Chocolatey Agent Service (Business Editions Only)

Empower your users and give your IT folks the precious gift of time to invest into taking your organization to the next level!

The Chocolatey Agent service allows you to go further with your software management, bringing Chocolatey to desktop users in organizations that have controlled environments. This provides users in controlled environments more empowerment and instant turn around on required software. This frees up IT folks and admins time to spend on making the organization even better.

Usage

The Chocolatey agent enables two simultaneous modes of operation, one as an agent for a central console and the other as a background service for use in controlled environments. You can configure one or both modes.

Requirements

For use with Chocolatey GUI, you must be on Chocolatey v0.10.7+, Chocolatey Licensed Extension v1.11.0+, and Chocolatey Agent v0.7.0+.

Setup

To install the Chocolatey agent service, you need to install the chocolatey-agent package. The Chocolatey Agent is only available for business edition customers to install from the licensed source (customers trialling the business edition will also be provided instructions on how to install).

Background Mode Setup

To set Chocolatey in background mode, you need to run the following:

Note: This will install Chocolatey Agent as LocalSystem (SYSTEM). To change the user, edit the username/password in the services management console on Chocolatey Agent properties and restart the service. Currently you will need to do this on upgrade as well.

Chocolatey Background Service / Self-Service Installer

When an administrator installs the agent, they can configure Chocolatey to use background mode so that non-administrators can still perform installations of approved software as configured by an administrator.

Why this is desirable:

This makes for happy users and happy admins as they are able to move quicker towards a better organization.

Self-Service Roadmap:

Chocolatey Central Console

NOTE: The console is estimated to be available Q2 2017. All notes here are what we expect, but the standard disclaimer of availability and features apply.

Chocolatey will have a central core console that will allow you to manage your environments. You will need the Chocolatey Agent installed on all machines you wish to manage centrally.

Chocolatey Central Console Roadmap

The console will allow:

* - When deployed through Chocolatey.

See It In Action

Here's a short 8 minute walkthrough (preview):

Chocolatey's Self-Service Install - Background Mode (Preview)

Consider the following image:

Attempting to install software as non-admin - if you are on https://chocolatey.org/docs/features-agent-service, see commented html below for detailed description of image

This is the status quo for a non-administrative user. Can't install software without the help of an administrator. That takes up time, time for both the user waiting to get work done and the IT admin that performs the work.

Now, how does that change once we have background mode?

Installing software with Chocolatey's background mode from the command line. - if you are on https://chocolatey.org/docs/features-agent-service, see commented html below for detailed description of image

Once you've configured background mode and configured approved sources for installation, a user can install only those approved applications using the command line or the Chocolatey GUI (coming soon).

Now, if a user wants to install from a non-approved source, they are met with the following message:
Not able to install from custom source

This ensures non-admin users can only install from sources that you configure.

FAQ

How do I take advantage of Chocolatey Agent?

You must have a Business edition of Chocolatey. Business editions are great for organizations that need to manage the total software lifecycle.

I'm a licensed customer, now what?

Once you have the agent service installed and Chocolatey for Business configured for background mode (see Setup above), most tools that use Chocolatey will automatically use the background service.

I have Puppet or some other configuration management tool (RMM tool, infrastructure automation tool, etc.) that also runs Chocolatey. Can I configure it to skip background mode?

Yes! Add --run-actual to your install options. Most likely your tool won't need to be reconfigured though as it will just work with background mode. You will need Chocolatey v0.10.3+ installed across your environment so Chocolatey handles the unknown arguments appropriately.

Another way to handle this as of Chocolatey Extension v1.12.0, turn on the useBackgroundServiceWithNonAdministratorsOnly feature to make self-service apply only to non-administrators. See Background Mode Setup for details.

I'm getting the following: "There are no sources enabled for packages and none were passed as arguments."

This means you need to opt a source into self-service (new in Chocolatey Extension v1.10).

This just involves ensuring a source is set so that it allows self-service. To do this you run choco source add -n name -s location <--other details need repeated> --allow-self-service. Editing a source happens when the name is the same in choco source add.

To change this behavior back to the way it was previously, simply run choco disable -n useBackgroundServiceWithSelfServiceSourcesOnly. For feature options, run choco feature list or see Self-Service Feature Configuration

How does it work?

As a background service, it is able to call Chocolatey with an administrative account that is configured by you. It is secure communication that only starts once Chocolatey is configured to work with the background service.

What's the minimum Chocolatey licensed extension version that I need to install the agent?

You need chocolatey.extension version 1.8.4+.

How is it secure?

For background mode / self-service installer:

For the central console:

Do you have an example of a message that goes across the agent service named pipe, from the client?

The message is a serialized object that contains:

Here is the interface:

void run_choco_command(string passcode, IEnumerable<string> arguments, string userName, int timeout, string workingDirectory);

Keep in mind this message is only put on localhost. It does not go over any networks.

What is the purpose of the hash that is used to protect the named pipe?

You may notice the hash changes every time based on what command is called. This is a security measure to ensure the call is coming from a configured Chocolatey client and not from another source. The agent will ignore anything that does not match up.

Does the agent service or Chocolatey stop installation from unconfigured sources?

The agent stops unconfigured sources from installation. Right now it simply logs those abuses to the log file (that is locked down to admins for modify). The log file can be slurped into a tool like Splunk. Alternatively considering this is preview and we are waiting for feedback, we can look to providing those alerts in a different way, like the event log. We welcome any feedback on how you might like to see this.

Chocolatey doesn't stop unconfigured sources for install, it lets the agent do so. Once Chocolatey is in background mode, all commands for install/upgrade go through the agent service.

The one exception is when someone calls --run-actual in their arguments. But there is no escalation of privilege here because they would be running that under their own user context and thus only have the permissions granted to them already.

I'm having trouble seeing packages on a file share source

The Chocolatey Agent service installs as LocalSystem by default, which may not have access to UNC shares. We recommend changing the service to a named account that is a local admin that would also have network access. You can do that in the Service Manager properties for the service itself (future state through package parameters). Please note you would need to make this change on each upgrade of the Agent until it is supported in the packaging itself.

So if you've set up a source like choco source add -n="'name'" -s="'\\unc\packages'" --priority=1, by default this won't work with the Chocolatey Agent. You would need to grant access to machines or anonymous access to the share (Everyone Read is likely not enough).

A great read on your options can be found at the following Stack Exchange links:

A way to do this with LocalSystem (the default):

  1. Create a global group on the Domain
    • add all machines to this group
  2. Add this group to the share permissions with "Read" Access
  3. Add this group to the NTFS permissions with "Read" Access

Note: You'll need to add this group itself and not nest it inside of another one.