Node definitions

A node definition, also known as a node statement, is a block of Puppet code that is included only in matching nodes' catalogs. This allows you to assign specific configurations to specific nodes.

Put node definitions in the main manifest, which can be a single site.pp file, or a directory containing many files.

If the main manifest contains at least one node definition, it must have one for every node. Compilation for a node fails if a node definition for it cannot be found. Either specify no node definitions, or use the default node definition, as described below, to avoid this situation.

Puppet code that is outside any node definition is compiled for every node. That is, a given node gets both the code that is in its node definition and the code that is outside any node definition.

Node definitions create an anonymous scope that can override variables and defaults from top scope.
Tip: Although node definitions can contain almost any Puppet code, we recommend that you use them only to set variables and declare classes. Avoid putting resource declarations, collectors, conditional statements, chaining relationships, and functions in node definitions; all of these belong in classes or defined types.

Node definitions are an optional feature of Puppet. You can use them instead of or in combination with an external node classifier (ENC). Alternatively, you can use conditional statements with facts to classify nodes. Unlike more general conditional structures, node definitions match nodes only by name. By default, the name of a node is its certname, which defaults to the node's fully qualified domain name.

Although you can use node definitions in conjunction with an ENC, it's simpler to choose one method or the other. If you do use them together, Puppet merges their data as follows:
  • Variables from an ENC are set at top scope and can be overridden by variables in a node definition.

  • Classes from an ENC are declared at node scope, so they are affected by any variables set in the node definition.


Node definitions look like class definitions. The general form of a node definition is:
  • The node keyword.

  • The node definition name: a quoted string, a regular expression, or default.

  • An opening curly brace.

  • Any mixture of class declarations, variables, resource declarations, collectors, conditional statements, chaining relationships, and functions.

  • A closing curly brace.

In the following example, only receives the apache and squid classes, and only receives the mysql class:
node '' {
  include common
  include apache
  include squid
node '' {
  include common
  include mysql
A node definition name must be one of the following:
  • A quoted string containing only letters, numbers, underscores (_), hyphens (-), and periods (.).

  • A regular expression.

  • The bare word default. If no other node definition matches a given node, the default node definition will be used for that node.

You can use a comma-separated list of names to match a group of nodes with a single node definition:
node '', '', '' {
  include common
  include apache, squid
If you use a regular expression for a node definition name, it also has the potential to match multiple nodes. For example, the following node definition matches www1, www13, and any other node whose name consists of www and one or more digits:
node /^www\d+$/ {
  include common
The following example of a regex node definition name matches and, but no other nodes:
node /^(one|two)\.example\.com$/ {
  include common
Important: Make sure all of your node definition name regexes match non-overlapping sets of node names. If a node’s name matches more than one regex, Puppet makes no guarantee about which matching definition it will get.
You can use regex capture variables by enclosing parts of your regex node definition name in parentheses (), and then referencing them in order as $1, $2 and so on, as variables within the body of the node definition. For example:
node /^www(\d+)$/ {
  $wwwnumber = $1  #assigns the value of the (\d+) from a regex match to the variable $wwwnumber


A given node gets the contents of only one node definition, even if multiple node definitions could match its name. Puppet does the following checks, in this order, until it finds one that matches:
  1. If there is a node definition with the node's exact name, Puppet uses it.

  2. If there is a regular expression node definition that matches the node's name, Puppet uses it. If more than one regex node matches, Puppet uses one of them, but we can't predict which. Make your node definition name regexes non-overlapping to avoid this problem.

  3. By default, the primary server's strict_hostname_checking is set to true, which means the nodes are always matched by the certname.

    If strict_hostname_checking is set to false and the node's name looks like a fully qualified domain name (it has multiple period-separated groups of letters, numbers, underscores, and dashes), Puppet chops off the final group and starts again at step 1. This is also true for fqdn. If the fqdn fact is not found, it will combine the hostname and domain facts.

  4. Puppet uses the default node.

For example, when compiling a catalog for a node with certname, with fuzzy checking, Puppet looks for a node definition with the following name, in this order:

  • A regex that matches

  • www01.example

  • A regex that matches www01.example

  • www01

  • A regex that matches www01

  • default

If it doesn't find one, catalog compilation fails. It's a good idea to always have a default node definition.