15. cdist type

15.1. Description

Types are the main component of cdist and define functionality. If you use cdist, you'll write a type for every functionality you would like to use.

15.2. Synopsis

__TYPE ID --parameter value [--parameter value ...]
__TYPE --parameter value [--parameter value ...] (for singletons)

15.3. How to use a type

You can use types from the initial manifest or the type manifest like a normal shell command:

# Creates empty file /etc/cdist-configured
__file /etc/cdist-configured --type file

# Ensure tree is installed
__package tree --state installed

A list of supported types can be found in the cdist reference manpage.

15.4. Singleton types

If a type is flagged as a singleton, it may be used only once per host. This is useful for types which can be used only once on a system. Singleton types do not take an object name as argument.


# __issue type manages /etc/issue

# Probably your own type - singletons may use parameters
__myfancysingleton --colour green

15.5. Config types

By default types are used with config command. These are types that are not flagged by any known command flag. If a type is marked then it will be skipped with config command.

15.6. Install types

If a type is flagged with 'install' flag then it is used only with install command. With other commands, i.e. config, these types are skipped if used.

15.7. Nonparallel types

If a type is flagged with 'nonparallel' flag then its objects cannot be run in parallel when using -j option. Example of such a type is __package_dpkg type where dpkg itself prevents to be run in more than one instance.

15.8. How to write a new type

A type consists of

  • parameter (optional)
  • manifest (optional)
  • singleton (optional)
  • explorer (optional)
  • gencode (optional)
  • nonparallel (optional)

Types are stored below cdist/conf/type/. Their name should always be prefixed with two underscores (__) to prevent collisions with other executables in $PATH.

To implement a new type, create the directory cdist/conf/type/__NAME.

Type manifest and gencode can be written in any language. They just need to be executable and have a proper shebang. If they are not executable then cdist assumes they are written in shell so they are executed using '/bin/sh -e' or 'CDIST_LOCAL_SHELL'.

For executable shell code it is suggested that shebang is '#!/bin/sh -e'.

15.9. Defining parameters

Every type consists of required, optional and boolean parameters, which must each be declared in a newline separated file in parameter/required, parameter/required_multiple, parameter/optional, parameter/optional_multiple and parameter/boolean. Parameters which are allowed multiple times should be listed in required_multiple or optional_multiple respectively. All other parameters follow the standard unix behaviour "the last given wins". If either is missing, the type will have no required, no optional, no boolean or no parameters at all.

Default values for optional parameters can be predefined in parameter/default/<name>.


echo servername >> cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/parameter/required
echo logdirectory >> cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/parameter/optional
echo loglevel >> cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/parameter/optional
mkdir cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/parameter/default
echo warning > cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/parameter/default/loglevel
echo server_alias >> cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/parameter/optional_multiple
echo use_ssl >> cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/parameter/boolean

15.10. Using parameters

The parameters given to a type can be accessed and used in all type scripts (e.g manifest, gencode, explorer). Note that boolean parameters are represented by file existence. File exists -> True, file does not exist -> False

Example: (e.g. in cdist/conf/type/__nginx_vhost/manifest)

# required parameter
servername="$(cat "$__object/parameter/servername")"

# optional parameter
if [ -f "$__object/parameter/logdirectory" ]; then
   logdirectory="$(cat "$__object/parameter/logdirectory")"

# optional parameter with predefined default
loglevel="$(cat "$__object/parameter/loglevel")"

# boolean parameter
if [ -f "$__object/parameter/use_ssl" ]; then
   # file exists -> True
   # do some fancy ssl stuff

# parameter with multiple values
if [ -f "$__object/parameter/server_alias" ]; then
   for alias in $(cat "$__object/parameter/server_alias"); do
      echo $alias > /some/where/useful

15.11. Input from stdin

Every type can access what has been written on stdin when it has been called. The result is saved into the stdin file in the object directory.

Example use of a type: (e.g. in cdist/conf/type/__archlinux_hostname)

__file /etc/rc.conf --source - << eof

If you have not seen this syntax (<< eof) before, it may help you to read about "here documents".

In the __file type, stdin is used as source for the file, if - is used for source:

if [ -f "$__object/parameter/source" ]; then
    source="$(cat "$__object/parameter/source")"
    if [ "$source" = "-" ]; then

15.12. Writing the manifest

In the manifest of a type you can use other types, so your type extends their functionality. A good example is the __package type, which in a shortened version looks like this:

os="$(cat "$__global/explorer/os")"
case "$os" in
      archlinux) type="pacman" ;;
      debian|ubuntu) type="apt" ;;
      gentoo) type="emerge" ;;
         echo "Don't know how to manage packages on: $os" >&2
         exit 1

__package_$type "$@"

As you can see, the type can reference different environment variables, which are documented in cdist reference.

Always ensure the manifest is executable, otherwise cdist will not be able to execute it. For more information about manifests see cdist manifest.

15.13. Singleton - one instance only

If you want to ensure that a type can only be used once per target, you can mark it as a singleton: Just create the (empty) file "singleton" in your type directory:

touch cdist/conf/type/__NAME/singleton

This will also change the way your type must be called:

__YOURTYPE --parameter value

As you can see, the object ID is omitted, because it does not make any sense, if your type can be used only once.

15.14. Install - type with install command

If you want a type to be used with install command, you must mark it as install: create the (empty) file "install" in your type directory:

touch cdist/conf/type/__install_NAME/install

With other commands, i.e. config, it will be skipped if used.

15.15. Nonparallel - only one instance can be run at a time

If objects of a type must not or cannot be run in parallel when using -j option, you must mark it as nonparallel: create the (empty) file "nonparallel" in your type directory:

touch cdist/conf/type/__NAME/nonparallel

For example, package types are nonparallel types.

15.16. The type explorers

If a type needs to explore specific details, it can provide type specific explorers, which will be executed on the target for every created object.

The explorers are stored under the "explorer" directory below the type. It could for instance contain code to check the md5sum of a file on the client, like this (shortened version from the type __file):

if [ -f "$__object/parameter/destination" ]; then
   destination="$(cat "$__object/parameter/destination")"

if [ -e "$destination" ]; then
   md5sum < "$destination"

15.17. Writing the gencode script

There are two gencode scripts: gencode-local and gencode-remote. The output of gencode-local is executed locally, whereas the output of gencode-remote is executed on the target. The gencode scripts can make use of the parameters, the global explorers and the type specific explorers.

If the gencode scripts encounters an error, it should print diagnostic messages to stderr and exit non-zero. If you need to debug the gencode script, you can write to stderr:

# Debug output to stderr
echo "My fancy debug line" >&2

# Output to be saved by cdist for execution on the target
echo "touch /etc/cdist-configured"

Notice: if you use __remote_copy or __remote_exec directly in your scripts then for IPv6 address with __remote_copy execution you should enclose IPv6 address in square brackets. The same applies to __remote_exec if it behaves the same as ssh for some options where colon is a delimiter, as for -L ssh option (see ssh(1) and scp(1)).

15.18. Variable access from the generated scripts

In the generated scripts, you have access to the following cdist variables

  • __object
  • __object_id

but only for read operations, means there is no back copy of this files after the script execution.

So when you generate a script with the following content, it will work:

if [ -f "$__object/parameter/name" ]; then
   name="$(cat "$__object/parameter/name")"

15.19. Environment variable usage idiom

In type scripts you can support environment variables with default values if environment variable is unset or null by using ${parameter:-[word]} parameter expansion.

Example using mktemp in a portable way that supports TMPDIR environment variable.

tempfile=$(mktemp "${TMPDIR:-/tmp}/cdist.XXXXXXXXXX")

15.20. Log level in types

cdist log level can be accessed from __cdist_log_level variable.One of:

Log level Log level value
OFF 60

It is available for initial manifest, explorer, type manifest, type explorer, type gencode.

15.21. Hints for typewriters

It must be assumed that the target is pretty dumb and thus does not have high level tools like ruby installed. If a type requires specific tools to be present on the target, there must be another type that provides this tool and the first type should create an object of the specific type.

If your type wants to save temporary data, that may be used by other types later on (for instance __file), you can save them in the subdirectory "files" below $__object (but you must create it yourself). cdist will not touch this directory.

If your type contains static files, it's also recommended to place them in a folder named "files" within the type (again, because cdist guarantees to never ever touch this folder).

15.22. How to include a type into upstream cdist

If you think your type may be useful for others, ensure it works with the current master branch of cdist and have a look at cdist hacking on how to submit it.