runs standalone puppet on remote cloud nodes
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Skewer is a tool that helps you run Puppet code on arbitrary machines. Skewer can:

  1. Spawn a new virtual machine via a cloud system
  2. Provision it with puppet code
  3. Update the puppet code on a machine that you've provisioned already
  4. Delete it

Skewer exists because sometimes, a Puppet master server isn't needed. If you run a small number of nodes, or simply want to bootstrap cloud nodes, you might like this tool.

Design Goals

At Build Doctor HQ, we love Puppet. We don't love:

  • The overhead of a server when using a small number of nodes
  • Stale operating system packaging
  • RubyGems

We did use Lindsay Holmwood's excellent Rump, but settled on a different approach:

  • We deploy Puppet with RubyGems
  • We tame RubyGems with Bundler
  • We ensure that bundler works with your operating system.

Once a server is bootstrapped into existence, your code is rsynced over to the remote machine. An annoyance of previous incarnations was testing changes to systems. So this approach lets you roll out code in any state of development to test on a real system. We recommend that you use Vagrant too, but you can't reproduce every feature of a cloud VM on a Vagrantbox. There's no substitute for 19 inches (of rack-mounted hardware).


You can install Skewer via RubyGems like so:

$ gem install skewer


To get started you'll need to create a Fog configuration file:

$ touch ~/.fog

Then add your cloud service credentials, AWS EC2 or Rackspace for example, to the file:

  :aws_access_key_id: AKIAIISJV5TZ3FPWU3TA
  :aws_secret_access_key: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP1234556/s

To provision a node you can run skewer provision. You will need to provide the name of the cloud service you wish to use, the name of the image (for example for EC2 you need to provide an AMI image ID) you wish to provision, and the role of the node you wish to create:

$ skewer provision --cloud ec2 --image ami1234 --role webserver --key ec2-key

In this case we're using EC2 so we've also added the --key option to specify an AWS security key.

This will provision a new node and configure it with the webserver role.

If the node is already running you can also update it using the skewer update command like so:

$ skewer update --host hostname --user user --role webserver

This assumes you have SSH access to the host.

Finally, if you wish to delete a node you can do that using the skewer delete command:

$ skewer delete --cloud ec2 --host hostname

If you wish to override any of the default options you can create a .skewer file to configure Skewer.

Supported clouds:

  • AWS (Sorry to be so predictable)
  • Rackspace

Supported operating systems:

  • Ubuntu (Hardy onwards)


This is a fully open source project. It's grown up over years as a private project before being re-written with unit and acceptance tests.

We use rspec, cucumber, aruba and rcov - that's 3 out of 4 from Aslak Hellesoy.

Pull requests are welcomed!

To run the cucumber features, you'll need vagrant and VirtualBox installed. You'll also need to hack the SSH configuration in order to allow the cucumber features to hit the vagrant box:

vagrant ssh_config >> ~/.ssh/config