Thoughts on web programming and the world of technology

December 11, 2013, reading time: 2 minutes

Masterless Saltstack

This is a simple guide on how to use Saltstack, the configuration manager, in masterless mode. In most scenarios, you will use a Saltstack master to control many minions. Saltstack contains a lot of utilities to check the state of minions, gather information about them, etc.

However, if you are working on a small, single-server application, Saltstack’s master-minion setup might be overkill. You can indeed use a single minion.

A bit of setup first

Your project will need two directories for Saltstack’s files.


The salt directory will contain the scripts that are responsible for setting up a particular part of your server, e.g. nginx, postgresql, etc. pillar on the other hand will contain the configuration value for each environment that your app will run in. So, you might have a staging and a production environment set up there.

Each of these directories needs a top.sls file which is what’s loaded first. For fun, let’s just install vim into a production environment.



The salt/top.sls file will have a case-expression-like structure, matching on hostnames of your app.

        - vim

Note that sls files use YAML syntax.

Here we are installing vim in the production hostname.

The salt/vim.sls file will look something like this:

        - installed

This simply says that we want the vim package installed. Saltstack will automatically detect your package manager (i.e. apt-get, yum, etc).


The pillar/top.sls file has the same structure as the main file from the salt directory.

        - production

When the production hostname is detected, use the production.sls file for configuration. You can put just about anything you want to the production.sls file, be it the servers IP address or the SMTP settings.

Where to put things

After you’ve installed Saltstack on your server, you should copy or symlink the salt/ and pillar/ directories to the /srv directory


Running it

Once the configuration files are in place, you can run the minion’s provisioning command to get everything configured and installed.

$ salt-call --local state.highstate

Don’t ask me why it’s like this. Makes no sense.

Saltstack will run everything and then report what happened during the run.