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There are multiple kind of variables in Ansible. And I find it overwhelming to wrap my head around them. Some of them are:

  • The one we can write in roles//vars/main.yml
  • The one we can write in the tasks file itself.
  • Then there are group_vars.
  • Then we have host_vars.
  • There are also vars files.

My use case is... I have three roles. Namely nginx, jenkins and certbot. Thing common in all of them is the domain name. I decided to use a variable named {{ fqdn }} in all of those for sake of refactoring.

I am not able to decide on which version to use.

What I want is... ability to input the fqdn from command line when playbook is running. There should be default value which I can put somewhere in the repo.

1 Answer 1

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See Variable precedence: Where should I put a variable?. You can see that the role's defaults represent the lowest precedence for variables and the extra variables, declared on the command-line, override everything. There are a plethora of options between these two options.

For testing, create the roles and the playbook below. For example

shell> tree roles/
roles/
├── certbot
│   ├── defaults
│   │   └── main.yml
│   └── tasks
│       └── main.yml
├── jenkins
│   ├── defaults
│   │   └── main.yml
│   └── tasks
│       └── main.yml
└── nginx
    ├── defaults
    │   └── main.yml
    └── tasks
        └── main.yml

9 directories, 6 files

There are only two files in each role. The files are identical in all roles

shell> cat roles/certbot/defaults/main.yml 
fqdn: "{{ fqdn_default|default('srv.example.com') }}"

shell> cat roles/certbot/tasks/main.yml 
- debug:
    var: fqdn

Then, the playbook below

shell> cat playbook.yml
- hosts: localhost
  roles:
    - certbot
    - jenkins
    - nginx

gives as expected

shell> ansible-playbook playbook.yml 

PLAY [localhost] *********************************************************

TASK [certbot : debug] ***************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: srv.example.com

TASK [jenkins : debug] ***************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: srv.example.com

TASK [nginx : debug] *****************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: srv.example.com

In this example, the default values of fqdn in all roles are the same. Of course, you can declare different default values for each role if you want to.


You can declare the variable on the command-line

shell> ansible-playbook playbook.yml -e fqdn=www.example.com

PLAY [localhost] *********************************************************

TASK [certbot : debug] ***************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: www.example.com

TASK [jenkins : debug] ***************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: www.example.com

TASK [nginx : debug] *****************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: www.example.com

Moreover, in this example, you can also change the default value, e.g. in the group_vars

shell> cat group_vars/all.yml 
fqdn_default: default.example.com

Then the playbook will use the value of fqdn_default

shell> ansible-playbook playbook.yml 

PLAY [localhost] **********************************************************

TASK [certbot : debug] ****************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: default.example.com

TASK [jenkins : debug] ****************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: default.example.com

TASK [nginx : debug] ******************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: default.example.com

Use vars_prompts if you want to input the fqdn from the command line when the playbook is running. e.g.

shell> cat playbook.yml
- hosts: localhost
  vars_prompt:
    - name: fqdn
      prompt: What is the fqdn?
      private: no
  roles:
    - certbot
    - jenkins
    - nginx
shell> ansible-playbook playbook.yml
What is the fqdn?: ww9.example.com

PLAY [localhost] ******************************************************

TASK [certbot : debug] ************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: ww9.example.com

TASK [jenkins : debug] *************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: ww9.example.com

TASK [nginx : debug] ***************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  fqdn: ww9.example.com

Quoting from the Note: "Prompts for individual vars_prompt variables will be skipped for any variable that is already defined through the command line --extra-vars option,..."

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