In addition to the formula itself, a FORMULA file must exist which describes the package. An example of this file is:

name: apache
os: RedHat, Debian, Ubuntu, SUSE, FreeBSD
os_family: RedHat, Debian, Suse, FreeBSD
version: 201506
release: 2
summary: Formula for installing Apache
description: Formula for installing Apache

Required Fields

This file must contain at least the following fields:


The name of the package, as it will appear in the package filename, in the repository metadata, and the package database. Even if the source formula has -formula in its name, this name should probably not include that. For instance, when packaging the apache-formula, the name should be set to apache.


The value of the os grain that this formula supports. This is used to help users know which operating systems can support this package.


The value of the os_family grain that this formula supports. This is used to help users know which operating system families can support this package.


The version of the package. While it is up to the organization that manages this package, it is suggested that this version is specified in a YYYYMM format. For instance, if this version was released in June 2015, the package version should be 201506. If multiple releases are made in a month, the release field should be used.


Minimum recommended version of Salt to use this formula. Not currently enforced.


This field refers primarily to a release of a version, but also to multiple versions within a month. In general, if a version has been made public, and immediate updates need to be made to it, this field should also be updated.


A one-line description of the package.


A more detailed description of the package which can contain more than one line.

Optional Fields

The following fields may also be present.


This field is optional, but highly recommended. If it is not specified, the package name will be used.

Formula repositories typically do not store .sls files in the root of the repository; instead they are stored in a subdirectory. For instance, an apache-formula repository would contain a directory called apache, which would contain an init.sls, plus a number of other related files. In this instance, the top_level_dir should be set to apache.

Files outside the top_level_dir, such as README.rst, FORMULA, and LICENSE will not be installed. The exceptions to this rule are files that are already treated specially, such as pillar.example and _modules/.


A comma-separated list of packages that must be installed along with this package. When this package is installed, SPM will attempt to discover and install these packages as well. If it is unable to, then it will refuse to install this package.

This is useful for creating packages which tie together other packages. For instance, a package called wordpress-mariadb-apache would depend upon wordpress, mariadb, and apache.


A comma-separated list of packages which are related to this package, but are neither required nor necessarily recommended. This list is displayed in an informational message when the package is installed to SPM.


A files section can be added, to specify a list of files to add to the SPM. Such a section might look like:

  - _pillar
  - _runners
  - d|mymodule/index.rst
  - r|README.rst

When files are specified, then only those files will be added to the SPM, regardless of what other files exist in the directory. They will also be added in the order specified, which is useful if you have a need to lay down files in a specific order.

As can be seen in the example above, you may also tag files as being a specific type. This is done by pre-pending a filename with its type, followed by a pipe (|) character. The above example contains a document file and a readme. The available file types are:

  • c: config file

  • d: documentation file

  • g: ghost file (i.e. the file contents are not included in the package payload)

  • l: license file

  • r: readme file

  • s: SLS file

  • m: Salt module

The first 5 of these types (c, d, g, l, r) will be placed in /usr/share/salt/spm/ by default. This can be changed by setting an spm_share_dir value in your /etc/salt/spm configuration file.

The last two types (s and m) are currently ignored, but they are reserved for future use.

Pre and Post States

It is possible to run Salt states before and after installing a package by using pre and post states. The following sections may be declared in a FORMULA:

  • pre_local_state

  • pre_tgt_state

  • post_local_state

  • post_tgt_state

Sections with pre in their name are evaluated before a package is installed and sections with post are evaluated after a package is installed. local states are evaluated before tgt states.

Each of these sections needs to be evaluated as text, rather than as YAML. Consider the following block:

pre_local_state: >
  echo test > /tmp/spmtest:
      - run

Note that this declaration uses > after pre_local_state. This is a YAML marker that marks the next multi-line block as text, including newlines. It is important to use this marker whenever declaring pre or post states, so that the text following it can be evaluated properly.

local States

local states are evaluated locally; this is analogous to issuing a state run using a salt-call --local command. These commands will be issued on the local machine running the spm command, whether that machine is a master or a minion.

local states do not require any special arguments, but they must still use the > marker to denote that the state is evaluated as text, not a data structure.

pre_local_state: >
  echo test > /tmp/spmtest:
      - run

tgt States

tgt states are issued against a remote target. This is analogous to issuing a state using the salt command. As such it requires that the machine that the spm command is running on is a master.

Because tgt states require that a target be specified, their code blocks are a little different. Consider the following state:

  tgt: '*'
  data: >
    echo test > /tmp/spmtest:
        - run

With tgt states, the state data is placed under a data section, inside the *_tgt_state code block. The target is of course specified as a tgt and you may also optionally specify a tgt_type (the default is glob).

You still need to use the > marker, but this time it follows the data line, rather than the *_tgt_state line.

Templating States

The reason that state data must be evaluated as text rather than a data structure is because that state data is first processed through the rendering engine, as it would be with a standard state run.

This means that you can use Jinja or any other supported renderer inside of Salt. All formula variables are available to the renderer, so you can reference FORMULA data inside your state if you need to:

  tgt: '*'
  data: >
     echo {{ name }} > /tmp/spmtest:
        - run

You may also declare your own variables inside the FORMULA. If SPM doesn't recognize them then it will ignore them, so there are no restrictions on variable names, outside of avoiding reserved words.

By default the renderer is set to jinja|yaml. You may change this by changing the renderer setting in the FORMULA itself.

Building a Package

Once a FORMULA file has been created, it is placed into the root of the formula that is to be turned into a package. The spm build command is used to turn that formula into a package:

spm build /path/to/saltstack-formulas/apache-formula

The resulting file will be placed in the build directory. By default this directory is located at /srv/spm/.

Loader Modules

When an execution module is placed in <file_roots>/_modules/ on the master, it will automatically be synced to minions, the next time a sync operation takes place. Other modules are also propagated this way: state modules can be placed in _states/, and so on.

When SPM detects a file in a package which resides in one of these directories, that directory will be placed in <file_roots> instead of in the formula directory with the rest of the files.

Removing Packages

Packages may be removed once they are installed using the spm remove command.

spm remove apache

If files have been modified, they will not be removed. Empty directories will also be removed.

Technical Information

Packages are built using BZ2-compressed tarballs. By default, the package database is stored using the sqlite3 driver (see Loader Modules below).

Support for these are built into Python, and so no external dependencies are needed.

All other files belonging to SPM use YAML, for portability and ease of use and maintainability.

SPM-Specific Loader Modules

SPM was designed to behave like traditional package managers, which apply files to the filesystem and store package metadata in a local database. However, because modern infrastructures often extend beyond those use cases, certain parts of SPM have been broken out into their own set of modules.

Package Database

By default, the package database is stored using the sqlite3 module. This module was chosen because support for SQLite3 is built into Python itself.

Please see the SPM Development Guide for information on creating new modules for package database management.

Package Files

By default, package files are installed using the local module. This module applies files to the local filesystem, on the machine that the package is installed on.

Please see the SPM Development Guide for information on creating new modules for package file management.

Types of Packages

SPM supports different types of formula packages. The function of each package is denoted by its name. For instance, packages which end in -formula are considered to be Salt States (the most common type of formula). Packages which end in -conf contain configuration which is to be placed in the /etc/salt/ directory. Packages which do not contain one of these names are treated as if they have a -formula name.


By default, most files from this type of package live in the /srv/spm/salt/ directory. The exception is the pillar.example file, which will be renamed to <package_name>.sls and placed in the pillar directory (/srv/spm/pillar/ by default).


By default, files from this type of package live in the /srv/spm/reactor/ directory.


The files in this type of package are configuration files for Salt, which normally live in the /etc/salt/ directory. Configuration files for packages other than Salt can and should be handled with a Salt State (using a formula type of package).