Jinja Templating

Revised in 0.9.0

Jinja template rendering is supported in container.yml. If you’re unfamiliar with Jinja and template rendering in general, please visit the Jinja Documentation Site.

How it works

Your container.yml may contain Jinja variables and expressions indicated using the default delimiters as follows:

  • {% ... %} for control statements
  • {{ ... }} for expressions
  • {# ... #} for comments

Here’s an example container.yml containing Jinja expressions:

version: "1"
    image: '{{ web_image }}'
    ports: '{{ web_ports }}'
    command: ['sleep', '10']
        - DEBUG='{{ debug }}'
registries: {}

Place expressions inside of quotes, as above.

Variable definitions are needed for Jinja to resolve expressions. In the above example, definitions are required for web_image, web_reports, and debug.


Resolving Jinja expressions to render the final container.yml is done inside the conductor container.

There are three ways to provide variable values:

  • Role defaults
  • Passing a YAML or JSON file with the --vars-file option
  • Environment variables
  • Top-level defaults section in container.yml

See Passing environment variables , Top-level defaults, Passing variable files, and Variable precedence for a deeper discussion of variables. For the purpose of understanding how template rendering works, we’ll consider a file.

Use the --vars-file option to provide the path of a file containing variable definitions, where the file format can be YAML or JSON. For example, the following passes a YAML file, devel.yaml, to the build command:

$ ansible-container --vars-file devel.yaml build

Suppose devel.yaml contains the following variable definitions:

debug: 1
  - 8000:8000
web_image: "python:2.7"

Variables can be defined as simple string, integer, or float types, or they can be complex data structures.

Before the build command can be executed, Jinja is called to perform template rendering. Ansible Container reads the contents of the variable file, devel.yaml and passes it to Jinja along with a copy of container.yml. Jinja performs the transformation, returning a copy of container.yml with all of the expressions replaced by actual values.

The following is the transformed container.yml:

version: "2"
    from: "python:2.7"
      - 8000:8000
    command: ['sleep', '10']
          - DEBUG=1
registries: {}

Passing variable files

Pass the path to a file containing variable definitions using the --vars-file option. The file path must be one of the following:

  • Absolute file path
  • Relative to the project path
  • Relative to the ansible folder

When --vars-file is passed, Ansible Container checks if the path is an absolute path to a file. If not, it checks for the file relative to the project path, which is the current working directory or a path specified using the --project option. If the file is still not found, it looks for the file relative to the ansible folder within the project path.

Variable files can also be specified using the vars_files directive under settings in container.yml. For example:

version: '2'
    base: 'centos:7'
  - vars.yml
  - /data/more_vars.yml


The filename extension determines how the file is parsed. If the name ends with .yaml or .yml, contents are parsed as YAML, otherwise contents are parsed as JSON.

Passing environment variables

Variable definitions can also be provided as environment variables. Create AC_* variables in the Ansible Container environment that correspond to Jinja expressions in container.yml. For example, to provide a value for the Jina expression {{ web_image }}, define AC_WEB_IMAGE in the environment:

$ export AC_WEB_IMAGE=centos:7

Ansible Container will detect the environment variable, remove AC_ from the name, convert the remainder to lowercase, and send the result to Jinja. Thus, AC_WEB_IMAGE becomes web_image, and gets transposed in container.yml to centos:7.

Top-level defaults

Use the top-level defaults section to define default values, as demonstrated in the following example:

version: '2'
  web_image: centos:7
    - 8000:80
  debug: 0
    from: {{ web_image }}
    - role: apache
    ports: {{ web_ports }}
    command: ['sleep', '10']
        - DEBUG={{ debug }}
registries: {}

Variable precedence

Prior to resolving variables at the service level, a global set of variables is formed using environment variables, top-level defaults, and any variable files. The order of precedence here is given first to environment variables, then variable files, and finally to top-level defaults. In other words, top-level defaults receive the lowest precedence, and environment variables receive the highest.

At the service level, role variables and role metadata come into play. Precedence is given first to values defined for the service in container.yml, then to the role’s metadata found in meta/container.yml, then to role defaults in defaults/meta.yml, and finally to global variables.