2. Why should I use cdist?

There are several motivations to use cdist, these are probably the most popular ones.

2.1. Known language

Cdist is being configured in shell script. Shell script is used by UNIX system engineers for decades. So when cdist is introduced, your staff does not need to learn a new DSL or programming language.

2.2. Powerful language

Not only is shell scripting widely known by system engineers, but it is also a very powerful language. Here are some features which make daily work easy:

  • Configuration can react dynamicly on explored values
  • High level string manipulation (using sed, awk, grep)
  • Conditional support (if, case)
  • Loop support (for, while)
  • Support for dependencies between cdist types

2.3. More than shell scripting

If you compare regular shell scripting with cdist, there is one major difference: When using cdist types, the results are idempotent. In practise that means it does not matter in which order you call cdist types, the result is always the same.

2.4. Zero dependency configuration management

Cdist requires very little on a target system. Even better, in almost all cases all dependencies are usually fulfilled. Cdist does not require an agent or high level programming languages on the target host: it will run on any host that has a ssh server running and a posix compatible shell (/bin/sh). Compared to other configuration management systems, it does not require to open up an additional port.

2.5. Push based distribution

Cdist uses the push based model for configuration. In this scenario, one (or more) computers connect to the target hosts and apply the configuration. That way the source host has very little requirements: Cdist can even run on a sysadmin notebook that is loosely connected to the network and has limited amount of resources.

Furthermore, from a security point of view, only one machine needs access to the target hosts. No target hosts will ever need to connect back to the source host, which contains the full configuration.

2.6. Highly scalable

If at some point you manage more hosts than can be handled from a single source host, you can simply add more resources: Either add more cores to one host or add hosts. Cdist will utilise the given resources in parallel.