Bootstrap FreeKB - Ansible - Create your own inventory file
Ansible - Create your own inventory file

Updated:   |  Ansible articles

Tasks are run against target servers. Some Ansible documentation refers to the target servers as "hosts".


After a clean install of Ansible, the "inventory" directive in ansible.cfg is commented out, like this.

#inventory = /path/to/hosts


In this scenario, the default hosts file is /etc/ansible/hosts and the default hosts file is completely commented out. If you were to issue command ansible all -m ping, the following would be displayed. Likewise, if you were to uncomment the "inventory" directive in ansible.cfg without defining your inventory, the following would be displayed.

[WARNING]: provided hosts list is empty, only localhost is available. Note that the implicit localhost does not match 'all'


Typically, target servers are defined in the default hosts file or your own inventory file. Sometimes, the "inventory" directive in ansible.cfg is uncommented and updated to point to the directory where the default hosts file or your own inventory file will be located.

Additionally, Ansible uses inventory plugins to parse inventory. The ansible-doc command can be used to list the inventory plugins that can be used with the version of Ansible you are using.

~]$ ansible-doc --type inventory --list
ansible.builtin.advanced_host_list Parses a 'host list' with ranges                                                                                                                                                                       Loads and executes an inventory plugin specified in a YAML config                                                                                                                                
ansible.builtin.constructed        Uses Jinja2 to construct vars and groups based on existing inventory                                                                                                                             
ansible.builtin.generator          Uses Jinja2 to construct hosts and groups from patterns                                                                                                                                          
ansible.builtin.host_list          Parses a 'host list' string                                                                                                                                                                      
ansible.builtin.ini                Uses an Ansible INI file as inventory source                                                                                                                                                     
ansible.builtin.script             Executes an inventory script that returns JSON                                                                                                                                                   
ansible.builtin.toml               Uses a specific TOML file as an inventory source                                                                                                                                                 
ansible.builtin.yaml               Uses a specific YAML file as an inventory source


For example, ansible.cfg may have the following.

enable_plugins = ansible.builtin.host_list, ansible.builtin.yaml, ansible.builtin.ini


For example, the yaml inventory_plugin allows you to define target servers in a YAML default hosts file or your own inventory file. For example, let's say you have a default hosts file or your own inventory file named inventory.yml that contains target systems, perhaps something like this.



Here is how you can run the example.yml playbook using the target systems specified in inventory.yml.

ansible-playbook example.yml --inventory /path/to/inventory.yml


Let's say you have two (or more) different inventory YAML files. Perhaps linux.yml contains your Linux target servers.



And windows.yml contains your Windows target servers.



You can use the -i or --inventory command line option multiple times.

ansible-playbook foo.yml --inventory linux.yml --inventory windows.yml


Children can be nested, like this in YAML.



Notice that the hosts / inventory file is static, meaning it contains a predefined list of managed node, which is the antithesis of automation. You can dynamically maintain a list of managed nodes.

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