Config-file Environments

This version of Puppet is not included in Puppet Enterprise. The latest version of PE includes Puppet 4.4. A newer version is available; see the version menu above for details.

Environments are isolated groups of puppet agent nodes. A puppet master server can serve each environment with completely different main manifests and modulepaths.

This frees you to use different versions of the same modules for different populations of nodes, which is useful for testing changes to your Puppet code before implementing them on production machines. (You could also do this by running a separate puppet master for testing, but using environments is often easier.)

Directory Environments vs. Config File Environments

There are two ways to set up environments on a puppet master: directory environments, and config file environments.

This page is about config file environments, which are more complex to use but which allow you to set config_version per-environment and change the order of the modulepath (or remove parts of it). Directory environments will be able to do those things soon, but the code didn’t make the 3.5.0 release deadline.

Directory environments will eventually replace config file environments.

Setting Up Environments on a Puppet Master

Puppet’s config file provides two ways to configure environments: per-environment config sections, and interpolation of the $environment variable in settings values (AKA dynamic environments).

Environment Config Sections

The puppet.conf file has four primary config sections. The puppet master application will usually use settings from the master section, and will fall back to the main section for settings that aren’t defined in master.

You can also make additional config sections for environments. If available, Puppet will use settings from an environment config section when serving nodes assigned to that environment. If an environment-specific section doesn’t exist or doesn’t set values for some settings, Puppet will fall back to the master and then main sections as normal.

  server =
  certname =
  trusted_node_data = true
  dns_alt_names =,puppetmaster1,,puppet
  autosign = false
  modulepath = $confdir/environments/test/modules:$condfir/modules:/usr/share/puppet/modules
  manifest = $confdir/environments/test/manifests
  config_version = /usr/bin/git --git-dir $confdir/environments/test/.git rev-parse HEAD

In this example, the test environment has its own separate values for the modulepath, manifest, and config_version settings, and Puppet will use those when serving nodes in that environment. When serving nodes in other environments, the puppet master will use the global values for those settings, which in this example are left to their defaults.

Usable Settings

Only certain settings can be used in an environment config section. Although Puppet will allow you to set any settings there, it will only actually read and use a few of them. Those usable settings are:

The templatedir setting will also work, but we recommend against using the old-style global template directory.

Dynamic Environments

Alternately, you can use the global values for the modulepath and manifest settings (via the master or main section), but set their values to use the special $environment variable. (Note that if an environment config section exists for the active environment, it will get priority.)

When getting values for settings, Puppet will replace $environment with the name of the active environment. This allows you to mimic directory environments:

  manifest = $confdir/environments/$environment/manifests
  modulepath = $confdir/environments/$environment/modules

In this example, you could create a directory for each environment in the $confdir/environments directory.

When using dynamic environments, there’s not a very good way to set config_version. Possibly due to the timing of how settings are loaded, interpolation of $environment in that setting doesn’t seem to work. In a future version of Puppet, directory environments will provide a cleaner way to do this.

Similarly, you shouldn’t interpolate $environment into any other settings besides manifest and modulepath; the results are likely to be unpredictable.

Allowed Names

Environment names can contain letters, numbers, and underscores. That is, they must match the following regular expression:


Additionally, there are four forbidden environment names:

  • main
  • master
  • agent
  • user

These names can’t be used because they conflict with the primary config sections. This can be a problem with Git, because its default branch is named master. You may need to rename the master branch to something like production or stable (e.g. git branch -m master production).

No Interaction with Directory Environments

If directory environments are enabled (by setting the environmentpath setting; see Enabling Directory Environments), any config file environments will be completely ignored.

If you’ve accidentally configured the same environment in multiple ways (see the page on directory environments), the precedence goes like this:

Config sections → directory environments → dynamic ($environment) environments

If an environment config section exists for the active environment, Puppet will ignore the directory environment it would have otherwise used. This means it will use the standard manifest and modulepath settings to serve nodes in that environment. If values for those settings are specified in the environment config section, those will be used; otherwise, Puppet will use the global values.

If the global values for the manifest and modulepath settings use the $environment variable, they will only be used when a directory environment doesn’t exist for the active environment.

Similarly, if the global manifest or modulepath use $environment, any config section environments will override them.

Unconfigured Environments → Global Settings

If a node is assigned to an environment for which a config section doesn’t exist, or if the config section does not specify a value for one or more settings, the puppet master will use the global manifest and modulepath settings to serve that node.

If the values of the manifest or modulepath settings point to any files or directories that don’t exist (due to interpolating $environment for an unexpected environment name), Puppet will act as though those directories were empty.

Assigning Nodes to Environments

Assigning nodes to environments works identically for both directory environments and config file environments.

For details, see the relevant section of the directory environments page.

Referencing the Environment in Manifests

In Puppet manifests, you can get the name of the current environment by using the $environment variable, which is [set by the puppet master.][env_var]

Other Information About Environments

This section of the Puppet reference manual has several other pages about environments:

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