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Ansible Cheat Sheet – A DevOps Quick Start Guide

Last updated on May 22,2019 21.3K Views

Are you an aspiring DevOps Engineer looking forward to learn all the DevOps tools? Well, if you are, then you should consider mastering DevOps by learning all the top tools. One such tool which must be on your list is Ansible. Ansible is an open source IT Configuration Management, Deployment & Orchestration tool which aims to provide large productivity gains to a wide variety of automation challenges. The Ansible Cheat Sheet is designed to get you started with Ansible and make you understand all the basic concepts of it.

Ansible Cheat Sheet

Ansible is an open source Continuous Deployment, Configuration Management, & Orchestration. This tool aims to provide large productivity gains to a wide variety of automation challenges and is powerful enough to automate complex multi-tier IT application environments.

Ansible Logo - Ansible Cheat Sheet - Edureka

SSH Key Generation

Ansible uses SSH to communicate between the nodes.

To set up an SSH connection, follow the steps mentioned below:

  • Setting Up SSH Command
  • Generating SSH Key
  • Copy the SSH Key on the Hosts
  • Check the SSH Connection
#Setting Up SSH Command
$ sudo apt-get install openssh-server

#Generating SSH Key 
$ ssh-keygen

#Copy the SSH Key on the Hosts
$ ssh-copy-id hostname

#Check the SSH Connection 
$ ssh <nodeName>

Install Ansible

To install Ansible in Debian based Linux, you can follow the following steps:

  • Add the Ansible repository to your system, before installing Ansible
  • Then run the update command before installing, to update the existing packages 
  • After that install the Ansible package 
#Add Ansible repository 
$ sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ansible/ansible

#Run the update command 
$ sudo apt-get update

#Install Ansible package 
$ sudo apt-get install ansible

#Check Ansible Version
$ ansible –version

Inventory Files & Hosts Patterns

The inventory file of Ansible lists all the platforms you want to automate across. Ansible at a single instance can work on multiple hosts in the infrastructure. It is also possible to have multiple inventory files at the same time.

  • The host inventory file can contain hostnames either individually or in groups
  • Host Groups can be created by giving a group name within square brackets
  • Group members can then be listed under, till there is a line break

Set & Check Hosts Connection

Follow the below steps to set hosts and then check their connection.

#Set up hosts by editing the hosts' file in the Ansible directory
$ sudo nano /etc/ansible/hosts

#To check the connection to hosts
#Change your directory to /etc/Ansible 
$ cd /etc/ansible

#Ansible’s ping module allows you to check whether Ansible is connecting to hosts 
$  ansible –m ping <hosts>

#To check on servers individually  
$ ansible -m ping server name

#To check a particular server group 
$ ansible -m ping servergroupname

Ansible Host Patterns

Refer to the following table to know the Ansible Host Patterns, as described in playbooks.

Ansible Host Patterns
allAll hosts in inventory
*All hosts in inventory
ungroupedAll hosts in inventory not appearing within a group
10.0.0.*All hosts with an IP starting 10.0.0.*
webserversThe group webservers
webservers:!moscowOnly hosts in webservers, not also in group moscow
webservers:&moscowOnly hosts in the group’s webservers and moscow

Example Inventory File

Below is an example inventory file, which you can refer to understand the various parameters.

#Default location for host file
$ /etc/ansible/hosts

#To define location for inventory, in CLI

#example host file                                     #An ungrouped host

[webservers]                                              #a group called webservers ansible_host =                  #ssh to ansible_ssh_user = abc                 #ssh as user abc

[clouds] fileuser = alice                        #fileuser is a host variable

[moscow]                                          #host (DNS will resolve)                                       #host(DNS will resolve)

[dev1:children]                                           #dev1 is a group containing
webservers                                                #all hosts in group webservers
clouds                                                    #all hosts in group clouds

Ad-Hoc Commands

Ad-Hoc commands are quick commands which are used to perform the actions, that won’t be saved for later.

Some of the tasks that you can perform using Adhoc commands are as follows:

  • Parallelism and Shell Commands
  • File Transfer
  • Managing Packages
  • Deploying From Source Control
  • Managing Services

I am going to explain all these tasks, with a basic example.


Basic Example: To reboot all the web servers present in Europe, 20 at a time.

Parallelism & Shell Commands

In this section, I am going to tell you the commands, for parallelism and shell. 

#To set up SSH agent
$ ssh-agent bash
$ ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa

#To use SSH with a password instead of keys, you can use --ask-pass (-K)
$ ansible europe -a "/sbin/reboot" -f 20

#To run /usr/bin/ansible from a user account, not the root
$ ansible europe -a "/usr/bin/foo" -u username

#To run commands through privilege escalation and not through user account
$ ansible europe -a "/usr/bin/foo" -u username --become [--ask-become-pass]

#If you are using password less method then use  --ask-become-pass (-K)
#to interactively get the  password to be  used

#You can become a user, other than root by using --become-user
$ ansible europe -a "/usr/bin/foo" -u username --become --become-user otheruser [--ask-become-pass]

Manage Packages

This section consists of commands to manage packages.

#To ensure that a package is installed, but doesn’t get updated
$ ansible webservers -m apt -a "name=acme state=present"

#To ensure that a package is installed to a specific version
$ ansible webservers -m apt -a "name=acme-1.5 state=present"

#To ensure that a package at the latest version
$ ansible webservers -m apt -a "name=acme state=latest"

#To ensure that a package is not installed
$ ansible webservers -m apt -a "name=acme state=absent"

File Transfer

Ansible can perform secure transmissions of files to multiple machines in parallel.

#Transfer a file directly to many servers
$ ansible europe -m copy -a "src=/etc/hosts dest=/tmp/hosts"

#To change the ownership and permissions on files 
$ ansible webservers -m file -a "dest=/srv/foo/a.txt mode=600"
$ ansible webservers -m file -a "dest=/srv/foo/b.txt mode=600 owner=example group=example"

#To create directories 
$ ansible webservers -m file -a "dest=/path/to/c mode=755 owner=example group=example state=directory"

#To delete directories (recursively) and delete files
$ ansible webservers -m file -a "dest=/path/to/c state=absent"

Deploying From Source Control

This section consists of the command that tells you how to deploy web app straight from git.

$ ansible webservers -m git -a "repo= dest=/src/myapp version=HEAD"

Manage Services

This section consists of commands to manage services.

#To ensure a service is started on all web servers
$ ansible webservers -m service -a "name=httpd state=started"

#To restart a service on all web servers
$ ansible webservers -m service -a "name=httpd state=restarted"

#To ensure a service is stopped
$ ansible webservers -m service -a "name=httpd state=stopped


Playbooks in Ansible are written in YAML format. It is a human-readable data serialization language that is commonly used for configuration files. It can also be used in many applications where data is being stored.

A playbook has various parameters that you need to mention, like Hosts & Users, Variables, Tasks, Handlers, Modules and Return Values.

Sample Playbook

This is the sample playbook to start the Apache httpd Server program. 

#Every YAML file starts with ---
- hosts: webservers
    http_port: 80
    max_clients: 200
  remote_user: root

  - name: ensure apache is at the latest version
    apt: name=httpd state=latest
  - name: write the apache config file
    template: src=/srv/httpd.j2 dest=/etc/httpd.conf
    - restart apache
  - name: ensure apache is running (and enable it at boot)
    service: name=httpd state=started enabled=yes

    - name: restart apache
      service: name=httpd state=restarted

Writing a Playbook

Follow the below steps to write a run a playbook. For the ease of understanding, the commands are in a generalized format.

#SSH Key Generation
$ ssh key-gen

#Copy the  generated public SSH key on your hosts
ssh-copy-id -i root@<IP address of your host>

# List the IP addresses of your hosts/nodes in your inventory 
$ vi /etc/ansible/hosts

#Ping to ensure a connection has been established
$ ansible -m ping <Name of the Host>

#You do not have to follow the above steps, if you already have host connected to the control machine.

#Create a Playbook
$ vi <name of your file>.yml

#To write the playbook refer to the snapshot here.

#Run the playbook
$ ansible-playbook <name of your file>.yml

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Ansible Cheat Sheet – A DevOps Quick Start Guide