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Slurping: copying a file from multiple hosts

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Then you administer several dozens of boxes, similar configuration files are scattered on multiple hosts.  Slurping is a useful technique of getting all those files into a single location where you can edit them and then push them back. It is a simple Unix Configuration Management Tools technique that is often more productive then complex packages like puppet.

It is very simple to implement with classic Unix tools such as  and xargs and scpIt can help to work with "sysadmin hostile", idiosyncratic flavors of Unix such as AIX and HP-UX, as in this case you can use Linux or Solaris as your platform.

Generally the term "slurping" has two meanings:

Here we will use the second meaning of this term, collecting files from multiple hosts into a single directory.

There are two approaches to placing such a file in a common directory called "potlack"

One interesting possibility is to replace files that should be identical on several hosts with a master file and soft links to each of the "slave" locations. In this case you can edit a single file and then distribute all the files in a group in one operation. 

Opposite to slurping operation is called file distribution.

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[May 02, 2013] Automating ssh and scp across multiple hosts

From comments: "Please take a look at: My team and I use this to administer more than 350 Linux servers. I may say that mpssh just works. Never had a problem with it."

If you're like me you'll run Debian GNU/Linux upon a number of hosts and at times you'd like to run a command or two upon all of those hosts. There are several ways you can accomplish this, ranging from manually connecting to each host in turn, to the more complex solutions such as CFEngine or Puppet. Midway between the two you can use pssh to run commands upon multiple hosts.

The pssh package is one of a number of tools which allows you to perform SSH connections in parallel across a number of machines.

Searching the Debian package repository shows several similar solutions:

me@home:~$ apt-cache search cluster ssh
clusterssh - administer multiple ssh or rsh shells simultaneously
dish - the diligence/distributed shell for parallel sysadmin
dsh - dancer's shell, or distributed shell
kanif - cluster management and administration swiss army knife
libtaktuk2 - C bindings for taktuk
libtaktuk2-dev - C bindings for taktuk (development files)
pssh - Parallel versions of SSH-based tools
taktuk - efficient, large scale, parallel remote execution of commands

Of the tools I've only used pssh, so I'm unable to compare and contrast the alternatives. Still if you're in the position where you've got SSH access secured via private keys and wish to run multiple commands remotely, or copy files, then it may be ideal for you.

Once installed the pssh package installs a number of new commands:

This command allows you to copy files from multipl remote hosts to the local system. We'll demonstrate the usage shortly.
This command allows you to run commands upon a number of systems in parallel. We'll also demonstrate this command shortly.
This command likes you kill processes on multiple remote systems.
This is the opposite of parallel-slirp and allows you to copy a file, or files, to multiple remote systems.

General Usage

Each of the new commands installed by the pssh package will expect to read a list of hostnames from a text file. This makes automated usage a little bit more straightforward, and simplifies the command-line parsing.

Running Commands On Multiple Hosts

The most basic usage is to simply run a command upon each host, and not report upon the output. For example given the file hosts.txt containing a number of hostnames we can run:

me@home:~$ parallel-ssh  -h hosts.txt uptime
[1] 18:29:35 [SUCCESS] 22
[2] 18:29:35 [SUCCESS] 22

This command didn't show us the output of the "uptime" command as we'd expect. To do that you need to add the "-i" (inline) flag:

me@home:~$ parallel-ssh -i -h hosts.txt uptime
[1] 18:30:29 [SUCCESS] 22
 18:30:29 up 36 days,  5:21,  5 users,  load average: 0.39, 0.24, 0.23
[2] 18:30:29 [SUCCESS] 22
 18:30:29 up 36 days,  4:45,  1 user,  load average: 0.04, 0.02, 0.00

For most simple commands this will be fine, but for times when you wish to actually collect the output that is possible. Simply specify an output path with "-o path" - when you do this the output for each system will be written to a file:

me@home:~$ parallel-ssh -o uptime.out -h hosts.txt uptime
[1] 18:32:30 [SUCCESS] 22
[2] 18:32:30 [SUCCESS] 22
me@home:~$ ls uptime.output/
me@home:~$ cat uptime.out/
 18:32:30 up 36 days,  4:47,  1 user,  load average: 0.00, 0.01, 0.00

There are more options you can specify, such as the username to connect as, and the port number to use. To see these options just run parallel-ssh with no arguments.

Copying Files From Multiple Hosts

Copying files works it much the same was as the execution of commands we've just demonstrated. The only caveat is that you really do need to specify a local directory - so that the file copied from the remote host isn't repeatedly overwritten.

So, to copy the file /etc/motd from each host in our hosts.txt file to the local system we'd run this:

me@home:~$ parallel-slurp -h hosts.txt  -L local.dir /etc/motd  motd
[1] 18:39:39 [SUCCESS] 22
[2] 18:39:39 [SUCCESS] 22

This will give us the file /etc/motd copied to the local system with the name motd inside the directory local.dir:

me@home:~$ tree local.dir/
|   `-- motd
    `-- motd

2 directories, 2 files

As you can see there has been one level of subdirectory created for each hostname we copied from.

There are also several more options that might be useful to explore with this tool, including the -r (recursive) option which should be familiar to you from the scp command itself.

Note that parallel-slurp only copies from (multiple) systems. To copy files to to (multiple) systems you'll want to use the parallel-scp tool.

In conclusion this tool is worth exploring if you manage multiple systems and already have SSH key-based authentication setup.

Re: Automating ssh and scp across multiple hosts (alternative solution)

Posted by Anonymous (213.145.xx.xx) on Thu 5 Feb 2009 at 09:35

Please take a look at:

My team and I use this to administer more than 350 Linux servers. I may say that mpssh just works. Never had a problem with it.

I just tested pssh with:
parallel-ssh -p 200 --print -h ./serverlist.txt -l root date

It shown several (5-6 errors for 229 hosts) random errors like: [184] 11:19:14 [FAILURE] [Errno 10] No child processes

The same "date" command executed with mpssh returned the current date of each server, no errors. I tested this 3 times, same results.

Just my 2 cents.

[May 02, 2013] How to copy file w- same name from multiple hosts into one

This is probably the most primitive solution that is reinvented multiple times each year on multiple forums.
Q: How to copy file w/ same name from multiple hosts into one
This is my first time posting. Please help to correct if I do something incorrectly. Here is the problem I'm facing.

I normally run a ssh script to login into hundred of hosts and grep for log files on there. All the grep output are stored on the remote host, under ~, with the same name. Now, I do not want those files to remain on there as it can cause impact if disk space runs out. I want to copy them all into my machine and I don't know a good way to do it.

After my script to grep for log, this is what I have:

Remote host 1: ~/file1
Remote host 2: ~/file1
Remote host n: ~/file1

How can I copy all those file1 into my machine under either a huge file1.master that have all file1 appended to it or file1.host1....file1.hostn under my machine?

Please let me know if anything is unclear or please point me to a thread that covered this already (I searched but couldn't find one). Thanks.


Hi and welcome to LQ!

Having files with the same name, especially when working with multiple machines, isn't to practical. I would suggest you include the hostnames to those files when creating them. You don't mention the code you use to grep specific log content, but have a look at this:


grep "string" file(s) > log.out.$(hostname)
The $(hostname) part expands to the hostname of that specific machine. You end up with unique files (log.out.hn1, log.out.hn2, log.out.hnn).

To get the files from the hosts I would do something like this:
- create a file that holds all the hosts that need to be accessed, one host per line,
- use a loop and scp to fetch the file


$ cat hosts

$ cat

while read HOST
#  scp "$HOST":~/file1.$HOST .
  scp "$HOST":~/file1 file1.$HOST
done < <(cat hosts)
The commented-out line is for the situation I described above.
The second scp line is for your current situation, as you can see it locally appends the hostname to the fetched file.

[May 02, 2013] Perl Slurp Ease

Here is a Perl idiom that allows the $text variable to be declared, and there is no need for a tightly nested block. The do block will execute <FH> in a scalar context and slurp in the file named by $text:

   local( *FH ) ;
   open( FH, $file ) or die "sudden flaming death\n"
   my $text = do { local( $/ ) ; <FH> } ;

... ... ...

Spewing a file is a much simpler operation than slurping. You don't have context issues to worry about and there is no efficiency problem with returning a buffer. Here is a simple burp subroutine:

        sub burp {
                my( $file_name ) = shift ;
                open( my $fh, ">$file_name" ) || 
                                 die "can't create $file_name $!" ;
                print $fh @_ ;

Note that it doesn't copy the input text but passes @_ directly to print. We will look at faster variations of that later on.

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