Using Circuit Templates

This guide explains how to use the circuit-template feature of Splinter, including explaining the concept and format of a circuit template file and how to use the circuit-template feature when developing an application.

Overview

A circuit template contains a set of rules which partially define a new circuit. Templates make circuit creation substantially easier, as only a minimal amount of information needs be provided–the remainder is defined in the circuit template.

Circuit templates can be used via the Splinter CLI. The splinter-circuit-template-* commands list, show, and display further information about selected templates. The splinter-circuit-propose command’s template option utilizes a template to create a circuit proposal. Aside from the Splinter CLI, templates may also be used to create a circuit within an application. Splinter’s Gameroom example utilizes the circuit-template feature within the Gameroom daemon. This document will cover examples of both scenarios.

Template format

YAML is currently the only supported format for template files. The following is an example circuit template YAML file used by the Gameroom application:

version: v1
args:
    - name: ADMIN_KEYS
      required: false
      default: $(SIGNER_PUB_KEY)
      description: >-
        Public keys used to verify transactions in the scabbard service
    - name: NODES
      required: true
      description: "List of node IDs"
    - name: SIGNER_PUB_KEY
      required: false
      description: "Public key of the signer"
    - name: GAMEROOM_NAME
      required: true
      description: "Name of the gameroom"
rules:
    set-management-type:
        management-type: "gameroom"
    create-services:
        service-type: 'scabbard'
        service-args:
        - key: 'admin_keys'
          value: [$(ADMIN_KEYS)]
        - key: 'peer_services'
          value: '$(ALL_OTHER_SERVICES)'
        first-service: 'a000'
    set-metadata:
        encoding: json
        metadata:
            - key: "scabbard_admin_keys"
              value: ["$(ADMIN_KEYS)"]
            - key: "alias"
              value: "$(GAMEROOM_NAME)"

There are three main sections in a circuit template: version, args, and rules.

Version

This describes the version of the template being used. The template’s version determines the available rules. The template rules are explained below.

Args

The args section of the template shows the arguments used by the template’s rules. Each argument shows a description of the information that is required by the circuit template’s rules to fill in the circuit definition. A rule can define the name, The following argument definition is from the example YAML above:

- name: SIGNER_PUB_KEY
  required: false
  description: "Public key of the signer"

This shows the definition of the SIGNER_PUB_KEY argument, which includes a short description string and an indicator of whether or not the argument is required. This argument will be assigned a value when the circuit is being created.

The value of an argument may be used to fill in other necessary information within the template. The value of an argument can be referred to using the command substitution syntax, for example the SIGNER_PUB_KEY argument would appear as $(SIGNER_PUB_KEY). This syntax may be used when assigning the default value of an argument. The following shows the definition of the ADMIN_KEYS argument which uses the SIGNER_PUB_KEY argument as its default value.

- name: ADMIN_KEYS
  required: false
  default: $(SIGNER_PUB_KEY)
  description: >-
    Public keys used to verify transactions in the scabbard service

Rules

Rules use the argument values for defining the circuit. The rules, therefore, reflect the format of the circuit the template is intended for. The version of a template determines the available rules.

Version 1.0 Available Rules

  • set-management-type: This rule takes a single argument, management-type, and sets the circuit’s management type.
  • create-services: This rule takes a service-type, service-args and first-service which are used to build the services included in a circuit.
  • set-metadata: This rule takes a metadata and an encoding argument. The encoding argument supports JSON. The template uses this rule to set the circuit’s metadata, using the encoding specified.

Implementation

Rules within the template are backed by specific functions. These functions use the argument values explained above. When writing a template, think of a rule as a function signature. Rules show the function, in kebab case, along with their required arguments. See the following:

set-metadata:
      encoding: json
      metadata:
          - key: "scabbard_admin_keys"
            value: ["$(ADMIN_KEYS)"]
          - key: "alias"
            value: "$(GAMEROOM_NAME)"

This rule is associated with a function used to set the metadata field of the CreateCircuitBuilder. The rule’s options allow for specifying the details necessary for the function associated with the template rule to assign that builder value. The scabbard_admin_keys key’s value is [“$(ADMIN_KEYS)”], which refers to the value assigned to the ADMIN_KEYS argument inserted into a list. Similarly, the alias key would be assigned the value assigned to the GAMEROOM_NAME argument value. This example also shows the encoding` option, which determines the encoding of the metadata being assigned to the builder. Currently, the only supported option is JSON.

Environment Variables

The SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH environment variable can be used to specify directories which contain template files, either while using the Splinter CLI or developing an application. Regardless of whether SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH is set, the default directory, /usr/share/splinter/circuit-templates/ is checked when retrieving template files. The environment variable allows for control over the template files being used.

Multiple directories may be specified in SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH, with paths delineated by :. If multiple storage directories are specified, the directories are given the precedence as determined by their position in the list of paths. For example, set the SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH using the following command:

$ export SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH='foo:bar'

This affects the splinter-circuit-template-list and the rest of the splinter-circuit-template commands. The list command will print out all YAML files within the directories specified. However, when selecting a specific template file in a command, unless the full path to the file is specified, the first template file matching the name passed into the argument will be used in the command. For example, there is a template file foo/bar.yaml and bar/bar.yaml.

$ export SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH='foo:bar'
$ splinter circuit template show bar

The following command will show the template found in the foo directory, foo/bar.yaml. The full path to the template file must be specified if multiple template files with the same name exist and the SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH variable is set.

Prerequisites

  • Verify the file paths for circuit template files and the value, if any, assigned to the SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH environment variable. If this value is set, the directories specified will be searched in the order provided. Set the environment variable, or clear it to ensure the default circuit template storage directory, /usr/share/splinter/circuit-templates, is used.

Using circuit templates in the Splinter CLI

The Splinter CLI offers the splinter-circuit-template-* commands that can be used to list and display further information about circuit templates. The splinter-circuit-template-* commands solely provide information about the circuit templates found or specified. For example, the splinter-circuit-template-show command displays a specific template. Additionally, all of the template arguments may be displayed using the splinter-circuit-template-arguments command. More information about the splinter-circuit-template-* commands can be found in the circuit template CLI reference.

The template is put into action using the splinter-circuit-propose command’s template option. The template option takes the template name and then uses the template rules and arguments to create the circuit proposal. The following example illustrates how to use a simple circuit template to propose a circuit.

Below is an example of a simple circuit template. This template only requires the SIGNER_PUB_KEY argument and has rules to set the circuit’s management type and services.

version: v1
args:
    - name: NODES
      required: false
      description: "List of node IDs"
    - name: SIGNER_PUB_KEY
      required: true
      description: "Public key of the signer"
rules:
    set-management-type:
        management-type: "simple"
    create-services:
        service-type: ‘simple’
        first-service: ‘AA01’
        service-args:
        - key: 'admin_keys'
          value: [$(SIGNER_PUB_KEY)]

This template can be specified using the template option of the propose command. The template arguments are set using the corresponding template-arg option. If any required arguments are not set, the circuit proposal will not be created and an error will be returned specifying the missing argument. While the circuit template will complete the circuit proposal based on its rules and arguments, any custom-set arguments using the propose command’s other options will take precedence over the default template values. Any additional information for the circuit proposal may also be included using the command’s other options. More information on this command can be found in the circuit propose CLI reference.

NOTE: Template files within Splinter are stored by default in /usr/share/splinter/circuit-templates unless the SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH environment variable is set. If using a template file outside of the paths specified by this environment variable or the default directory, use the full path when specifying the template option to ensure the correct template file is used when proposing the circuit.

This command proposes a simple circuit with one other node using the template option.

  • The proposing node has ID alpha001 and endpoint tcps://splinterd-node-acme001:8044.
  • The other node has ID beta001 and endpoint tcps://splinterd-node-beta001:8044.
$ splinter circuit propose \
  --node alpha001::tcps://splinterd-node-alpha001:8044 \
  --node beta001::tcps://splinterd-node-beta001:8044 \
  --template simple.yaml \
  --template-arg SIGNER_PUB_KEY=PRIVATE-KEY-FILE \
  --url URL-of-splinterd-REST-API

If successful, this command will create a simple circuit proposal based on the information gathered by the circuit template and the node arguments provided.

Using circuit templates in Splinter applications

This example uses the circuit template file used in the Splinter Gameroom application. The same concepts and procedures may be applied to any type of circuit. The following example guides developers through the process of using a circuit template file in an application.

  1. First the template must be loaded, usually from a YAML file, to create a CircuitCreateTemplate object. All existing circuit template files use the YAML format. The following line shows how a template is loaded from the circuit template directory:

     let template = CircuitCreateTemplate::from_yaml_file("gameroom.yaml")?;
    

    NOTE: All available circuit templates are packaged in the default circuit template directory, /usr/share/splinter/circuit-templates. Unless the SPLINTER_CIRCUIT_TEMPLATE_PATH is set, in which case all directories specified using this environment variable are searched for the template files.

  2. The args of the CircuitCreateTemplate object created in the step above must be set. Each entry in the args section of the circuit template holds further information on how the argument is used. For example, the NODES argument is described as follows in the circuit template:

     name: NODES
           required: true
           description: "List of node IDs"
    

    This entry shows that the NODES argument is required and a short description. Therefore, if this argument is not set in the circuit template, the circuit template will not successfully create the builder objects. Some arguments have default values, this is shown in the ADMIN_KEYS argument entry in the circuit template file.

     name: ADMIN_KEYS
           required: false
           default: SIGNER_PUB_KEY
           description: >-
             Public keys used to verify transactions in the scabbard service
    

    As this argument is not required, there is a default value applied if it is not provided. This default value is the value of the signer_pub_key argument. For the Gameroom circuit template, the nodes and gameroom_name are required to be set. To set these values:

     template.set_argument_value("nodes", &list_of_nodes)?;
     template.set_argument_value("gameroom_name", gameroom_alias)?;
    

    The list_of_nodes is a string with all circuit participants’ node ID separated by a comma. Similarly, the gameroom_alias value is also a string. The other arguments available to be set for the Gameroom circuit template are the signer_pub_key, which is the public key of the transaction signer represented by a string, and the admin_keys, are the admin keys used by the Scabbard service represented by a list of strings. These values are set similarly to the required values:

     template.set_argument_value("signer_pub_key", signer_public_key)?;
     template.set_argument_value("admin_keys", admin_key_list)?;
    
  3. Once all of the required arguments have been set, the circuit template object may be turned into builder objects that are converted to the finalized object once all of the necessary circuit information is gathered. This is done as follows:

     let (create_circuit_builder, service_builders) = template.into_builders()?;
    

    This method will return an error if any of the required arguments have not been set. The create_circuit_builder is a CreateCircuitBuilder object while the service_builders is a list of SplinterServiceBuilder objects. Both of these types of builder objects are used to compile the necessary information to propose a circuit.

    At this point, all of the rules are applied to the circuit template. This means that the builders are assigned values based on the rules using the values from the arguments. In the gameroom circuit template, this includes the create-services, set-management-type, and set-metadata rules. rules are predefined functions that use the values set for the template’s args that produce information necessary to fill in the blanks of the builder objects. The full functions used for these rules can be found within the circuit::template::rules module. The template entry for each rule also gives some information as to what the rule is actually doing.

    For example, the set-metadata rule sets the metadata field of the CreateCircuitBuilder. From the template:

     set-metadata:
         encoding: json
         metadata:
             - key: "scabbard_admin_keys"
               value: ["$(ADMIN_KEYS)"]
             - key: "alias"
               value: "$(GAMEROOM_NAME)"
    

    From the template entry, we can see the encoding for the metadata is JSON. The value of the metadata field is represented by a map, a set of keys and values, as shown in the template. One key is scabbard_admin_keys which takes the value of the admin_keys template argument. The gameroom_name argument is assigned to the alias key.

    The create_services rule generates a SplinterServiceBuilder for each service involved in the circuit. For a circuit with two participating nodes, this rule would generate two SplinterServiceBuilder objects. A different type of service, besides Scabbard, may also be added to the circuit template YAML file by adding an entry under the create_services rule. The create_services rule on the Gameroom template generates Scabbard SplinterServiceBuilder objects, as scabbard is specified for the service-type. Similar to the set-metadata rule, this rule also creates a map to hold the service-args used to initialize the Scabbard instance.

    This rule includes the admin_keys in the service-args entry and a peer_services value. The peer_services key has a value, $(ALL_OTHER_SERVICES), meaning this key is assigned the definition of the peer_services key.

     create-services:
         service-type: 'scabbard'
         service-args:
         - key: 'admin_keys'
           value: [$(ADMIN_KEYS)]
         - key: 'peer_services'
           value: '$(ALL_OTHER_SERVICES)'
         first-service: 'a000'
    
  4. After the builder objects have been generated from the CircuitCreateTemplate, any remaining information may be added to any of the builders. The Gameroom example includes filling in the members field of the CreateCircuitBuilder.

    Once a list of the members has been created, represented by a list of SplinterNode structs. A SplinterNode has a node_id field and an endpoints field. Assuming the list of SplinterNode objects has been created, and is called members, setting this value in the builder looks like the following line:

     create_circuit_builder.with_members(members);
    

    Additionally, the list of services must be added to the CircuitCreateTemplate in the roster field. The roster field takes a list of SplinterService objects. In an earlier step, we generated a list of SplinterServiceBuilder objects. Each of these can be turned into a SplinterService object using the build method and do not require any additional information to successfully build.

     service_builder.build()?;
    

    Once each SplinterServiceBuilder has been built, the list can be added to the CircuitCreateTemplate. The services_list is the list of SplinterService objects created previously.

     create_circuit_builder.with_roster(services_list);
    
  5. At this point, all necessary information has been added to the CreateCircuitBuilder and it is ready to be turned into the CreateCircuit message.

     let create_circuit = create_circuit_builder.build()?;
    

This will result in a CreateCircuit object which holds all of the information submitted to the circuit template and the builder objects.

For More Information

  • Splinter circuit-template CLI commands: list, show