Answers about Puppet

DevOps, Automation

Universe and Everything

Need Puppet help?

Contact Alessandro Franceschi / example42
for direct expert help on Puppet.
If solution is quick, it’s free. No obligations.

Tip of the Week 29 - PSICK explained

Using PSICK for the very first time confuses people as they are confronted with a highly flexible approach for managing and configuring their infrastructure. This posting will give you a guidance on how to read, understand and use PSICK.

Normally system administrators strictly follow the approach of writing roles and profiles which consist of lots of Puppet code, describing the infrastructure. With PSICK one has the possibility of using or adopt a predefined role/profile pattern.

Let’s get to the content:

  1. why PSICK
  2. set up NTP
  3. configure SSH
  4. manage users


Where do you usually start when working with Puppet? Do you really want to start from scratch, re-inventing the wheel? Do you really want to start with an empty control-repository and start coding your implementations?

Why not just take what is already there and adopt it to your needs? You will very fast recognize that it is far more easy to remove unneeded items instead of writing everything from scratch.

This is the reason why example42 provides the Puppet Systems Infrastructure Construction Kit PSICK which has many implementations already included. On most configuration items you only have to provide hiera data which describe your desired setup and your infrastructure.

Setup NTP

The classical way

Usually people classify the puppetlabs ntp module:

class profile::time (
  class { '::ntp:
    servers => $servers,

The $servers parameter will cause an automatic data binding lookup into hiera and then the puppetlabs ntp module gets declared with data from your infrastructure. This module already does a lot more than only installing ntp and setting ntp servers. It will overwrite the existing ntp.conf file and even start the ntpd service.

But how about Windows systems? The puppetlabs ntp module is not suitable for Windows systems. This requires you to find another module which is capable of managing time server settings on Windows. How about RedHat 7 which uses chrony instead of ntpd?

It is always up to you to provide proper suited profiles for all of your infrastructure systems.

The PSICK way

Within PSICK there’s a default profile for time settings (profile::time). This profile uses facter variables to identify which OS should get configuration and uses parameters for flexible usage either regarding the desired tools (chrony, ntpd, ntpdate). The PSICK profile::time class already is an implementation class which uses upstream modules, like puppetlabs ntp.

There is no need for you to write code, you just need to provide data in hiera:

  - ''

Your PSICK way

The above is PSICK default profile for time management, configured on Hiera with:

profile::base::linux::time_class: '::profile::time'
profile::base::windows::time_class: '::profile::time'

but PSICK is about choice and customisation, you can can use any other class to manage ntp settings in your OS, both component modules or profiles, for example:

profile::base::linux::time_class: '::ntp'
profile::base::windows::time_class: '::profile::time::windows'

Additional parameters to configure time depend on the used class. So, for example, with puppetlabs/ntp module we can configure on Hiera:

  - ''
  - 'default ignore'
  - '-6 default ignore'
  - ''

Configure SSH

The classical way

Most of upstream module development not only install services, but build a configuration file and manage the service. Some people might be happy with this approach, but what if you want to provide a sshd_config file or template by yourself? How to use this approach on existing infrastructure (brownfield). In this case you must review the upstream module whether it allows overwriting default settings. If this is not possible you can not use the upstream module.

Usually people start writing an implementation by themselves:

class profile::ssh (
  package { 'openssh-server':
    ensure => present,
  file { '/etc/ssh/sshd_config':
    ensure  => file,
    content => epp('profile/ssh/sshd_config.epp'),

The PSICK way

TinyPuppet is a module from example42 which allows you to easily manage installation of applications and their configuration files. With TinyPuppet it is possible to tell Puppet to just install the application we want, then it’s up to us to provide templates and data for our configuration files.

This is currently the default profile used in PSICK to manage OpenSSH. It only uses defines for Tiny Puppet OpenSSH installation, optionally uses a template to use for sshd_configuration or even a static source for the whole main configuration directory.

class profile::ssh::openssh (
  Enum['present','absent'] $ensure                     = 'present',

  Variant[String[1],Undef] $config_dir_source          = undef,
  String                   $config_file_template       = '',
) {

  $options_default = {
  $options_user=hiera_hash('profile::ssh::openssh::options', {} )

  ::tp::install { 'openssh':
    ensure => $ensure,

  if $config_file_template != '' {
    ::tp::conf { 'openssh':
      ensure       => $ensure,
      template     => $config_file_template,
      options_hash => $options,

  ::tp::dir { 'openssh':
    ensure => $ensure,
    source => $config_dir_source,


Within your profile hiera data one only needs to specify which template should be used:

profile::ssh::openssh::config_file_template: 'profile/ssh/sshd_config.erb'

And the eventual hash of data, which might be used in the template:

  PermitRootLogin: prohibit-password
  PrintLastLog: yes
  UseLogin: no

In our template, to be placed in profile/templates/ssh/sshd_config.erb, in this case in erb format, we would have something like:

PermitRootLogin <%= @options['PermitRootLogin'] >
PrintLastLog <%= @options['PrintLastLog'] >
UseLogin <%= @options['UseLogin'] >

Your PSICK way

If such freedom and flexibility to manage the content of sshd_config does not satisfy us, we as usual can provide alternative approaches, specifying alternative modules or profiles to manage SSH:

profile::base::linux::ssh_class: '::ssh'

Manage users

The classical way

We still see platforms where users are not kept inside a central user management but are configured locally. What you usually learn in every training is that you use a self defined resource type for wrapping several resources together:

define profile::usermanagement (
  $passwd = undef,
  File {
    owner => $title,
    group => $title,
  group { $title:
    ensure => present,
  user { $title:
    ensure => present,
  file { "/home/${title}":
    ensure => directory,
    mode   => '0750',
  file { "/home/${title}/.ssh":
    ensure => directory,
    mode   => '0700',

Other implementations might use puppetlabs/accounts module.

The PSICK way

Within PSICK we have defined a set of self defined resource types. These are not part of the implementation profile, as we believe that these are generic to use. Self defined resource types, custom facts and custom functions are kept inside the tools module.

Adding users with PSICK just requires to read and adopt our tools::user::managed self defined resource type to your needs and add hiera data.

    uid              : '1002'
    homedir          : '/home/tom'
    id_rsa_source    : 'puppet:///modules/profile/users/tom/id_rsa'
    id_rsa_pub_source: 'puppet:///modules/profile/users/tom/'
    uid              : '1003'
    homedir          : '/home/ben'
    id_rsa_source    : 'puppet:///modules/profile/users/ben/id_rsa'
    id_rsa_pub_source: 'puppet:///modules/profile/users/ben/'

Your PSICK way

Users are always a sensitive thing. Everybody manages them in their own way.

The sample default, static, use management profile won’t fit the needs of many, but as usual we have choice: Hiera driven choice of what class to use to manage Users:

profile::base::linux::users_class: '::sssd'
profile::base::windows::users_class: '::domain_membership'

Being managed via Hiera the same name of the class to use, we can exploit to nicely manage exceptions (some servers or a specific one might need a totally different way to manage users), or we can test different modules each one with its own set of parameters:

profile::base::linux::users_class: '::accounts'

We wish everybody fun with adopting and using PSICK.

Martin Alfke