Introduction to Salt

We’re not just talking about NaCl.

The 30 second summary

Salt is:

  • A configuration management system. Salt is capable of maintaining remote nodes in defined states. For example, it can ensure that specific packages are installed and that specific services are running.

  • A distributed remote execution system used to execute commands and query data on remote nodes. Salt can query and execute commands either on individual nodes or by using an arbitrary selection criteria.

It was developed in order to bring the best solutions found in the world of remote execution together and make them better, faster, and more malleable. Salt accomplishes this through its ability to handle large loads of information, and not just dozens but hundreds and even thousands of individual servers quickly through a simple and manageable interface.


Providing versatility between massive scale deployments and smaller systems may seem daunting, but Salt is very simple to set up and maintain, regardless of the size of the project. The architecture of Salt is designed to work with any number of servers, from a handful of local network systems to international deployments across different data centers. The topology is a simple server/client model with the needed functionality built into a single set of daemons. While the default configuration will work with little to no modification, Salt can be fine tuned to meet specific needs.

Parallel execution

The core functions of Salt:

  • enable commands to remote systems to be called in parallel rather than serially

  • use a secure and encrypted protocol

  • use the smallest and fastest network payloads possible

  • provide a simple programming interface

Salt also introduces more granular controls to the realm of remote execution, allowing systems to be targeted not just by hostname, but also by system properties.

Builds on proven technology

Salt takes advantage of a number of technologies and techniques. The networking layer is built with the excellent ZeroMQ networking library, so the Salt daemon includes a viable and transparent AMQ broker. Salt uses public keys for authentication with the master daemon, then uses faster AES encryption for payload communication; authentication and encryption are integral to Salt. Salt takes advantage of communication via msgpack, enabling fast and light network traffic.

Python client interface

In order to allow for simple expansion, Salt execution routines can be written as plain Python modules. The data collected from Salt executions can be sent back to the master server, or to any arbitrary program. Salt can be called from a simple Python API, or from the command line, so that Salt can be used to execute one-off commands as well as operate as an integral part of a larger application.

Fast, flexible, scalable

The result is a system that can execute commands at high speed on target server groups ranging from one to very many servers. Salt is very fast, easy to set up, amazingly malleable and provides a single remote execution architecture that can manage the diverse requirements of any number of servers. The Salt infrastructure brings together the best of the remote execution world, amplifies its capabilities and expands its range, resulting in a system that is as versatile as it is practical, suitable for any network.


Salt is developed under the Apache 2.0 license, and can be used for open and proprietary projects. Please submit your expansions back to the Salt project so that we can all benefit together as Salt grows. Please feel free to sprinkle Salt around your systems and let the deliciousness come forth.