Ensuring a particular process is running on a system is a common task for a system administrator, as processes are what provide all services available on a computer system.

Using CFEngine to ensure certain processes are running is extremely easy.

  1. Create the policy

Create a new file called ensure_process.cf:

body file control
      inputs => { "$(sys.libdir)/stdlib.cf" };

bundle agent main
        restart_class => "ntpd_not_running";

      "/etc/init.d/ntp start";

This example is designed to be run on an Ubuntu 12.04 system, and assumes the ntp package is already installed.

Let us quickly explain this code:

The body file control construct, which instructs CFEngine to load the CFEngine standard library.

The processes: tells cf-agent that the promises are related to processes. Then a promise checks for the existence of a running process whose name matches the string /usr/sbin/ntpd. If the process is found, nothing happens. But if it is not found, the ntpd_not_running class (a class is a named boolean attribute in the CFEngine policy language which can be used for decision making) will be defined.

Finally, the commands: line tells cf-agent that the following promises are related to executing commands. The ntpd_not_running:: line restricts the context to so that the following commands will only be run if the expression evaluates to true.

  1. Testing the policy

First, we verify that the ntpd process is not running:

ps axuww | grep ntp

Then we run our CFEngine policy:

cf-agent -f ./ensure_process.cf
2014-03-20T06:33:56+0000   notice: /default/main/commands/'/etc/init.d/ntp start'[0]: Q: "...init.d/ntp star":  * Starting NTP server ntpd
Q: "...init.d/ntp star":    ...done.

Finally, we verify that ntpd is now running on the system:

ps axuww | grep ntp
ntp       5756  0.3  0.1  37696  2172 ?        Ss   06:33   0:00 /usr/sbin/ntpd -p /var/run/ntpd.pid -g -u 104:110


That's it! Every time CFEngine runs the policy, it will check for the process, and if it's not there, will start it. This is how CFEngine maintains your system in the correct, desired state.