Salt Masterless Quickstart

Running a masterless salt-minion lets you use Salt's configuration management for a single machine without calling out to a Salt master on another machine.

Since the Salt minion contains such extensive functionality it can be useful to run it standalone. A standalone minion can be used to do a number of things:

  • Stand up a master server via States (Salting a Salt Master)

  • Use salt-call commands on a system without connectivity to a master

  • Masterless States, run states entirely from files local to the minion

It is also useful for testing out state trees before deploying to a production setup.

Bootstrap Salt Minion

The salt-bootstrap script makes bootstrapping a server with Salt simple for any OS with a Bourne shell:

curl -L -o
sudo sh

Before run the script, it is a good practice to verify the checksum of the downloaded file. You can verify the checksum with SHA256 by running this command:

test $(sha256sum | awk '{print $1}') \
   = $(curl -sL | cat -) \
   && echo "OK" \
   || echo "File does not match checksum"


The previous example is the preferred method because by downloading the script you can investigate the contents of the bootstrap script or using it again later. Alternatively, if you want to download the bash script and run it immediately, use:

curl -L | sudo sh -s --

See the salt-bootstrap documentation for other one liners. When using Vagrant to test out salt, the Vagrant salt provisioner will provision the VM for you.

Telling Salt to Run Masterless

To instruct the minion to not look for a master, the file_client configuration option needs to be set in the minion configuration file. By default the file_client is set to remote so that the minion gathers file server and pillar data from the salt master. When setting the file_client option to local the minion is configured to not gather this data from the master.

file_client: local

Now the salt minion will not look for a master and will assume that the local system has all of the file and pillar resources.

Configuration which resided in the master configuration (e.g. /etc/salt/master) should be moved to the minion configuration since the minion does not read the master configuration.


When running Salt in masterless mode, do not run the salt-minion daemon. Otherwise, it will attempt to connect to a master and fail. The salt-call command stands on its own and does not need the salt-minion daemon.

Create State Tree

Following the successful installation of a salt-minion, the next step is to create a state tree, which is where the SLS files that comprise the possible states of the minion are stored.

The following example walks through the steps necessary to create a state tree that ensures that the server has the Apache webserver installed.


For a complete explanation on Salt States, see the tutorial.

  1. Create the top.sls file:


    - webserver
  1. Create the webserver state tree:


apache:               # ID declaration
  pkg:                # state declaration
    - installed       # function declaration


The apache package has different names on different platforms, for instance on Debian/Ubuntu it is apache2, on Fedora/RHEL it is httpd and on Arch it is apache

The only thing left is to provision our minion using salt-call.


The salt-call command is used to run remote execution functions locally on a minion instead of executing them from the master. Normally the salt-call command checks into the master to retrieve file server and pillar data, but when running standalone salt-call needs to be instructed to not check the master for this data:

salt-call --local state.apply

The --local flag tells the salt-minion to look for the state tree in the local file system and not to contact a Salt Master for instructions.

To provide verbose output, use -l debug:

salt-call --local state.apply -l debug

The minion first examines the top.sls file and determines that it is a part of the group matched by * glob and that the webserver SLS should be applied.

It then examines the webserver.sls file and finds the apache state, which installs the Apache package.

The minion should now have Apache installed, and the next step is to begin learning how to write more complex states.