: error codes

2.5. Shutdown

experimental

Requirement 2.5.1

The provider MAY define a mechanism to gracefully shutdown and dispose of resources.

// MyProvider implementation of the dispose function defined in Provider
class MyProvider implements Provider, AutoDisposable {
//...
void dispose() {
// close connections, terminate threads or timers, etc...
}

Requirement 2.5.2

After a provider's shutdown function has terminated successfully, the provider's state MUST revert to its uninitialized state.

If a provider requires initialization, once it's shut down, it must transition to its initial NOT_READY state. Some providers may allow reinitialization from this state.
Providers not requiring initialization are assumed to be ready at all times.

see: initialization

2.6. Provider context reconciliation

experimental

Static-context focused providers may need a mechanism to understand when their cache of evaluated flags must be invalidated or updated. An on context changed handler can be defined which performs whatever operations are needed to reconcile the evaluated flags with the new context.

Requirement 2.6.1

The provider MAY define an on context changed handler, which takes an argument for the previous context and the newly set context, in order to respond to an evaluation context change.

Especially in static-context implementations, providers and underlying SDKs may maintain state for a particular context.
The on context changed handler provides a mechanism to update this state, often by re-evaluating flags in bulk with respect to the new context.

// MyProvider implementation of the onContextChanged function defined in Provider
class MyProvider implements Provider {
//...

onContextChanged(EvaluationContext oldContext, EvaluationContext newContext): void {
// update context-sensitive cached flags, or otherwise react to the change in the global context
}

//...
}

Providers may maintain remote connections, timers, threads or other constructs that need to be appropriately disposed of.
Provider authors may implement a shutdown function to perform relevant clean-up actions.
Alternatively, implementations might leverage language idioms such as auto-disposable interfaces or some means of cancellation signal propagation to allow for graceful shutdown.