Documentation

Inventory

Ansible works against multiple systems in your infrastructure at the same time. It does this by selecting portions of systems listed in Ansible’s inventory file, which defaults to being saved in the location /etc/ansible/hosts. You can specify a different inventory file using the -i <path> option on the command line.

Not only is this inventory configurable, but you can also use multiple inventory files at the same time (explained below) and also pull inventory from dynamic or cloud sources, as described in Dynamic Inventory.

Hosts and Groups

The format for /etc/ansible/hosts is an INI-like format and looks like this:

mail.example.com

[webservers]
foo.example.com
bar.example.com

[dbservers]
one.example.com
two.example.com
three.example.com

The headings in brackets are group names, which are used in classifying systems and deciding what systems you are controlling at what times and for what purpose.

It is ok to put systems in more than one group, for instance a server could be both a webserver and a dbserver. If you do, note that variables will come from all of the groups they are a member of. Variable precedence is detailed in a later chapter.

If you have hosts that run on non-standard SSH ports you can put the port number after the hostname with a colon. Ports listed in your SSH config file won’t be used with the paramiko connection but will be used with the openssh connection.

To make things explicit, it is suggested that you set them if things are not running on the default port:

badwolf.example.com:5309

Suppose you have just static IPs and want to set up some aliases that live in your host file, or you are connecting through tunnels. You can also describe hosts like this:

jumper ansible_port=5555 ansible_host=192.0.2.50

In the above example, trying to ansible against the host alias “jumper” (which may not even be a real hostname) will contact 192.0.2.50 on port 5555. Note that this is using a feature of the inventory file to define some special variables. Generally speaking this is not the best way to define variables that describe your system policy, but we’ll share suggestions on doing this later. We’re just getting started.

Adding a lot of hosts? If you have a lot of hosts following similar patterns you can do this rather than listing each hostname:

[webservers]
www[01:50].example.com

For numeric patterns, leading zeros can be included or removed, as desired. Ranges are inclusive. You can also define alphabetic ranges:

[databases]
db-[a:f].example.com

Note

Ansible 2.0 has deprecated the “ssh” from ansible_ssh_user, ansible_ssh_host, and ansible_ssh_port to become ansible_user, ansible_host, and ansible_port. If you are using a version of Ansible prior to 2.0, you should continue using the older style variables (ansible_ssh_*). These shorter variables are ignored, without warning, in older versions of Ansible.

You can also select the connection type and user on a per host basis:

[targets]

localhost              ansible_connection=local
other1.example.com     ansible_connection=ssh        ansible_user=mpdehaan
other2.example.com     ansible_connection=ssh        ansible_user=mdehaan

As mentioned above, setting these in the inventory file is only a shorthand, and we’ll discuss how to store them in individual files in the ‘host_vars’ directory a bit later on.

Host Variables

As alluded to above, it is easy to assign variables to hosts that will be used later in playbooks:

[atlanta]
host1 http_port=80 maxRequestsPerChild=808
host2 http_port=303 maxRequestsPerChild=909

Group Variables

Variables can also be applied to an entire group at once:

[atlanta]
host1
host2

[atlanta:vars]
ntp_server=ntp.atlanta.example.com
proxy=proxy.atlanta.example.com

Groups of Groups, and Group Variables

It is also possible to make groups of groups using the :children suffix. Just like above, you can apply variables using :vars:

[atlanta]
host1
host2

[raleigh]
host2
host3

[southeast:children]
atlanta
raleigh

[southeast:vars]
some_server=foo.southeast.example.com
halon_system_timeout=30
self_destruct_countdown=60
escape_pods=2

[usa:children]
southeast
northeast
southwest
northwest

If you need to store lists or hash data, or prefer to keep host and group specific variables separate from the inventory file, see the next section.

Splitting Out Host and Group Specific Data

The preferred practice in Ansible is actually not to store variables in the main inventory file.

In addition to storing variables directly in the INI file, host and group variables can be stored in individual files relative to the inventory file.

These variable files are in YAML format. Valid file extensions include ‘.yml’, ‘.yaml’, ‘.json’, or no file extension. See YAML Syntax if you are new to YAML.

Assuming the inventory file path is:

/etc/ansible/hosts

If the host is named ‘foosball’, and in groups ‘raleigh’ and ‘webservers’, variables in YAML files at the following locations will be made available to the host:

/etc/ansible/group_vars/raleigh # can optionally end in '.yml', '.yaml', or '.json'
/etc/ansible/group_vars/webservers
/etc/ansible/host_vars/foosball

For instance, suppose you have hosts grouped by datacenter, and each datacenter uses some different servers. The data in the groupfile ‘/etc/ansible/group_vars/raleigh’ for the ‘raleigh’ group might look like:

---
ntp_server: acme.example.org
database_server: storage.example.org

It is ok if these files do not exist, as this is an optional feature.

As an advanced use-case, you can create directories named after your groups or hosts, and Ansible will read all the files in these directories. An example with the ‘raleigh’ group:

/etc/ansible/group_vars/raleigh/db_settings
/etc/ansible/group_vars/raleigh/cluster_settings

All hosts that are in the ‘raleigh’ group will have the variables defined in these files available to them. This can be very useful to keep your variables organized when a single file starts to be too big, or when you want to use Ansible Vault on a part of a group’s variables. Note that this only works on Ansible 1.4 or later.

Tip: In Ansible 1.2 or later the group_vars/ and host_vars/ directories can exist in the playbook directory OR the inventory directory. If both paths exist, variables in the playbook directory will override variables set in the inventory directory.

Tip: Keeping your inventory file and variables in a git repo (or other version control) is an excellent way to track changes to your inventory and host variables.

List of Behavioral Inventory Parameters

As alluded to above, setting the following variables controls how ansible interacts with remote hosts.

Host connection:

ansible_connection
Connection type to the host. This can be the name of any of ansible’s connection plugins. SSH protocol types are smart, ssh or paramiko. The default is smart. Non-SSH based types are described in the next section.

Note

Ansible 2.0 has deprecated the “ssh” from ansible_ssh_user, ansible_ssh_host, and ansible_ssh_port to become ansible_user, ansible_host, and ansible_port. If you are using a version of Ansible prior to 2.0, you should continue using the older style variables (ansible_ssh_*). These shorter variables are ignored, without warning, in older versions of Ansible.

SSH connection:

ansible_host
The name of the host to connect to, if different from the alias you wish to give to it.
ansible_port
The ssh port number, if not 22
ansible_user
The default ssh user name to use.
ansible_ssh_pass
The ssh password to use (never store this variable in plain text; always use a vault. See Variables and Vaults)
ansible_ssh_private_key_file
Private key file used by ssh. Useful if using multiple keys and you don’t want to use SSH agent.
ansible_ssh_common_args
This setting is always appended to the default command line for sftp, scp, and ssh. Useful to configure a ProxyCommand for a certain host (or group).
ansible_sftp_extra_args
This setting is always appended to the default sftp command line.
ansible_scp_extra_args
This setting is always appended to the default scp command line.
ansible_ssh_extra_args
This setting is always appended to the default ssh command line.
ansible_ssh_pipelining
Determines whether or not to use SSH pipelining. This can override the pipelining setting in ansible.cfg.

New in version 2.2.

ansible_ssh_executable
This setting overrides the default behavior to use the system ssh. This can override the ssh_executable setting in ansible.cfg.

Privilege escalation (see Ansible Privilege Escalation for further details):

ansible_become
Equivalent to ansible_sudo or ansible_su, allows to force privilege escalation
ansible_become_method
Allows to set privilege escalation method
ansible_become_user
Equivalent to ansible_sudo_user or ansible_su_user, allows to set the user you become through privilege escalation
ansible_become_pass
Equivalent to ansible_sudo_pass or ansible_su_pass, allows you to set the privilege escalation password (never store this variable in plain text; always use a vault. See Variables and Vaults)

Remote host environment parameters:

ansible_shell_type
The shell type of the target system. You should not use this setting unless you have set the ansible_shell_executable to a non-Bourne (sh) compatible shell. By default commands are formatted using sh-style syntax. Setting this to csh or fish will cause commands executed on target systems to follow those shell’s syntax instead.
ansible_python_interpreter
The target host python path. This is useful for systems with more than one Python or not located at /usr/bin/python such as *BSD, or where /usr/bin/python is not a 2.X series Python. We do not use the /usr/bin/env mechanism as that requires the remote user’s path to be set right and also assumes the python executable is named python, where the executable might be named something like python2.6.
ansible_*_interpreter
Works for anything such as ruby or perl and works just like ansible_python_interpreter. This replaces shebang of modules which will run on that host.

New in version 2.1.

ansible_shell_executable
This sets the shell the ansible controller will use on the target machine, overrides executable in ansible.cfg which defaults to /bin/sh. You should really only change it if is not possible to use /bin/sh (i.e. /bin/sh is not installed on the target machine or cannot be run from sudo.).

Examples from a host file:

some_host         ansible_port=2222     ansible_user=manager
aws_host          ansible_ssh_private_key_file=/home/example/.ssh/aws.pem
freebsd_host      ansible_python_interpreter=/usr/local/bin/python
ruby_module_host  ansible_ruby_interpreter=/usr/bin/ruby.1.9.3

Non-SSH connection types

As stated in the previous section, Ansible executes playbooks over SSH but it is not limited to this connection type. With the host specific parameter ansible_connection=<connector>, the connection type can be changed. The following non-SSH based connectors are available:

local

This connector can be used to deploy the playbook to the control machine itself.

docker

This connector deploys the playbook directly into Docker containers using the local Docker client. The following parameters are processed by this connector:

ansible_host
The name of the Docker container to connect to.
ansible_user
The user name to operate within the container. The user must exist inside the container.
ansible_become
If set to true the become_user will be used to operate within the container.
ansible_docker_extra_args
Could be a string with any additional arguments understood by Docker, which are not command specific. This parameter is mainly used to configure a remote Docker daemon to use.

Here is an example of how to instantly deploy to created containers:

- name: create jenkins container
  docker:
    name: my_jenkins
    image: jenkins

- name: add container to inventory
  add_host:
    name: my_jenkins
    ansible_connection: docker
    ansible_docker_extra_args: "--tlsverify --tlscacert=/path/to/ca.pem --tlscert=/path/to/client-cert.pem --tlskey=/path/to/client-key.pem -H=tcp://myserver.net:4243"
    ansible_user: jenkins
  changed_when: false

- name: create directory for ssh keys
  delegate_to: my_jenkins
  file:
    path: "/var/jenkins_home/.ssh/jupiter"
    state: directory

See also

Dynamic Inventory
Pulling inventory from dynamic sources, such as cloud providers
Introduction To Ad-Hoc Commands
Examples of basic commands
Playbooks
Learning Ansible’s configuration, deployment, and orchestration language.
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