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Sunzi: Server provisioning utility for minimalists

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"The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting." - Sunzi

Sunzi is the easiest server provisioning utility designed for mere mortals. If Chef or Puppet is driving you nuts, try Sunzi!

Sunzi assumes that modern Linux distributions have (mostly) sane defaults and great package managers.

Its design goals are:

  • It's just shell script. No clunky Ruby DSL involved. Sunzi recipes are written in a plain shell script. Why? Because, most of the information about server configuration on the web is written in shell commands. Just copy-paste them, why should you translate it into a proprietary, inconvenience DSL? Also, shell script is the greatest common denominator on minimum Linux installs.
  • Focus on diff from default. No big-bang overwriting. Append or replace the smallest possible piece of data in a config file. Loads of custom configurations makes it difficult to understand what you are really doing.
  • Always use the root user. Think twice before blindly assuming you need a regular user - it doesn't add any security benefit for server provisioning, it just adds extra verbosity for nothing. However, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't create regular users with Sunzi - feel free to write your own recipes.
  • Minimum dependencies. No configuration server required. You don't even need a Ruby runtime on the remote server.



$ gem install sunzi

Go to your project directory, then:

$ sunzi create

It generates a sunzi folder along with subdirectories and templates. Inside sunzi, there's attributes.yml, which defines dynamic attributes to be used from recipes. Also there's the remote folder, which will be transferred to the remote server, that contains recipes and dynamic variables compiled from attributes.yml.

Go into the sunzi directory, then run the sunzi deploy:

$ cd sunzi
$ sunzi deploy

Now, what it actually does is:

  1. SSH to and login as root
  2. Transfer the content of the remote directory to the remote server and extract in $HOME/sunzi
  3. Run in the remote server

As you can see, what you need to do is edit and add some shell commands. That's it.

Directory structure

Here's the directory structure that sunzi create automatically generates:

  attributes.yml    ---- add custom attributes here
  recipes.yml       ---- add remote recipes here
  remote/           ---- everything under this folder will be transferred to the remote server
    attributes/     ---- compiled attributes from attributes.yml at deploy (do not edit directly)
    recipes/        ---- put commonly used scripts here, referred from      ---- main scripts that gets run on the remote server

Remote Recipes

Recipes can be retrieved remotely via HTTP. Put the URL in recipes.yml, and Sunzi automatically loads the content and put it into the remote/recipes folder.

For instance, if you have the following line in recipes.yml,

rvm: will be available and you can refer to that recipe by source recipes/


If you're using Sunzi with Vagrant, you need to specify the port number 2222.

$ vagrant up
$ sunzi deploy root@localhost 2222
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