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Tip of the Week 88 - Managing packages on MacOSX with Puppet and Home Brew

Puppet ships natively with some providers to manage the package type on MacOS X:

  • The macports provider supports installation of packages via MacPorts.

  • The appdmg and apple and pkgdmg providers use /usr/bin/hdiutil and /usr/sbin/installer to mount DMG disk images and installs the included applications. Generally we need to specify the source from where to get the dmg files.

Besides the App Store, Mac OS has not a native repository and package managers, and this makes it harder to automate the installation of software without specifying from where to get it. But we live in interesting and fecond times and Open Source third party tools can do the job. One of the most complete, popular and interesting package managers is Homebrew.

Homebrew, with its big list of formulas allows easy installation of many OSS programs, but it’s thanks to extensions like homebrew-cask that becomes useful to manage common desktop applications (Like Atom, Chrome, Parallels and many more).

Needless to say that in Puppet’s huge modules landscape we have modules that allows installation of HomeBrew, and, more important, ship with dedicated package providers also for Cask.

In particular we tested thekevjames-homebrew which is one of the most promising fork of the original Kelsey Hightower module. It provides 3 different providers to manage packages with the brew command:

  • The provider brew installs packages using brew install <module> without using brewcask.

  • The provider brewcask installs packages using brew cask install <module> so looks in available casks.

  • The provider homebrew attempts to install packages using first brew and then, on failure, brewcask. This is probably the sanest to use in most of the cases.

We just need to have the homebrew module in our Puppet’s modulepath and specify one of them when declaring the packages we want to install on Mac.

Puppet code would look like:

package { 'atom':
  provider => 'homebrew',

A custom profile which installs Homebrew and has parameters to list the packages to install for a given user could be as simple as:

class profile::brew (
  String $user,
  Array $packages = [ 'docker' , 'virtualbox' , 'firefox' , 'nginx' ].
) {
  # Use this 
  class { 'homebrew':
    user => $user,
  $packages.each | $p | {
     package { $p:
       provider => 'homebrew',
       require  => Class['homebrew'],

If you use example42’s psick module you can achive the same using the generic package profile wrapper with this Hiera data:

  brew: homebrew
  packages: psick::packages

  provider: homebrew
  - docker
  - firefox
  - little-snitch
  - parallels
  - atom

Installing packages via Puppet on MacOsX, opening the path of Puppet management both of Mac servers and clients has never been so simple!

Alessandro Franceschi