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:boom: Ansible module development with examples and walk-throughs

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Ansible Development by Example


Ansible is an awesome tool for configuration management. It is also a highly utilized one, and there are so many ways to contribute as a community.

What is this?

There is no doubt that Ansible is a complex tool, with lots of inner-workings, yet it is easy to work with as an end user. But on the other end of that, contributing to Ansible with code can sometimes be a daunting task.

This documentation is a way to show step-by-step how to develop Ansible modules, both new module development as well as bug fixes and debugging.

Environment setup

  1. Clone the Ansible repository:
    $ git clone
  2. Change directory into the repository root dir:
    $ cd ansible
  3. Create a virtual environment:
    $ python3 -m venv venv
    (or for Python 2
    $ virtualenv venv
    . Note, this requires you to install the virtualenv package:
    $ pip install virtualenv
  4. Activate the virtual environment:
    $ . venv/bin/activate
  5. Install development requirements:
    $ pip install -r requirements.txt
  6. Run the environment setup script for each new dev shell process:
    $ . hacking/env-setup

:zap: After the initial setup above, every time you are ready to start developing Ansible you should be able to just run the following from the root of the Ansible repo:

$ . venv/bin/activate && . hacking/env-setup

:bulb: Starting new development now? Fixing a bug? Create a new branch:

$ git checkout -b my-new-branch
. If you are planning on contributing back to the main Ansible repostiry, fork the Ansible repository into your own GitHub account and developing against your new non-devel branch in your fork. When you believe you have a good working code change, submit a pull request to the Ansible repository.

:bulb: :bulb: Submitting a new module to the upstream Ansible repo? Run through sanity checks first:

$ ansible-test sanity -v --docker --python 2.7 MODULE_NAME
(this requires docker to be installed and running. If you'd rather not use a container for this you can choose to use
instead of

New module development

If you are creating a new module that doesn't exist, you would start working on a whole new file. Here is an example:

  • Navigate to the directory that you want to develop your new module in. E.g.
    $ cd lib/ansible/modules/cloud/azure/
  • Create your new module file:
    $ touch
  • Paste this simple into the new module file: (explanation in comments) ```python #!/usr/bin/python

ANSIBLEMETADATA = { 'metadataversion': '1.0', 'status': ['preview'], 'supported_by': 'curated' }


module: mysamplemodule

short_description: This is my sample module

version_added: "2.4"

description: - "This is my longer description explaining my sample module"

options: name: description: - This is the message to send to the sample module required: true new: description: - Control to demo if the result of this module is changed or not required: false

extendsdocumentationfragment - azure

author: - Your Name (@yourhandle) '''


Pass in a message

  • name: Test with a message mynewtest_module: name: hello world

pass in a message and have changed true

  • name: Test with a message and changed output mynewtest_module: name: hello world new: true

fail the module

  • name: Test failure of the module mynewtest_module: name: fail me '''

RETURN = ''' original_message: description: The original name param that was passed in type: str message: description: The output message that the sample module generates '''

from ansible.module_utils.basic import AnsibleModule

def runmodule(): # define the available arguments/parameters that a user can pass to # the module moduleargs = dict( name=dict(type='str', required=True), new=dict(type='bool', required=False, default=False) )

# seed the result dict in the object
# we primarily care about changed and state
# change is if this module effectively modified the target
# state will include any data that you want your module to pass back
# for consumption, for example, in a subsequent task
result = dict(

the AnsibleModule object will be our abstraction working with Ansible

this includes instantiation, a couple of common attr would be the

args/params passed to the execution, as well as if the module

supports check mode

module = AnsibleModule( argument_spec=module_args, supports_check_mode=True )

if the user is working with this module in only check mode we do not

want to make any changes to the environment, just return the current

state with no modifications

if module.check_mode: return result

manipulate or modify the state as needed (this is going to be the

part where your module will do what it needs to do)

result['original_message'] = module.params['name'] result['message'] = 'goodbye'

use whatever logic you need to determine whether or not this module

made any modifications to your target

if module.params['new']: result['changed'] = True

during the execution of the module, if there is an exception or a

conditional state that effectively causes a failure, run

AnsibleModule.fail_json() to pass in the message and the result

if module.params['name'] == 'fail me': module.fail_json(msg='You requested this to fail', **result)

in the event of a successful module execution, you will want to

simple AnsibleModule.exit_json(), passing the key/value results


def main(): run_module()

if name == 'main': main() ```

Local/direct module testing

You may want to test the module on the local machine without targeting a remote host. This is a great way to quickly and easily debug a module that can run locally.

  • Create an arguments file in
    with the following content: (explanation below)
    "name": "hello",
    "new": true
  • If you are using a virtual environment (highly recommended for development) activate it:
    $ . venv/bin/activate
  • Setup the environment for development:
    $ . hacking/env-setup
  • Run your test module locally and directly:
    $ python ./ /tmp/args.json

This should be working output that resembles something like the following:

{"changed": true, "state": {"original_message": "hello", "new_message": "goodbye"}, "invocation": {"module_args": {"name": "hello", "new": true}}}

:bulb: The arguments file is just a basic json config file that you can use to pass the module your parameters to run the module it

Playbook module testing

If you want to test your new module, you can now consume it with an Ansible playbook.

  • Create a playbook in any directory:
    $ touch testmod.yml
  • Add the following to the new playbook file ```yaml --- - name: test my new module connection: local hosts: localhost

tasks: - name: run the new module mynewtest_module: name: 'hello' new: true register: testout

- name: dump test output
    msg: '{{ testout }}'
- Run the playbook and analyze the output: `$ ansible-playbook ./testmod.yml`

Debugging (local)

If you want to break into a module and step through with the debugger, locally running the module you can do:

  1. Set a breakpoint in the module: import pdb; pdb.set_trace()
  2. Run the module on the local machine: $ python -m pdb ./ ./args.json

Debugging (remote)

In the event you want to debug a module that is running on a remote target (i.e. not localhost), one way to do this is the following:

  1. On your controller machine (running Ansible) set ANSIBLE_KEEP_REMOTE_FILES=1 (this tells Ansible to retain the modules it sends to the remote machine instead of removing them)
  2. Run your playbook targetting the remote machine and specify -vvvv (the verbose output will show you many things, including the remote location that Ansible uses for the modules)
  3. Take note of the remote path Ansible used on the remote host
  4. SSH into the remote target after the completion of the playbook
  5. Navigate to the directory (most likely it is going to be your ansible remote user defined or implied from the playbook: ~/.ansible/tmp/ansible-tmp-...)
  6. Here you should see the module that you executed from your Ansible controller, but this is the zipped file that Ansible sent to the remote host. You can run this by specifying python (not necessary)
  7. To debug, though, we will want to extra this zip out to the original module format: python explode (Ansible will expand the module into ./debug-dir)
  8. Navigate to ./debug-dir (notice that unzipping has caused the generation of
  9. Modify or set a breakpoint in the unzipped module
  10. Ensure that the unzipped module is executable: $ chmod 755
  11. Run the unzipped module directly passing the args file: $ ./ args (args is the file that contains the params that were originally passed. Good for repro and debugging)

Unit testing

Unit tests for modules will be appropriately located in ./test/units/modules. You must first setup your testing environment. In my case, I'm using Python 3.5.

  • Install the requirements (outside of your virtual environment): $ pip3 install -r ./test/runner/requirements/units.txt
  • To run all tests do the following: $ ansible-test units --python 3.5 (you must run . hacking/env-setup prior to this)

:bulb: Ansible uses pytest for unit testing

To run pytest against a single test module, you can do the following (provide the path to the test module appropriately):

$ pytest -r a --cov=. --cov-report=html --fulltrace --color yes test/units/modules/.../ ```

Communication and development support

Join the IRC channel

on freenode for discussions surrounding Ansible development.

For questions and discussions pertaining to using the Ansible product, use the



A huge thank you to the Ansible team at Red Hat for providing not only a great product but also the willingness to help out contributors!

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