Default Configuration File Structure

The following configuration files are part of the default CFEngine installation in /var/cfengine/inputs, and have special roles.

This file is the first file that cf-agent with no arguments will try to look for. It should contain all of the basic configuration settings, including a list of other files to include. In normal operation, it must have a bundlesequence.

This file can stay fixed, except for extending the bundlesequence. The bundlesequence acts like the 'genetic makeup' of the configuration. In a large configuration, you might want to have a different bundlesequence for different classes of host, so that you can build a complete system like a check-list from different combinations of building blocks. You can construct different lists by composing them from other lists, or you can use methods promises as an alternative for composing bundles for different classes.

This file should rarely if ever change. Should you ever change it (or when you upgrade CFEngine), take special care to ensure the old and the new CFEngine can parse and execute this file successfully. If not, you risk losing control of your system (that is, if CFEngine cannot successfully execute this set of promises, it has no mechanism for distributing new policy files).

By default, the policy defined in is executed from two sets of promise bodies. The “usual” one (defined in the bundlesequence in and another in the backup/failsafe bundlesequence (defined in

This file is generated during the bootstrapping process, and should probably never be changed. The only job of is to execute the update bundle in a “standalone” context should there be a syntax error somewhere in the main set of promises. In this way, if a client machine's policies are ever corrupted after downloading erroneous policy from a server, that client will have a failsafe method for downloading a corrected policy once it becomes available on the server. Note that by “corrupted” and “erroneous” we typically mean “broken via administrator error” - mistakes happen, and the file is CFEngine's way of being prepared for that eventuality.

If you ever change (or when you upgrade CFEngine), make sure the old and the new CFEngine can successfully parse and execute this file. If not, you risk losing control of your system (that is, if CFEngine cannot successfully execute this policy file, it has no failsafe/fallback mechanism for distributing new policy files).

The file is to make sure that your system can upgrade gracefully to new versions even when mistakes are made.

As a general rule:

  • Upgrade the software first, then add new features to the configuration.
  • Never use advanced features in the failsafe or update file.
  • Avoid using library code (including any bodies from Copy/paste any bodies you need using a unique name that does not collide with a name in library (we recommend simply adding the prefix “u_”). This may mean that you create duplicate functionality, but that is okay in this case to ensure a 100% functioning standalone update process). The promises which manage the update process should not have any dependencies on any other files.

A CFEngine configuration will fail-over to the configuration if it is unable to read or parse the contents successfully. That means that any syntax errors you introduce (or any new features you utilize in a configuration) will cause a fail-over, because the parser will not be able to interpret the policy. If the failover is due to the use of new features, they will not parse until the software itself has been updated (so we recommend that you always update CFEngine before updating policy to use new features). If you accidentally cause a bad (i.e., unparseable) policy to be distributed to client machines, the policy on those machines will run (and will eventually download a working policy, once you fix it on the policy host).