Merge of Puppet Logo [Puppet_Logo.svg, Public domain] and MathWorks, Inc. [Matlab_Logo.svg, CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Merge of Puppet Logo [Puppet_Logo.svg, Public domain] and MathWorks, Inc. [Matlab_Logo.svg, CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re coming from a scientific environment you’ve almost certainly heard of Matlab, haven’t you? This brutally large software blob that can do basically all the math magic for people with minimal programming skills ;-)

However, in a scientic environment you may need to deploy that software to a large number Windows PCs. And lazy admins being lazy… We have tools for that! For example Puppet.


Here I assume that you have a network license server somewhere in your local infrastructure. And I further assume that you already know how to install Matlab manually by answering all the questions in the installer GUI - so that you’ll end up with a working Matlab installation.

0. What we need

To deploy Matlab we need to have a few things ready:

  • the Matlab binaries. They typically come in form of two DVD images in ISO format.
  • a license key, which typically looks like a large number of integers seperated by dashes 12345-67890-12343-....
  • a license file, that contains information on the license server etc
  • a puppet manifest - I’ll assume it’s called MODULE/manifests/matlab.pp
  • a directory that is shared through Puppet - I will assume it’s the /share/ directory. Configure that for example in /etc/puppetlabs/puppet/fileserver.conf using:
    path /share/
    allow *

1. Unpack the Matlab files

We need to extract the Matlab binaries from both ISO images. There are many ways to access the files, eg.

  • open the files with a archive manager
xarchiver /path/to/matlab.iso
  • mount them using loop devices
mount -o loop /path/to/matlab.iso /mnt
  • or “uncompress” them using 7zip
7z x /path/to/matlab.iso

Whatever you’re using, you need to merge all the files of both images into a single directory, including the two hidden files .dvd1 and .dvd2! The target directory should be shared through Puppet. So move all files to /share/matlab/. If there is now a file called /share/matlab/.dvd1 and another file /share/matlab/.dvd2 on your system chances are good that you’re all set up :)

Afterwards, also put the license file into that directory (it’s typically called license.dat, save it as /share/matlab/license.dat).

2. Prepare an input file for the installer

Ever installed Matlab? It will ask a lot of questions.. But we can avoid those, by giving the answers in a file called installer_input.txt! You will find a skeleton in /share/matlab/installer_input.txt. Just copy that file to your module’s template directory and postfix it with .erb -> this will make it a template for our module. Go through that MODULE/templates/installer_input.txt.erb file and replace static settings with static strings, and variable settings with ERB syntax. You should have at least the following lines in that file:

destinationFolder=<%= @matlab_destination %>

fileInstallationKey=<%= @matlab_licensekey %>



## SPECIFY PATH TO LICENSE FILE (Required for network license types only)
licensePath=<%= @matlab_licensepath %>

We’ll fill the variables in the module’s manifest.

3. Prepare the installation

Go ahead and open MODULE/manifests/matlab.pp in your preferred editor.

First, we need to define a few variables (a) for the installer_input.txt.erb template and (b) for the rest of the manifest:

$matlabid = "2018b"
$matlab_installpath = "C:\\tmp\\install\\matlab${matlabid}"
$matlab_installer = "${matlab_installpath}\\setup.exe"
$matlab_licensepath = "${matlab_installpath}\\license.dat"
$matlab_licensekey = "12345-67890-12343-...."
$matlab_input = "C:\\tmp\\install\\matlab-installer_input.txt"
$matlab_destination = "C:\\Program Files\\MATLAB\\R${matlabid}"

I guess that is all self-explanatory? Here, we’re installing a Matlab version 2018b. We’ll download the shared Matlab files to C:\\tmp\\install\\matlab2018b. And we’ll expect the installed Matlab tool in C:\\Program Files\\MATLAB\\R${matlabid}

So let’s go and copy all the files from Puppet’s share:

file { "install files for matlab":
    ensure => present,
    path => $matlab_installpath,
    source => "puppet:///share/matlab",
    recurse      => true,
    notify => Package["MATLAB R${matlabid}"],
    require => File["C:\\tmp\\install"],

So we’re downloading puppet:///share/matlab to $matlab_installpath (=C:\\tmp\\install\\matlab${matlabid}). This requires the directory C:\\tmp\\install to be created beforehand. So make sure you created it, eg using:

file { "C:\\tmp":
    ensure => directory,
file { "C:\\tmp\\install":
    ensure => directory,
    require => File["c:\\tmp"]

Next we’ll create the installer input file based on our template:

file { $matlab_input:
    content => template('MODULE/installer_input.txt.erb'),
    ensure => present,
    require => File["install files for matlab"],
    notify => Package["MATLAB R${matlabid}"],

This will basically read our installer_input.txt.erb, replace the variables with our settings above, and write it to $matlab_input (=C:\\tmp\\install\\matlab-installer_input.txt).

That’s it. We’re now ready to tell Puppet how to install Matlab!

4. Launch the installer

The installation instructions can be encoded by a final package block in the manifest:

package { "MATLAB R${matlabid}":
    ensure => installed,
    source => "$matlab_installer",
    require => [
        File["install files for matlab"]
    install_options => ['-inputFile', $matlab_input],

Thus, if MATLAB R${matlabid} is not yet installed on the client machine, Puppet will run

$matlab_installer -inputFile $matlab_input

which will expand with our variable-setup above to

C:\tmp\install\matlab2018b\setup.exe -inputFile C:\tmp\install\matlab-installer_input.txt

All right, that’s it. Just assign this module to your clients and they will start installing Matlab automagically :)

Martin Scharm

stuff. just for the records.

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