Tentakel to execute commands on multiple Linux or UNIX Servers

Posted on in Categories Automation, CentOS, Debian Linux, Download of the day, FreeBSD, Gentoo Linux, Howto, Linux, Monitoring, Networking, OpenBSD, RedHat/Fedora Linux, Sys admin, Tips, Tuning, Ubuntu Linux, UNIX last updated December 27, 2005

This is Part II in a series on Execute Commands on Multiple Linux or UNIX Servers Simultaneously. The full series is Part I, Part II, and Part III. Many times, you want to execute a command not only on one server, but also on several servers. For example, find out

  • Version of kernel
  • Version of Apache web server
  • Update static html or images files on all web servers via rsync
  • Find out user information, server information, memory usage etc
  • Security/patch checking


I have already covered how to execute commands on multiple Linux or UNIX servers via shell script. The disadvantage of script is commands do not run in parallel on all servers. However, several tools exist to automate this procedure in parallel. With the help of tool called tentakel, you run distributed command execution. It is a program for executing the same command on many hosts in parallel using ssh (it supports other methods too). Main advantage is you can create several sets of servers according requirements. For example webserver group, mail server group, home servers group etc. The command is executed in parallel on all servers in this group (time saving). By default, every result is printed to stdout (screen). The output format can be defined for each group.

How it works?

Consider the following sample setup:

admin workstation   Group                  Hosts
|----------------> www-servers        host1, host2,host3
|----------------> homeservers,

You need to install tentakel on admin workstation ( We have two group servers, first is group of web server with three host and another is homeservers with two hosts.

The requirements on the remote hosts (groups) need a running sshd server on the remote side. You need to setup ssh-key based login between admin workstation and all group servers/hosts to take full advantage of this tentakel distributed command execution method.

System requirement

Tentakel requires a working Python installation. It is known to work with Python 2.3. Python 2.2 and Python 2.1 are not supported. If you are using old version of python then please upgrade it.


Let us see howto install and configure tentakel.

Step # 1 : Download tentakel

Visit sourceforge home page to download tentakel or download RPM files from tentakel home page.

Step # 2: Install tentakel

Untar source code, enter:

# tar -zxvf tentakel-2.2.tgz

You should be root user for the install step. To install it type

# make
# make install

Step # 3 Configure groups

For demonstration purpose we will use following setup:

   admin pc                    Group           hosts
Running Debian Linux       homeservers
User: jadmin

Copy sample tentakel configuration file tentakel.conf.example to /etc directory

# cp tentakel.conf.example /etc/ tentakel.conf

Modify /etc/tentakel.conf according to above setup, at the end your file should look like as follows:

# first section: global parameters
set ssh_path="/usr/bin/ssh"
set method="ssh"  # ssh method
set user="jadmin"   # ssh username for remote servers
#set format="%d %o\n" # output format see man page
#set maxparallel="3"  # run at most 3 commands in parallel

# our home servers with two hosts
group homeservers ()
+ +

# localhost
group local ()

Save the file and exit to shell prompt. Where,
group homeservers () : Group name
+ + : Host inclusion. name is included and can be an ip address or a hostname.

Step # 4 Configure SSH password less login

Configure ssh-key based login to avoid password prompt between admin workstation and group servers for jadmin user.

Step # 5 Test tentakel

Login as jadmin and type the following command:

$ tentakel -g homeservers

interactive mode

-g groupname: Select the group groupname The group must be defined in the configuration file (here it is homeservers). If not specified tentakel implicitly assumes the default group.

At tentakel(homeservers)> prompt type command uname and uptime command as follows:

exec "uname -mrs"
exec "uptime"

Few more examples
Find who is logged on all homeservers and what they are doing (type at shell prompt)

$ tentakel -g homeservers "w"

Executes the uptime command on all hosts defined in group homeservers:

$ tentakel -g homeservers uptime

As you can see, tentakel is very powerful and easy to use tool. It also supports the concept of plugins. A plugin is a single Python module and must appear in the $HOME/.tentakel/plugins/ directory. Main advantage of plugin is customization according to your need. For example, entire web server or mysql server farm can be controlled according our requirements.
However, tentakel is not the only utility for this kind of work. There are programs that do similar things or have to do with tentakel in some way. The complete list can be found online here. tentakel should work on almost all variant of UNIX/BSD or Linux distributions.

Time is a precious commodity, especially if you’re a system administrator. No other job pulls people in so many directions at once. Users interrupt you constantly with requests, preventing you from getting anything done and putting lots of pressure on you. What do you do? The answer is time management. Read our book review of Time Management for System Administrators. Continue reading Execute commands on multiple hosts using expect tool Part III of this series.


  • Read tentakel man page for tentakel configuration options
  • tentakel home page

Update: Damon confirmed that it works on Windows too with little modification.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

20 comment

  1. RGANG looks good too. It incorporates an algorithm to build a tree-like structure (or “worm” structure) to allow the distribution processing time to scale very well to 1000 or more nodes. Looks rock solid.

    Thanks for pointing out I appreciate you post 🙂

  2. It seems a nice tool and using ssh it will be secure (as long as no-one knows the privat key ofcourse).

    For a more simple variant I use a sh-script to execute on all machines in my (linux-)network:

    ping -c 2 -w 10 -b 2>/dev/null | sed -n -e ‘s#^.*bytes from ([^:][^:]*).*#1#p’ | while read ip
    name=`host ${ip} | sed -e ‘s#.* ([^ ][^ ]*).$#1#’`
    echo “— ${name} : ${*}”
    rsh ${name} ${EXTRA} “${*}”

  3. If your somewhat traditional, just use Expect. Does most of the same, has tons of examples around, a cool book (Exploring Expect).
    And you can handle stuff that NEEDS a terminal like ssh password prompts or the password program to change passwords.And it works on windows.

  4. Expect. Is very nice back in Solaris day I had complete monitoring system written in rsh and expect tool. Open advantage of ssh is that it provides API for C/C++ programs. So I get performance

    Anonymous user thanks for sharing your script with us. ,appreciate your post.

  5. Thanks for mentioning tentakel in your blog. You also mentioned rgang, which looks nice indeed. However, there are two reasons why I don’t like rgang: 1) the license is not as free as tentakels (at least it does not look like as far as I can tell without being a lawyer) 2) it looks much more unmaintained thatn tentakel 🙂


  6. or clusterfork
    which is very simple (a single perl script) & does execute in parallel, and does a bunch of other stuff like the rest of the ones mentioned above, and is also scriptable if you want use its abilities in other scripts. I do admire tentakel’s code compactness tho.

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