I am the admin of several different servers and currently there is a different sudoers file on each one. This is getting slightly out of hand as quite often I need to give someone permissions to do something with sudo but it only gets done on one server. Is there an easy way of editing the sudoers file just on my central server and then distributing it by SFTP or something like that to the other servers in an easy way?

Mostly wondering how other sysadmins solve this problem, since the sudoers file doesn't seem to be remotely accessible with NIS, for example.

Operating system is SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 64-bit, but it shouldn't matter.

EDIT: Every machine will, for now, have the same sudoers file.

EDIT2: The accepted answer's comment was the closest to what I actually went ahead and did. I am right now using an SVN-supported puppet-installation and after a few headaches, it's working very well.

5 Answers 5


The absolute last thing I would want to do, is create a separate sudoers file, like Dave suggests. If you have a lot of machines, and only subtle differences apply (as is often the case), you really do not want this. It will generate a lot of overhead.

What you really want to do, is create one sudoers file. In that sudoers file, you can then define Host_Aliases for groups of systems for which you want a certain policy to apply. You can also make User_Aliases and whatnot. Done right, this gives you a huge benefit by having one file to edit, so it is easy to see what applies where and you don't have to worry about different versions of the sudoers file being deployed on different machines by accident.

New versions of sudo even support the sudoers.d directory in /etc, which might be of help too, but I haven't tried that yet.

  • Assume that, for now, I want the exact same policy for every machine. Dec 3, 2009 at 15:12
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    Then the first suggestion to use Puppet is the way to go. This looks like a good getting started guide: lindstromconsulting.com/node/2 Puppet is incredibly useful, and completely worth the time it takes to figure out and setup.
    – mfarver
    Dec 3, 2009 at 20:46
  • I used this solution with puppet in conjunction with SVN and it works very well so far. Dec 7, 2009 at 16:09
  • @mfarver Damn. The guide you linked to has disappeared. Dec 23, 2011 at 16:22
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    This accepted answer doesn't address the question of how to centrally edit and distribute the file. Please include the full solution in the answer.
    – jla
    May 2, 2014 at 22:46

Step 1. Setup an ldap server and configure all your machines to authenticate users and groups via ldap

Step 2. Create a master sudoers group in ldap, say yourcompany-sudoers. Give that group permission to sudo (with password) in the /etc/sudoers file on each machine.

Step 3. Create a sudoers-machinename group in ldap, add that group to /etc/sudoers on the corresponding machine.

With those three steps you don't need to edit the /etc/sudoers file after the machine is installed and you get a number of other benefits as well

For extra effect

Step 4. Setup puppet, cfengine, chef or similar, and deploy a templated sudoers file to each machine automatically.

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    I like the puppet part, but as far as the multiple sudoers files stuff is concerned: I'd really stay away from that as far as possible, as it will turn in to a maintenance nightmare real fast. I would suggest creating one sudoers file with different options for different machines with the Host_Alias directive, as I suggested below.
    – wzzrd
    Dec 3, 2009 at 14:51
  • This is a very good idea, unfortunately I don't want people to be able to sudo just anything at all, only very specific commands. Also, assume that every machine will have the same sudoers and the same commands allowed. Dec 3, 2009 at 15:14
  • it's a complete overkill to sudo-ldap... for god's sake, sudo can work directly from ldap
    – asdmin
    Dec 3, 2009 at 15:24
  • I didn't do this solution since it would require me to install a new sudo, compiled with ldap-support, for each machine. Dec 8, 2009 at 8:38
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    Most UNIX's that have pam support can support ldap as an authentication source, so you just need to compile with pam support Dec 9, 2009 at 10:38

/etc/sudoers can also be replaced with calls to a centralized LDAP server directly. All of the permissions and settings you would usually set on the local machine get set in LDAP.


  • This is looking like my favorite answer so far, I will be trying this out with one machine to see if it works well. Dec 3, 2009 at 15:27

Alternatively, you could look into using version control (say git or mercurial) for some of your configuration files in /etc, put the sudoers file under said VCS, then have each machine pull its copy of the common configuration files from the repository.

  • It's a good idea, but unfortunately a time gap is usually unacceptable for the change, it needs to be done as soon as I say the change has been made. I assume you meant to have a cron job running update from the VCS. This also adds some extra problems since the VCS is outside my "realm" of administration and I don't want anyone with access to the repository being able to change this file. Dec 3, 2009 at 15:11
  • I believe you could set up check-in event hooks such that the central repo would push changes to other machines, but that would start getting cumbersome as it needed to scale. With a DVCS like Mercurial, I would assume you would have your own repo set up for your administrative work separate from whatever is maintained for development. That way you could host it and lock it down as needed for administrative purposes. The versioning is really just an added bonus.
    – Ophidian
    Dec 3, 2009 at 15:31
  • Maybe I will look into this if LDAP-sudo does not pan out. Dec 3, 2009 at 15:44

you might want to consider likewise solution which is easy to implement and install (openlikewise is free of charge), for specific information on a sudoers policy look at this:


  • The feature you're referring to, deploying a sudoers file via Group Policy, is only available in the commercial Likewise Enterprise product, not in Likewise Open. However, Likewise Open allows you to use AD Security Groups in /etc/sudoers, which goes a long way in the direction the poster wanted. Dec 23, 2011 at 16:21

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