Ploy is a commandline-tool to provision, manage and control server instances. There are plugins for EC2 (ploy_ec2), FreeBSD Jails (ploy_ezjail) and more. You can create, delete, monitor and ssh into instances while ploy handles the details like ssh fingerprint checking. Additional plugins provide advanced functionality like integrating Fabric (ploy_fabric) and Ansible (ploy_ansible).

You can find the detailed documentation at http://ploy.readthedocs.org/en/latest/


ploy is best installed with easy_install, pip or with zc.recipe.egg in a buildout. It installs two scripts, ploy and ploy-ssh.


All information about server instances is located in ploy.conf, which by default is looked up in etc/ploy.conf.


Support for backends and further functionality is implemented by plugins. One plugin is included with ploy.

For regular servers accessible via ssh.

You can see which plugins are available in your current installation with ploy -v.


With plain instances you can put infos about servers into the configuration to benefit from some ploy features like ssh fingerprint checking and plugins like the Fabric integration.


host or ip
(required) The host name or address for the server.
The default user for ssh connections. If it’s set to * then the current local user name is used.
The ssh port number.
ssh-host-keys or ssh-fingerprints
(required) The public ssh host keys (or fingerprints) of the server.
It’s best to use the public ssh host keys if available. You can either specify the path, or put in the contents directly (ssh-rsa AAAA...). Multiple host keys can be specified one per line, or separated by commas.
If set to ask then manual interactive verification is enabled. If set to ignore then no verification is performed at all! Multiple fingerprints can be specified one per line, or separated by commas. The format of fingerprints is either 16 bytes as hex numbers separated by colons, the same 16 bytes prefixed by MD5:, or the hash type, followed by a colon and the base 64 encoded hash digest.
If this boolean is true, then using a password as fallback is enabled if the ssh key doesn’t work. This is off by default. You may be asked more than once for the password. The first time is by paramiko which always happens, but is remembered. The other times is by the ssh command line tool if it’s invoked.
Never use this directly! If password-fallback is enabled this password is used. This is mainly meant for Fabric scripts which have other ways to get the password. On use case is bootstrapping FreeBSD from an mfsBSD distribution where the password is fixed.

The command to use in the ProxyCommand option for ssh when using the ploy-ssh command. There are some variables which can be used:

The directory of the ploy.conf file. Useful if you want to use the ploy-ssh command itself for the proxy.
The absolute path to the known_hosts file managed by ploy.
The variables of other instances. For example: instances.foo.ip

In addition to these the variables of the instance itself are available.

A full example for a proxycommand:

proxycommand = {path}/../bin/ploy-ssh vm-master -W {ip}:22
Location of private ssh key to use.

A list of settings separated by newlines passed on to ssh.


ssh-extra-args = ForwardAgent yes

SSH integration

ploy provides an additional tool ploy-ssh to easily perform SSH based operations against named instances. Particularly, it encapsulates the entire SSH fingerprint mechanism. For example EC2 instances are often short-lived and normally trigger warnings, especially, if you are using elastic IPs.

Note:: it does so not by simply turning off these checks, but by transparently updating its own fingerprint list using mechanisms provided by the backend plugins.

The easiest scenario is simply to create an SSH session with an instance. You can either use the ssh subcommand of the ploy tool like so:


Alternatively you can use the ploy-ssh command directly, like so:


The latter has been provided to support scp and rsync. Here are some examples, you get the idea:

scp -S `pwd`/bin/ploy-ssh some.file demo-server:/some/path/
rsync -e "bin/ploy-ssh" some/path fschulze@demo-server:/some/path

Instance names

Instances have an id which is the part after the colon in the configuration. They also have a unique id which has the form [masterid]-[instanceid]. The [masterid] depends on the plugin. For plain instances it is plain. The [instanceid] is the id of the instance. So, if you have the following config:


Then the unique id of the instance is plain-foo.

Macro expansion

In the ploy.conf you can use macro expansion for cleaner configuration files. That looks like this:

<= demo-server
securitygroups = demo-server2

<= demo-server

All the options from the specified macro are copied with some exceptions depending on the backend plugin.

If you want to copy data from some other kind of options, you can add a colon in the macro name. This is useful if you want to have a base for instances like this:

keypair = default
region = eu-west-1
placement = eu-west-1a

<= macro:base-instance

Massaging of config values

Plugins and ploy massage certain string values from the config to convert them to other types and do formatting or expansion.

You can use that yourself, which is useful for the Fabric integration and other things.

Here is a simple example:

massagers =
intvalue = 1
boolvalue = yes

If you now access those values from for example a fabric task, you get the correct type instead of strings.

The above syntax registers the massagers only for that section. You can register massagers for other sections or even section groups with this syntax:

massagers =

The parts have the following meaning:

This is the name of the option which should be massaged
The name of the section group. That’s the part before the optional colon in a section. To match sections without a colon, use global. To match every section, use *.
The name of the section to which this massager is applied. If empty, the current section is used.

Buildout specifics

With zc.recipe.egg you can set a custom configfile location like this:

recipe = zc.recipe.egg
eggs = ploy
arguments = configpath="${buildout:directory}/etc/", configname="servers.cfg"