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How to manage Windows with Puppet

Administrators can modernize their organization's management model for both Linux and Windows operating systems with Puppet, a code-based tool, and available community support.

IT pros have long aligned themselves with either Linux or Windows, but it has grown increasingly common for organizations to seek the best of both worlds.

For traditional Windows-only shops, the thought of managing Windows systems with a server-side tool made for Linux may be unappealing, but Puppet has increased Windows Server support over the years and offers capabilities that System Center Configuration Manager and Desired State Configuration do not.

Use existing Puppet infrastructure

Many organizations use Puppet to manage Linux systems and SCCM to manage Windows Servers. SCCM works well for managing workstations, but admins could manage Windows more easily with Puppet code. For example, admins can easily audit a system configuration by looking at code manifests.

Admins manage Windows with Puppet agents installed on Puppet nodes. They use modules and manifests to deploy node configurations. If admins manage both Linux and Windows systems with Puppet, it provides a one-stop shop for all IT operations.

Combine Puppet and DSC for greater support

Admins need basic knowledge of Linux to use a Puppet master service. They do not need to have a Puppet master because they can write manifests on nodes and apply them, but that is likely not a scalable option. For purely Windows-based shops, training in both Linux and Puppet will make taking the Puppet plunge easier. It requires more time to set up and configure Windows systems in Puppet the same way they would be configured in SCCM. Admins should design the code before users start writing and deploying Puppet manifests or DevOps teams add CI/CD pipelines.

SCCM works well for managing workstations, but admins could more easily manage Windows with Puppet code.

DSC is one of the first areas admins look to manage Windows with Puppet code. The modules are written in C# or PowerShell. DSC has native monitoring GUI, which makes the overall view of a machine's configuration complex. In its enterprise version, Puppet has native support for web-based reporting. Admins can also use a free open source version, such as Foreman.

Due to the number of community modules available on the PowerShell Gallery, DSC receives the most Windows support for code-based management, but admins can combine Puppet with DSC to get complete coverage for Windows management. Puppet contains native modules and a DSC module with PowerShell DSC modules built in. Admins may also use the dsc_lite module, which can use almost any DSC module available in Puppet. The dsc_lite modules are maintained outside of Puppet completely.

How to use Puppet to disable services

Administrators can use Puppet to run and disable services. Using native Puppet support without a DSC Puppet module, admins could write a manifest to always have the net logon, BITS and W3SVC running when a Puppet run completes. Place the name of each Windows service in a Puppet array $svc_name.

$svc_name  = ['netlogon','BITS','W3SVC']


   service { $svc_name:
   

   ensure => 'running'


}

In the next example, the Puppet DSC module ensures that the web server Windows feature is installed on the node and reboots if a pending reboot is required.

dsc_windowsfeature {'webserverfeature':

  dsc_ensure = 'present'

  dsc_name = 'Web-Server'

}

reboot { 'dsc_reboot' :

  message => Puppet needs to reboot now',

  when    => 'pending',

  onlyif  => 'pending_dsc_reboot',

}

This was last published in July 2019

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