Systems Administration


Fabric is a library for simplifying system administration tasks. While Chef and Puppet tend to focus on managing servers and system libraries, Fabric is more focused on application level tasks such as deployment.

Install Fabric:

$ pip install fabric

The following code will create two tasks that we can use: memory_usage and deploy. The former will output the memory usage on each machine. The latter will ssh into each server, cd to our project directory, activate the virtual environment, pull the newest codebase, and restart the application server.

from fabric.api import cd, env, prefix, run, task

env.hosts = ['my_server1', 'my_server2']

def memory_usage():
    run('free -m')

def deploy():
    with cd('/var/www/project-env/project'):
        with prefix('. ../bin/activate'):
            run('git pull')
            run('touch app.wsgi')

With the previous code saved in a file named, we can check memory usage with:

$ fab memory_usage
[my_server1] Executing task 'memory'
[my_server1] run: free -m
[my_server1] out:              total     used     free   shared  buffers   cached
[my_server1] out: Mem:          6964     1897     5067        0      166      222
[my_server1] out: -/+ buffers/cache:     1509     5455
[my_server1] out: Swap:            0        0        0

[my_server2] Executing task 'memory'
[my_server2] run: free -m
[my_server2] out:              total     used     free   shared  buffers   cached
[my_server2] out: Mem:          1666      902      764        0      180      572
[my_server2] out: -/+ buffers/cache:      148     1517
[my_server2] out: Swap:          895        1      894

and we can deploy with:

$ fab deploy

Additional features include parallel execution, interaction with remote programs, and host grouping.


Salt is an open source infrastructure management tool. It supports remote command execution from a central point (master host) to multiple hosts (minions). It also supports system states which can be used to configure multiple servers using simple template files.

Salt supports Python versions 2.6 and 2.7 and can be installed via pip:

$ pip install salt

After configuring a master server and any number of minion hosts, we can run arbitrary shell commands or use pre-built modules of complex commands on our minions.

The following command lists all available minion hosts, using the ping module.

$ salt '*'

The host filtering is accomplished by matching the minion id, or using the grains system. The grains system uses static host information like the operating system version or the CPU architecture to provide a host taxonomy for the Salt modules.

The following command lists all available minions running CentOS using the grains system:

$ salt -G 'os:CentOS'

Salt also provides a state system. States can be used to configure the minion hosts.

For example, when a minion host is ordered to read the following state file, it will install and start the Apache server:

    - installed
    - running
    - enable: True
    - require:
      - pkg: apache

State files can be written using YAML, the Jinja2 template system or pure Python.


Psutil is an interface to different system information (e.g. CPU, memory, disks, network, users and processes).

Here is an example to be aware of some server overload. If any of the tests (net, CPU) fail, it will send an email.

# Functions to get system values:
from psutil import cpu_percent, net_io_counters
# Functions to take a break:
from time import sleep
# Package for email services:
import smtplib
import string
MAX_NET_USAGE = 400000
attack = 0
counter = 0
while attack <= MAX_ATTACKS:
    counter = counter + 1
    # Check the cpu usage
    if cpu_percent(interval = 1) > 70:
        attack = attack + 1
    # Check the net usage
    neti1 = net_io_counters()[1]
    neto1 = net_io_counters()[0]
    neti2 = net_io_counters()[1]
    neto2 = net_io_counters()[0]
    # Calculate the bytes per second
    net = ((neti2+neto2) - (neti1+neto1))/2
    if net > MAX_NET_USAGE:
        attack = attack + 1
    if counter > 25:
        attack = 0
        counter = 0
# Write a very important email if attack is higher than 4
TO = "[email protected]"
FROM = "[email protected]"
SUBJECT = "Your domain is out of system resources!"
text = "Go and fix your server!"
BODY = string.join(("From: %s" %FROM,"To: %s" %TO,"Subject: %s" %SUBJECT, "",text), "\r\n")
server = smtplib.SMTP('')
server.sendmail(FROM, [TO], BODY)

A full terminal application like a widely extended top which is based on psutil and with the ability of a client-server monitoring is glance.


Ansible is an open source system automation tool. The biggest advantage over Puppet or Chef is it does not require an agent on the client machine. Playbooks are Ansible’s configuration, deployment, and orchestration language and are written in in YAML with Jinja2 for templating.

Ansible supports Python versions 2.6 and 2.7 and can be installed via pip:

$ pip install ansible

Ansible requires an inventory file that describes the hosts to which it has access. Below is an example of a host and playbook that will ping all the hosts in the inventory file.

Here is an example inventory file: hosts.yml


Here is an example playbook: ping.yml

- hosts: all

    - name: ping
      action: ping

To run the playbook:

$ ansible-playbook ping.yml -i hosts.yml --ask-pass

The Ansible playbook will ping all of the servers in the hosts.yml file. You can also select groups of servers using Ansible. For more information about Ansible, read the Ansible Docs.



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Puppet is IT Automation and configuration management software from Puppet Labs that allows System Administrators to define the state of their IT Infrastructure, thereby providing an elegant way to manage their fleet of physical and virtual machines.

Puppet is available both as an Open Source and an Enterprise variant. Modules are small, shareable units of code written to automate or define the state of a system. Puppet Forge is a repository for modules written by the community for Open Source and Enterprise Puppet.

Puppet Agents are installed on nodes whose state needs to be monitored or changed. A desginated server known as the Puppet Master is responsible for orchastrating the agent nodes.

Agent nodes send basic facts about the system such as to the operating system, kernel, architecture, ip address, hostname etc. to the Puppet Master. The Puppet Master then compiles a catalog with information provided by the agents on how each node should be configured and sends it to the agent. The agent enforces the change as prescribed in the catalog and sends a report back to the Puppet Master.

Facter is an interesting tool that ships with Puppet that pulls basic facts about the system. These facts can be referenced as a variable while writing your Puppet modules.

$ facter kernel
$ facter operatingsystem

Writing Modules in Puppet is pretty straight forward. Puppet Manifests together form Puppet Modules. Puppet manifest end with an extension of .pp. Here is an example of ‘Hello World’ in Puppet.

notify { 'This message is getting logged into the agent node':

    #As nothing is specified in the body the resource title
    #the notification message by default.

Here is another example with system based logic. Note how the operatingsystem fact is being used as a variable prepended with the $ sign. Similarly, this holds true for other facts such as hostname which can be referenced by $hostname

notify{ 'Mac Warning':
    message => $operatingsystem ? {
        'Darwin' => 'This seems to be a Mac.',
        default  => 'I am a PC.',

There are several resource types for Puppet but the package-file-service paradigm is all you need for undertaking majority of the configuration management. The following Puppet code makes sure that the OpenSSH-Server package is installed in a system and the sshd service is notified to restart everytime the sshd configuration file is changed.

package { 'openssh-server':
    ensure => installed,

file { '/etc/ssh/sshd_config':
    source   => 'puppet:///modules/sshd/sshd_config',
    owner    => 'root',
    group    => 'root',
    mode     => '640',
    notify   =>  Service['sshd'], # sshd will restart
                                  # whenever you edit this
                                  # file
    require  => Package['openssh-server'],


service { 'sshd':
    ensure    => running,
    enable    => true,
    hasstatus => true,
    hasrestart=> true,

For more information, refer to the Puppet Labs Documentation



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