Rehearsal: A Configuration Verification Tool for Puppet

Rian Shambaugh, Aaron Weiss, and Arjun Guha
ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI), 2016
Distinguished Artifact Award

Large-scale data centers and cloud computing have turned system configuration into a challenging problem. Several widely-publicized outages have been blamed not on software bugs, but on configuration bugs. To cope, thousands of organizations use system configuration languages to manage their computing infrastructure. Of these, Puppet is the most widely used with thousands of paying customers and many more open-source users. The heart of Puppet is a domain-specific language that describes the state of a system. Puppet already performs some basic static checks, but they only prevent a narrow range of errors. Furthermore, testing is ineffective because many errors are only triggered under specific machine states that are difficult to predict and reproduce. With several examples, we show that a key problem with Puppet is that configurations can be non-deterministic.

This paper presents Rehearsal, a verification tool for Puppet configurations. Rehearsal implements a sound, complete, and scalable determinacy analysis for Puppet. To develop it, we (1) present a formal semantics for Puppet, (2) use several analyses to shrink our models to a tractable size, and (3) frame determinism-checking as decidable formulas for an SMT solver. Rehearsal then leverages the determinacy analysis to check other important properties, such as idempotency. Finally, we apply Rehearsal to several real-world Puppet configurations.

Demo and Supplementary Material

PDF available on arXiv

    author = "Rian Shambaugh and Aaron Weiss and Arjun Guha",
    title = "Rehearsal: A Configuration Verification Tool for Puppet",
    year = 2016,
    booktitle = "ACM SIGPLAN Conference on Programming Language Design and Implementation (PLDI)"