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Watchmaker is configured using a YAML file. Watchmaker’s default config.yaml file should work out-of-the-box for most systems and environments. You can also use it as an example to create your own configuration file. The default config file will install Salt and use the bundled Salt formulas to harden the system according to the DISA STIG.

The configuration is a dictionary. The parent nodes (keys) are: all, linux, or windows. The parent nodes contain a list of workers to execute, and each worker contains parameters specific to that worker. The all node is applied to every system, and linux and windows are applied only to their respective systems.

You can create a file using the above format with your own set of standard values and use that file for Watchmaker. Pass the CLI parameter --config to point to that file.

Configuration Precedence

In addition to passing values in the configuration file, watchmaker supports passing arguments on the cli. The order of precedence for arguments is, from least to most:

  • configuration file

  • cli argument

In other words, providing a value as a cli argument will override the same value provided in the configuration file.

config.yaml Parent Nodes


If used, this optional node constrains the version of Watchmaker that can be used with the configuration. The watchmaker_version node is recommended for all configurations used with versions of Watchmaker 0.17+.

This is an example of using the watchmaker_version node:

watchmaker_version: "== 0.17.0"

Any PEP440-compatible version specifier can be used in the watchmaker_version node. Each version clause should include a comparison operator, such as ~=, ==, !=, <=, >=, <, >, or ===. Multiple clauses can be included, separated by commas. Below are examples of version specifiers.

watchmaker_version: "~= 0.17.0"
watchmaker_version: "> 0.16.5"
watchmaker_version: ">= 0.17.0, <= 0.18.9, != 0.17.2"

Attempting to use a configuration with an incompatible version of Watchmaker will result in an error.


Section for Worker configurations that affect the deployment of all platforms. The all section will override parameters that are set in the OS-specific sections of config.yaml.


Section for Worker configurations that should only be applied to Linux-based systems.


Section for Worker configurations that should only be applied to Windows-based systems.

Config.yaml Worker Nodes

Watchmaker includes the workers listed below. See the corresponding sections for details on their configuration parameters.

salt worker

Parameters supported by the Salt Worker:

  • admin_groups (list): The group(s) that you would like the admin accounts placed within.

  • admin_users (list): The user(s) that would be created as admins.

  • computer_name (string): The computer or hostname that should be applied.

  • environment (string): Set for the environment in which the system is being built.

  • valid_environments (list): The list of environments considered valid for the environment parameter

  • ou_path (string): Specifies the full DN of the OU where the computer account will be created when joining a domain.

    ou_path: "OU=Super Cool App,DC=example,DC=com"
  • salt_states (string, comma-separated): User-defined salt states to apply.

    salt_states: foo,bar
  • exclude_states (string, comma-separated): States to exclude from execution of salt states.

  • user_formulas (dict): Map of formula names and URLs to zip archives of salt formulas. These formulas will be downloaded, extracted, and added to the salt file roots. The zip archive must contain a top-level directory that, itself, contains the actual salt formula. To “overwrite” bundled submodule formulas, make sure the formula name matches the submodule name.

      foo-formula: https://path/to/foo.zip
  • salt_debug_log (string): Path to the debug logfile that salt will write to.

  • salt_content (string): URL to the Salt content file that contains further configuration specific to the salt install.

  • install_method (string): (Linux-only) The method used to install Salt. Currently supports: yum, git

  • bootstrap_source (string): (Linux-only) URL to the salt bootstrap script. This is required if install_method is set to git.

  • git_repo (string): (Linux-only) URL to the salt git repo. This is required if install_method is set to git.

  • salt_version (string): (Linux-only) A git reference present in git_repo, such as a commit or a tag. If not specifid, the HEAD of the default branch will be used. installer_url (string): (Windows-only) URL to the Salt Minion installer for Windows.

yum worker (linux-only)

Parameters supported by the Yum Worker:

  • repo_map (list of maps): There be dragons here! Please be careful making changes to the default config. Thoroughly test your configuration. The default config specifies yum repos that contain the salt-minion. If the default repos are not included, and the salt-minion is not available, the Salt Worker will fail. You can add repos here that you would like enabled, but be wary of removing the default repos. Each map must contain the following keys:

    • dist (list): Distributions that would install this repo. Some repos are supported by multiple distros. (Currently supported distros are redhat, centos, and amazon.)

    • el_version (_string_): The Enterprise Linux version for this repo, as in el6 or el7. Expected values are '6' or '7'.

    • url (string): URL location of the repo file to be added to the system. This file will be copied to /etc/yum.repos.d/


      - dist:
          - redhat
          - centos
        el_version: 6
        url: http://someplace.com/my.repo

Example config.yaml

watchmaker_version: "~= 0.17.0"
  - salt:
      admin_groups: null
      admin_users: null
      computer_name: null
      environment: null
      ou_path: null
      salt_content: null
      salt_states: Highstate
        # To add extra formulas, specify them as a map of
        #    <formula_name>: <archive_url>
        # The <formula_name> is the name of the directory in the salt file_root
        # where the formula will be placed. The <archive_url> must be a zip
        # file, and the zip must contain a top-level directory that, itself,
        # contains the actual salt formula. To "overwrite" submodule formulas,
        # make sure <formula_name> matches submodule names. E.g.:
        #ash-linux-formula: https://s3.amazonaws.com/salt-formulas/ash-linux-formula-master.zip
        #scap-formula: https://s3.amazonaws.com/salt-formulas/scap-formula-master.zip

  - yum:
        - dist:
            - redhat
            - centos
          el_version: 6
          url: https://watchmaker.cloudarmor.io/yum.defs/saltstack/salt/2016.11.9/salt-reposync-el6.repo
        - dist: amazon
          el_version: 6
          url: https://watchmaker.cloudarmor.io/yum.defs/saltstack/salt/2016.11.9/salt-reposync-amzn.repo
        - dist:
            - redhat
            - centos
          el_version: 7
          url: https://watchmaker.cloudarmor.io/yum.defs/saltstack/salt/2016.11.9/salt-reposync-el7.repo
  - salt:
      salt_debug_log: null
      install_method: yum
      bootstrap_source: null
      git_repo: null
      salt_version: null

  - salt:
      salt_debug_log: null
      installer_url: https://watchmaker.cloudarmor.io/repo/saltstack/salt/windows/Salt-Minion-2016.11.6-AMD64-Setup.exe