The Cfg plugin provides a repository to describe configuration file contents for clients. In its simplest form, the Cfg repository is just a directory tree modeled off of the directory tree on your client machines.

The Cfg Repository

The Cfg plugin is enabled by including Cfg on the plugins line of the [server] section of your Bcfg2 server config file. The repository itself lives in /var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg, assuming you are using the default repository location of /var/lib/bcfg2. The contents of this directory are a series of directories corresponding to the real-life locations of the files on your clients, starting at the root level. For example:

% ls Cfg
bin/  boot/  etc/  opt/  root/  usr/  var/

Specific config files go in like-named directories in this heirarchy. For example the password file, /etc/passwd, goes in Cfg/etc/passwd/passwd, while the ssh pam module config file, /etc/pam.d/sshd, goes in Cfg/etc/pam.d/sshd/sshd. The reason for the like-name directory is to allow multiple versions of each file to exist, as described below. Note that these files are exact copies of what will appear on the client machine (except when using Genshi or Cheetah templating – see below).

Group-Specific Files

It is often the case that you want one version of a config file for all of your machines except those in a particular group. For example, /etc/fstab should look alike on all of your desktop machines, but should be different on your file servers. Bcfg2 can handle this case through use of group-specific files.

As mentioned above, all Cfg entries live in like-named directories at the end of their directory tree. In the case of fstab, the file at Cfg/etc/fstab/fstab will be handed out by default to any client that asks for a copy of /etc/fstab. Group-specific files are located in the same directory and are named with the following syntax:


NN is a priority number where 00 is lowest and 99 is highest, and groupname is the name of a group defined in Metadata/groups.xml. Back to our fstab example, we might have a Cfg/etc/fstab/ directory that looks like this:


By default, clients will receive the plain fstab file when they request /etc/fstab. Any machine that is in the server group, however, will instead receive the fstab.G50_server file. Finally, any machine that is in the fileserver group will receive the fstab.G99_fileserver file, even if they are also in the server group.

Host-Specific Files

Similar to the case with group-specific files, there are cases where a specific machine should have a different version of a file than all others. This can be accomplished with host-specific files. The format of a host-specific file name is:


Host-specific files have a higher priority than group specific files. Again, the fstab example:


In this case, will always get the host-specific version, even if it is part of the server or fileserver (or both) classes.


If you have the ability to choose between using a group-specific and a host-specific file, it is almost always best to use a group-specific one. That way if a hostname changes or an extra copy of a particular client is built, it will get the same changes as the original.


Genshi Templates

Genshi templates allow you to use the Genshi templating system. This is similar to the deprecated TGenshi plugin. Genshi templates should be named with a .genshi extension, e.g.:

% ls Cfg/etc/motd
info.xml  motd.genshi

See the genshi documentation for examples of Genshi syntax.


When developing a template, you can see what the template would generate on a client with bcfg2-info:

bcfg2-info buildfile <path> <hostname>


bcfg2-info buildfile /etc/foo.conf

To generate a file with an altsrc attribute, you can run:

bcfg2-info buildfile /etc/foo/foo.conf --altsrc=/etc/foo.conf \

Sometimes, it’s useful to be able to do more in-depth troubleshooting by running the template manually. To do this, run bcfg2-info debug, and, once in the Python interpreter, run:

metadata = self.build_metadata("<hostname>")
source_path = "<full path to template>"
name = source_path[len(self.setup['repo']):]

Then, run:

import os
from genshi.template import TemplateLoader, NewTextTemplate
template = TemplateLoader().load(source_path, cls=NewTextTemplate)
data = dict(metadata=metadata,

This gives you more fine-grained control over how your template is rendered. E.g., you can tweak the values of the variables passed to the template, or evaluate the template manually, line-by-line, and so on.

You can also use this approach to render templates that depend on altsrc tags by setting source_path to the path to the template, and setting name to the path to the file to be generated, e.g.:

metadata = self.build_metadata("")
source_path = "/Cfg/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-template/ifcfg-template.genshi"
name = "/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-bond0"

Error handling

Situations may arise where a templated file cannot be generated due to missing or incomplete information. A TemplateError can be raised to force a bind failure and prevent sending an incomplete file to the client. For example, this template:

{% python
    from genshi.template import TemplateError
    grp = None
    for g in metadata.groups:
        if g.startswith('ganglia-gmond-'):
            grp = g
        raise TemplateError, "Missing group"

will fail to bind if the client is not a member of a group starting with “ganglia-gmond-”. The syslogs on the server will contain this message:

bcfg2-server[5957]: Genshi template error: Missing group
bcfg2-server[5957]: Failed to bind entry: Path /etc/ganglia/gmond.conf

...indicating the bind failure and message raised with the TemplateError.

Handling Dollar Signs

In a Genshi template, $ is a special character and must be escaped by doubling, i.e., $$. For instance, to embed the Subversion $Id$ keyword in a Genshi template, you would have to do $$Id$$.

Cheetah Templates

Cheetah templates allow you to use the cheetah templating system. This is similar to the deprecated TCheetah plugin. Cheetah templates should be named with a .cheetah extension, e.g.:

% ls Cfg/etc/motd
info.xml  motd.cheetah

Comments and Cheetah

As Cheetah processes your templates it will consider hash “#” style comments to be actual comments in the template and will strip them from the final config file. If you would like to preserve the comment in the final config file you need to escape the hash character ‘#’ which will tell Cheetah (and Python) that you do in fact want the comment to appear in the final config file.:

# This is a comment in my template which will be stripped when it's processed through Cheetah
\# This comment will appear in the generated config file.

Inside Templates

Several variables are pre-defined inside templates:

Name Description
metadata Client metadata
name The value of the name attribute as specified in the Path entry in Bcfg2. If an altsrc attribute is used, then name will be the value of that attribute.
source_path The path to the template file on the filesystem
repo The path to the Bcfg2 repository on the filesystem
path In Genshi templates, path is a synonym for source_path. In Cheetah templates, it’s a synonym for name. For this reason, use of path is discouraged, and it may be deprecated in a future release.

To access these variables in a Genshi template, you can simply use the name, e.g.:

Path to this file: ${name}

In a Cheetah template, the variables are properties of self, e.g.:

Path to this file: $

Notes on Using Templates

Templates can be host and group specific as well. Deltas will not be processed for any Genshi or Cheetah base file.


If you are using templating in combination with host-specific or group-specific files, you will need to ensure that the .genshi or .cheetah extension is at the end of the filename. Using the examples from above for and group server you would have the following:


Genshi templates take precence over cheetah templates. For example, if two files exist named:


The Cheetah template is ignored. Exploiting this fact is probably a pretty bad idea in practice.

You can mix Genshi and Cheetah when using different host-specific or group-specific files. For example:


Encrypted Files

New in version 1.3.0.

Bcfg2 allows you to encrypt files stored in Cfg/ to protect the data in them from other people who need access to the repository. See also Encrypted Properties data for information on encrypting elements in Properties files, which is often more friendly for tracking changes in a VCS.


This feature is not intended to secure the files against a malicious attacker who has gained access to your Bcfg2 server, as the encryption passphrases are held in plaintext in bcfg2.conf. This is only intended to make it easier to use a single Bcfg2 repository with multiple admins who should not necessarily have access to each other’s sensitive data.

See Bcfg2 Data Encryption for more details on encryption in Bcfg2 in general.

Encrypting Files

An encrypted file should end with .crypt, e.g.:


Encrypted Genshi or Cheetah templates can have the extensions in either order, e.g.:


To encrypt or decrypt a file, use bcfg2-crypt.

SSH Keys

New in version 1.3.0.

Cfg can also be used to automatically create and distribute SSH key pairs and the authorized_keys file.

Keys can be created one of two ways:

  • Host-specific keys, where each client has its own key pair. This is the default.
  • Group-specific keys. To do this, you must set category in either bcfg2.conf (see “Configuration” below) or in privkey.xml. Keys created for a given client will be specific to that client’s group in the specified category.

Group-specific keys are useful if, for instance, you have multiple distinct environments (development, testing, production, for example) and want to maintain separate keys for each environment.

This feature actually creates static keys, much like the SSHbase plugin creates SSH certificates. It doesn’t generate them on the fly for each request; it generates the key once, then saves it to the filesystem.

Creating key pairs

To create an SSH key pair, you need to define how the private key will be created in privkey.xml. For instance, to create /home/foo/.ssh/id_rsa, you would create /var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg/home/foo/.ssh/id_rsa/privkey.xml.

This will create both the private key and the public key; the latter is created by appending .pub to the private key filename. It is not possible to change the public key filename.

You may optionally also create a corresponding pubkey.xml, which will allow the key pair to be created when the public key is requested. (For the example above, you’d create /var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg/home/foo/.ssh/ This can speed up the propagation of SSH keys throughout your managed systems, particularly if you use the authorized_keys generation feature.


privkey.xml contains a top-level PrivateKey element, and is structured as follows:

element PrivateKey
Top-level tag for describing a generated SSH key pair.
Name Description Values Required Default
Create keys specific to the given category, instead of specific to the category given in bcfg2.conf.
string No None
Override the global strict/lax decryption setting in bcfg2.conf.
strict | lax No None
Create keys on a per-host basis (rather than on a per-group basis).
true | false No None
Create group-specific keys with the given priority.
positiveInteger No 50
Child elements:
complexType PassphraseType
Specify the private key passphrase.
Name Description Values Required Default
The name of the passphrase to use to encrypt this private key on the filesystem (in Bcfg2).
string No None
Text content:
complexType PrivateKeyParamsType
Specify parameters for creating the private key
Name Description Values Required Default
Number of bits in the key. See ssh-keygen(1) for defaults.
positiveInteger No None
Key type to create.
rsa | dsa No rsa
complexType PrivateKeyGroupType
An PrivateKeyGroupType is a tag used to provide logic. Child entries of a PrivateKeyGroupType tag only apply to machines that match the condition specified – either membership in a group, or a matching client name. negate can be set to negate the sense of the match.
Name Description Values Required Default
The name of the client or group to match on. Child entries will only apply to this client or group (unless negate is set).
string No None
Negate the sense of the match, so that child entries only apply to a client if it is not a member of the given group or does not have the given name.
true | false No None
Child elements:

See Bcfg2 Data Encryption for more details on encryption in Bcfg2 in general.


pubkey.xml only ever contains a single line:

element PublicKey
Top-level tag for flagging a generated SSH public key.

It acts only as a flag to Bcfg2 that a key pair should be generated, if none exists, using the associated privkey.xml file. The path to privkey.xml is determined by removing .pub from the directory containing pubkey.xml. I.e., if you create /var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg/home/foo/.ssh/, then Bcfg2 will use /var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg/home/foo/.ssh/id_rsa/privkey.xml to create the key pair.

Use of pubkey.xml is optional, but is recommended. If you do not use pubkey.xml files, you may encounter two problems:

  • On the first Bcfg2 client run on a given client, the private keys may be present but the public keys may not be. This will be fixed by running bcfg2 again.
  • If you are including an automatically created public key in authorized_keys, it will not be created until the client the key is for requests the key pair.

As an example of this latter scenario, suppose that your authorized_keys.xml allows access to from /root/.ssh/ for If has not run the Bcfg2 client, then no key pair will have been generated, and generating the authorized_keys file will create a warning. But if you create Cfg/root/.ssh/, then building authorized_keys for will create root’s keypair for


In order to use pubkey.xml, there must be a corresponding privkey.xml. You cannot, for instance, populate a directory with manually-generated private SSH keys, drop pubkey.xml in the related public key directory, and expect Bcfg2 to generate the public keys. It will not.


privkey.xml can, at its simplest, be very simple indeed:


This will create a private key with all defaults. Or it can be more complex:

<PrivateKey category="environment"/>
  <Params bits="1024" type="dsa"/>
  <Group name="secure">
    <Passphrase encrypted="secure">U2FsdGVkX19xACol83uyPELP94s4CmngD12oU6PLLuE=</Passphrase>

This creates a 1024-bit DSA key for each group in the environment category, and keys for clients in the secure group will be protected with the given (encrypted) passphrase.

To complete the example, assume that this file was saved at /var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg/home/foo/.ssh/id_rsa/privkey.xml. If a client in the development group, which is a group in the environment category, requests the private key, then the following files would be created:


/var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg/home/foo/.ssh/ would be created if it did not exist.

Subsequent clients that were also members of the development environment would get the keys that have already been generated.

pubkey.xml always contains a single empty tag:


Generating authorized_keys

authorized_keys can be automatically generated from public SSH keys that exist in the Cfg tree. The keys in question can be generated from privkey.xml, or they can be manually created.

If a key doesn’t exist when authorized_keys is generated, the key will only be created if pubkey.xml exists. If that is not the case, a warning will be produced.

To generate authorized_keys, create authorized_keys.xml, e.g.: /var/lib/bcfg2/Cfg/root/.ssh/authorized_keys/authorized_keys.xml.


authorized_keys.xml is structured as follows:

element AuthorizedKeys
Top-level tag for describing a generated SSH key pair.
Child elements:
complexType AllowType
Allow access from a public key, given either as text content, or described by the attributes.
Name Description Values Required Default
Use a public key specific to the group in the given category, instead of the category specified in bcfg2.conf.
string No None
The path of the public key to allow.
string No None
Use a public key specific to the given group, instead of the public key specific to the appropriate category group of the current client.
string No None
Use a public key specific to the given host.
string No None
Child elements:
Text content:
complexType AuthorizedKeysGroupType
An AuthorizedKeysGroupType is a tag used to provide logic. Child entries of an AuthorizedKeysGroupType tag only apply to machines that match the condition specified – either membership in a group, or a matching client name. negate can be set to negate the sense of the match.
Name Description Values Required Default
The name of the client or group to match on. Child entries will only apply to this client or group (unless negate is set).
string No None
Negate the sense of the match, so that child entries only apply to a client if it is not a member of the given group or does not have the given name.
true | false No None
Child elements:
complexType AuthorizedKeysOptionType
Specify options for public key authentication and connection. See sshd(8) for details on allowable options.
Name Description Values Required Default
The name of the sshd option.
string Yes None
The value of the sshd option. This can be omitted for options that take no value.
string No None
complexType AuthorizedKeysParamsType
Deprecated way to specify options for public key authentication and connection. See sshd(8) for details on allowable parameters.
Name Description Values Required Default
* Any No None


  <Group name="some_group">
    <Allow from="/root/.ssh/"/>
    <Allow from="/root/.ssh/" group="test"/>
  <Allow from="/root/.ssh/" host=""/>
  <Allow from="/home/foo_user/.ssh/">
    <Option name="command" value="/home/foo_user/.ssh/ssh_command_filter"/>
    <Option name="no-X11-forwarding"/>
    ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDw/rgKQeARRAHK5bQQhAAe1b+gzdtqBXWrZIQ6cIaLgxqj76TwZ3DY4A6aW9RgC4zzd0p4a9MfsScUIB4+UeZsx9GopUj4U6H8Vz7S3pXxrr4E9logVLuSfOLFbI/wMWNRuOANqquLYQ+JYWKeP4kagkVp0aAWp7mH5IOI0rp0A6qE2you4ep9N/nKvHDrtypwhYBWprsgTUXXMHnAWGmyuHGYWxNYBV9AARPdAvZfb8ggtuwibcOULlyK4DdVNbDTAN1/BDBE1ve6WZDcrc386KhqUGj/yoRyPjNZ46uZiOjRr3cdY6yUZoCwzzxvm5vle6mEbLjHgjGEMQMArzM9


authorized_keys.xml allows you to specify the group whose public key should be allowed. This retrieves the public key specific to that group (if it exists), not the public key for all hosts in that group. This is due to the performance penalties that would be imposed by that approach.

Similarly, it is not possible to allow access from all keys for a given user (i.e., at a given path).

Hopefully, the performance concerns can be resolved in a future release and these features can be added.


In addition to privkey.xml and authorized_keys.xml, described above, the behavior of the SSH key generation feature can be influenced by several options in the [sshkeys] section of bcfg2.conf:

Option Description Values Default
passphrase Use the named passphrase to encrypt private keys on the filesystem. The passphrase must be defined in the [encryption] section. See Bcfg2 Data Encryption for more details on encryption in Bcfg2 in general. String None
category Generate keys specific to groups in the given category. It is best to pick a category that all clients have a group from. String None



In Bcfg2 1.3 and newer, deltas are deprecated. It is recommended that you use templates instead. The TemplateHelper plugin comes with an example helper that can be used to include other files easily, a subset of cat file functionality. bcfg2-lint checks for deltas and warns about them.


In Bcfg2 1.3, deltas do not work with SSH key or authorized_keys generation.

Bcfg2 has finer grained control over how to deliver configuration files to a host. Let’s say we have a Group named file-server. Members of this group need the exact same /etc/motd as all other hosts except they need one line added. We could copy motd to motd.G01_file-server, add the one line to the Group specific version and be done with it, but we’re duplicating data in both files. What happens if we need to update the motd? We’ll need to remember to update both files then. Here’s where deltas come in. A delta is a small change to the base file. There are two types of deltas: cats and diffs. The cat delta simply adds or removes lines from the base file. The diff delta is more powerful since it can take a unified diff and apply it to the base configuration file to create the specialized file. Diff deltas should be used very sparingly.

Cat Files

Continuing our example for cat files, we would first create a file named The .cat suffix designates that the file is a diff. We would then edit that file and add the following line:

+This is a file server

The + at the begining of the file tells Bcfg2 that the line should be appended to end of the file. You can also start a line with - to tell Bcfg2 to remove that exact line wherever it might be in the file. How do we know what base file Bcfg2 will choose to use to apply a delta? The same rules apply as before: Bcfg2 will choose the highest priority, most specific file as the base and then apply deltas in the order of most specific and then increasing in priority. What does this mean in real life. Let’s say our machine is a web server, mail server, and file server and we have the following configuration files:


If our machine isn’t or, but is a web server, then Bcfg2 would choose motd.G01_web-server as the base file. It is the most specific base file for this host. Bcfg2 would apply the delta to the motd.G01_web-server base file. It is the least specific delta. Bcfg2 would then apply the delta to the result of the delta before it.

If our machine is and a web server, then Bcfg2 would choose motd.G01_web-server as the base file. It is the most specific base file for this host. Bcfg2 would apply the delta to the motd.G01_web-server base file. The reason the other deltas aren’t applied to is because a .H_ delta is more specific than a .G##_ delta. Bcfg2 applies all the deltas at the most specific level.

If our machine is, then Bcfg2 would chose as the base file because it is the most specific base file for this host. Regardless of the groups is a member of, no cat files would be applied, because only cat files as specific or more specific than the base file are applied. (In other words, if a group-specific base file is selected, only group- or host-specific cat files can be applied; if a host-specific base file is selected, only host-specific cat files can be applied.)

Content Validation

To ensure that files with invalid content are not pushed out, you can provide a content validation script that will be run against each file. Create a file called :test inside the directory for the file you want to test. For example:


You can also create host- and group-specific validators:


A validator script has the following attributes:

  • It must be executable, or specify a valid bangpath;
  • The entire content of the file is passed to the validator on stdin;
  • The validator is not called with any flags or arguments;
  • The validator must return 0 on success and non-zero on failure; and
  • The validator must output a sensible error message on failure.

For sudoers, a very simple validator is:

visudo -cf -

This uses the visudo command’s built-in validation.

If you wish to disable validation, this can be done with the following setting in bcfg2.conf:


If you have a very large number of validators, you may wish to disable validation by default to avoid slowing down the generation of configurations on the server, and use bcfg2-test (for instance, as a post-commit hook or as part of a code review process) to run validation. You can do this by setting validation=no in bcfg2.conf as described above, and then calling bcfg2-test with the --cfg-validation flag.

File permissions

File permissions for entries handled by Cfg are controlled via the use of info.xml files. Note that you cannot use both a Permissions entry and a Path entry to handle the same file.