Skip to content


Subversion checkout URL

You can clone with HTTPS or Subversion.

Download ZIP
branch: master
Fetching contributors…

Cannot retrieve contributors at this time

263 lines (188 sloc) 15.011 kb
author description keywords license alias modified modified_by published title
name email
Use Puppet for configuration change management.
puppet,puppet configuration,puppet linux,configuration change management,server automation
Monday, August 22nd, 2011
Amanda Folson
Sunday, June 13th, 2010
Manage and Automate Systems Configuration with Puppet

Puppet is an open source "configuration change management" tool that allows users to automate and standardize the configuration of software infrastructure. Using a domain specific language for describing configuration, Puppet allows users to manage configurations in a service-oriented manner.

Because of Puppet's versatility, this guide provides an overview of a number of different Puppet-based deployments. Since there is no single "right way" to integrate Puppet into your network, this document will focus on a collection of independent strategies rather than a single procedure. Before following this document, it is assumed that you have an up-to-date system, have followed our getting started guide and have installed Puppet according to our Puppet installation guide.

Using Puppet

Puppet is a collection of tools built around a language that allows systems administrators to specify configurations, or manifests, to describe the state of a computer system. In the Puppet installation guide, we covered installing both the "Puppetmaster" server component and the Puppet client. This section covers a number of different methods you may use to apply Puppet manifests to your Linodes.

Running Puppet Manually

The most common way to apply Puppet manifests to a system is to use the Puppetmaster daemon (puppetmasterd) and Puppet client daemon (puppetd). However, you may also apply Puppet manifests manually using the puppet tool, which operates in an interactive mode but is otherwise functionally equivalent to puppetd. Given a Puppet manifest on the local file system located at ~/puppet/example-base.pp, issue the following command:

puppet ~/puppet/example-base.pp

This will apply the configuration specified in the manifest to your system.

Running Puppet with Cron

By default, puppetd runs every 30 minutes, contacts the puppetmasterd, retrieves changes to the manifests, and applies these changes to the system. If you want to run Puppet more or less frequently, you can configure a cron job on your client systems that resemble the following:

30 * * * * puppetd --onetime --no-daemonize --logdest syslog > /dev/null 2>&1

The options to puppetd tell the program to run once without daemonizing, to log all events to the syslog (typically located at /var/log/syslog), and to generate no other output. The above cron job is scheduled to run hourly at 30 past the hour; however, you can configure this cronjob to run at the specific interval that your deployment requires. To test the functioning of this cronjob, issue the following command:

puppetd --onetime --no-daemonize --logdest syslog

In order for puppetd to work in this manner you must configure secure Puppet communications. To test the operation of Puppetd at the command line, with interactive output, you may issue the following command:

puppetd --test

Running Puppet with Puppetmaster

To generate a fully commented example of the puppetmasterd configuration issue the following command:

puppetmasterd --genconfig --no-daemonize > /etc/puppet/reference-puppetmasterd.conf 

These options can then be added and modified in the [puppetmasterd] section of the /etc/puppet.conf file. All other configuration for both puppetmasterd and puppetd are in the /etc/puppet/puppet.conf file.

All Puppet files are stored in the /etc/puppet/manifests/ directory, and Puppetmaster will look in this directory and apply the manifests as described therein. Commonly "classes," or chunks of configuration that may be shared between different systems, are located in the /etc/puppet/manifests/classes/ directory. A series of system manifests drawing on these classes are placed in your manifest directory. Puppet manifests have the extension .pp.

Puppet Manifests

Consider the following class, which is an elaboration on the canonical example Puppet sudo class:

{: .file } /etc/puppet/manifests/classes/sudo.pp : ~~~ pp # /etc/puppet/manifests/classes/sudo.pp

class sudo {
    file { "/etc/sudoers":
           owner => "root",
           group => "root",
           mode  => 440,
           source => "puppet://"

In this example, configuration for the /etc/sudoers file is described, owned by the root user and group, with permissions of 440 that only allow read access for the owner and the members of the owner group. When applied, this manifest will ensure that the system in question has the above configuration applied to the /etc/sudoers file. The source specification allows puppet to copy a specific file from the Puppetmaster server. Distributing files with puppet will be covered later.

{: .file } /etc/puppet/manifests/site.pp : ~~~ pp # /etc/puppet/manifests/site.pp

import "classes/*"

node default {
    include sudo

This file imports all of the classes described in the /etc/puppet/manifests/classes directory. Then, into the default node it includes the configuration described in the sudo class. The default node is a special node identifier that includes all Puppet client nodes that connect to the local Puppetmaster daemon.

By default, puppetd runs as a client on the machine that puppetmasterd is installed on, and will receive all configuration specified for it and for the default node.

Specifying Puppet Nodes

As above, the default node provides a space to specify the configuration for all Puppet nodes. Of course, it is also possible to configure node descriptions in more specific terms. Consider the following setup:

{: .file-excerpt } /etc/puppet/manifests/site.pp : ~~~ pp # /etc/puppet/manifests/site.pp

import "classes/*"

## Base Nodes

node default {
    include sudo
    include sshkeys

node appserverbasic {
    include django
    include apacheconf
    include app

node loadbalancer {
    include nginxlb
    include monitoring

## Specific Nodes

node '' inherits loadbalancer {
    include django
    include apacheconf
    include app
    include backups

node '' inherits loadbalancer {

node '' inherits appserverbasic {
    include monitoring
    include backups

node '' inherits appserverbasic {

node '', '' {
    include monitoring
    include monitoringhub

In this example, we create several "base nodes" which each include a number of classes from the classes/ directory. There are four specific nodes created, which specify in single quotes the names of machines. These machines are identified by a hostname, configured when the Puppetmaster node signed the certificate of the Puppet nodes. All nodes receive the default node configuration, the configuration specified in their description and all of the configuration options specified in the node description of the "inherited" nodes.

Therefore, will receive the configuration specified by the classes nginxlb and monitoring because it inherits the loadbalancer node configuration, as well as the django, apacheconf and app configuration of its own. The configuration for the remaining four hosts provide an example of how Puppet classes and node definitions can be combined to configure a diverse group of systems in a concise manner. You may also specify multiple nodes with the same configuration as in the final example.


Facter is a tool that is installed as a dependency for Puppet. It provides detailed information regarding the current state of your system which can then be used in constructing Puppet manifests. To see an overview of the information provided by facter, issue the following command:


This makes it possible to write Puppet manifests that are sensitive to the actual configuration of a given system, without needing to rewrite individual manifests for every unique system.

Describing Resources with Puppet

Serving Files

While Puppet contains powerful abstractions for specifying configurations, in some cases it's necessary to deploy files to systems that are not configured using Puppet. The above example regarding the /etc/sudoers file presents one such situation. Puppet's fileserver is configured in the /etc/puppet/fileserver.conf file. Consider the following example configuration:

{: .file-excerpt } /etc/puppet/fileserver.conf : ~~~ [files] path /etc/puppet/files allow * allow ~~~

In the Puppet fileserver configuration, the order of allow and deny statements does not carry any weight. Puppet will deny access to hosts by default. In this example, the only hosts that are allowed access to the server are hosts which have certificates signed for names within the name space, and any host accessing the Puppet server with an IP in the non-public address space beginning with 192.168. as would be the case with access to Puppet over the LAN.

You may specify a source for a file object in Puppet manifests. Consider the following example:

{: .file-excerpt } Puppet Configuration Manifest : ~~~ pp file { "/etc/httpd/conf.d": source => "puppet://", recurse => "true" } ~~~ Nodes that implemented the above configuration will recursively copy files from the Puppetmaster node located at /etc/puppet/files/web-server/httpd/conf.d/ to /etc/httpd/conf.d/. Recursive file system sources are very useful for deploying basic configurations to a number of different machines; however, these recursive options can be taxing on a Puppet master node using the default Puppetmaster server. When deploying services with Puppet, consider the scale of your deployment and the need for this kind of recursive operation.

Describing Services

Puppet makes it possible to require that nodes have configuration and services that extend beyond ensuring that files are present on a system, and can ensure that certain services are running. Consider the following example:

{: .file-excerpt } Puppet Configuration Manifest : ~~~ pp package { "openssh-server": ensure => latest } service { "sshd": ensure => running, require => Package["opennssh-server"], subscribe => File[sshdconfig], } ~~~

By defining the sshd service within a class with these parameters, puppet will ensure that the SSH daemon is running. Furthermore, if the sshdconfig file (which is defined elsewhere) changes, Puppet will restart the daemon. In the following example we define an apache2 service for Debian and Ubuntu systems:

{: .file-excerpt } Puppet Configuration Manifest : ~~~ pp package { "apache2": ensure => latest } service { "apache2": ensure => running, require => Package["apache2"], subscribe => File[httpdconf], } ~~~ This will ensure that the apache2 service is running, that the required package is installed on the system, and restart the service if the httpdconf file is changed. In both of these examples, the use of File[] and Package[] syntax marks a reference to descriptions in another part of the class. References to other definitions are capitalized.

Defining Commands

Puppet attempts to normalize the way administrators interact with all resources, regardless of their type. Puppet makes it possible to define arbitrary commands that you want to execute. Consider the following example:

{: .file-excerpt } File Path : ~~~ exec {"rsync_config": command => "/usr/bin/rsync -a /opt/config", unless => "/bin/test -e /opt/config/fresh", } ~~~ This instructs Puppet to run the specified command, in this case an rsync command. The unless parameter runs tests for the existence of a file before running the command, to avoid running a command unnecessarily.

Advanced Puppet Usage

This guide only covers the most basic of puppet configurations options. It is certainly possible to deploy much more complex systems, including the following possibilities:

  • Store revisions of your manifest files in a version control system. Version control will make it easier to revert changes if you run into problems. It will also ease replication of manifests throughout a system with multiple Puppetmaster nodes.
  • Deploy Puppetmaster with Passenger: the default Puppetmaster server is based on WEBrick, which is only capable of supporting 20 or 30 puppet nodes, depending on your configuration, according the Puppet developers.
  • You may consider using Puppet in combination with the Linode API and StackScripts to automate provisioning, deprovisioning, and configuration of Linodes.
  • Use Puppet's module support to more easily manage applications which require more complex configurations.

More Information

You may wish to consult the following resources for additional information on this topic. While these are provided in the hope that they will be useful, please note that we cannot vouch for the accuracy or timeliness of externally hosted materials.

Jump to Line
Something went wrong with that request. Please try again.