I’ve started to get familiar with Ansible because, apart of getting more and more accepted for OSP-related tasks and installation, I wanted to automate some tasks we needed to setup some servers for the OpenStack group I work for.

First of all, it’s recommended to get latest version of ansible (tested on RHEL7 and Fedora), but in order not to mess with the system python libraries, it’s convenient to use python’s virtual environments.

A virtual Environment allows to create a ‘chroot’-like environment that might contain different library versions to the one installed with the system (but be careful as if it’s not kept track as part of the usually system patching process, it might become a security concern).


For creating a virtualenv, we require the package python-virtualenv installed on our system and executing virtualenv and a target folder, for example:

[iranzo@iranzo ~]$ virtualenv .venv
New python executable in /home/iranzo/.venv/bin/python2
Also creating executable in /home/iranzo/.venv/bin/python
Installing setuptools, pip, wheel...done.

From this point, we’ve a base virtualenv installed, but as we would like to install more packages inside we’ll first need to ’enter’ into it:

. .venv/bin/activate

And from there, we can list the available/installed packages:

[iranzo@iranzo ~]$ pip list
DEPRECATION: The default format will switch to columns in the future. You can use --format=(legacy|columns) (or define a format=(legacy|columns) in your pip.conf under the [list] section) to disable this warning.
appdirs (1.4.0)
packaging (16.8)
pip (9.0.1)
pyparsing (2.1.10)
setuptools (34.2.0)
six (1.10.0)
wheel (0.30.0a0)

Now, all packages we install using pip will get installed to this folder, leaving system libraries intact.

Once we finished, to return back to system’s environment, we’ll execute deactivate.


In order to simplify the management we can make use of pipsi which not only allows to install Python packages as we’ll normally do with pip, but also, takes care of doing proper symlinks so the installed packages are available directly for execution.

If our distribution provides it, we can install pipsi on our system:

dnf -y install pipsi

But if not, we can use this workaround (for example, on RHEL7)

# Use pip to install pipsi on the system (should be minor change not affecting other software installed)
pip install pipsi

From this point, we can use pipsi to take care of installation and maintenance (can do upgrades, removal, etc) of our python packages.

For example, we can install ansible by executing:

pipsi install ansible

This might fail, as ansible, does some compiling and for doing so, it might require some development libraries on your system, have care of that to satisfy requirements for the packages.

Prepare for ansible utilization

At this point we’ve the ansible binary available for execution as pipsi did take care of setting up the required symlinks, etc

Ansible uses an inventory file (can be provided on command line) so it can connect to the hosts listed there and apply playbooks which define the different actions to perform.

This file, for example, can consist of just a simple list of hosts to connect to like:

And for starting we create a simple playbook, for example a hardware asset inventory:

- hosts: all
  user: root

    - name: Display inventory of host
        msg: "{{ inventory_hostname }} | {{ ansible_default_ipv4.address }} | | | {{ ansible_memtotal_mb }} | | | {{ ansible_bios_date }}"

This will act on all hosts, as user root and will run a task which prints a debug message crafted based on the contents of some of the facts that ansible gathers on the execution host.

To run it is quite easy:

[iranzo@iranzo labs]$ ansible-playbook -i, inventory.yaml

PLAY [all] *********************************************************************

TASK [setup] *******************************************************************
ok: []

TASK [Display inventory of host] ***********************************************
ok: [] => {
    "msg": " | | | | 14032 | | | 01/01/2011"

PLAY RECAP *********************************************************************             : ok=2    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0

This has connected to the target host, and returned a message with hostname, ip address, some empty fields, total memory and bios date.

This is a quite simple script, but for example, we can use ansible to deploy ansible binary on our target host using other modules available, in this case, for simplicity, we’ll not be using pipsi for ansible installation.

- hosts: all
  user: root

    - name: Install git
          - "git"
          - "python-virtualenv"
          - "openssl-devel"
        state: latest

    - name: Install virtualenv
        virtualenv: "/root/infrared/.venv"
        name: pipsi

    - name: Upgrade virtualenv pip
        virtualenv: "/root/infrared/.venv"
        name: pip
        extra_args: --upgrade

    - name: Upgrade virtualenv setuptools
        virtualenv: "/root/infrared/.venv"
        name: setuptools
        extra_args: --upgrade

    - name: Install Ansible
        virtualenv: "/root/infrared/.venv"
        name: ansible

At this point, the system should have ansible available from within the virtualenv we’ve created and should be available when executing:

# Activate python virtualenv
. .venv/bin/activate
# execute ansible
ansible-playbook -i hosts ansible.yaml

Enjoy! (and if you do, you can Buy Me a Coffee )