Ansible is yet another tool for managing a large number of servers. With Ansible playbooks, you can create incredibly flexible, automated tasks to run on your data center servers, all from a single point of entry. Even better, you can create Ansible playbooks and run them from the likes of the user-friendly web-based GUI, Rundeck.

Once you have Ansible up and running, you can then attach nodes and start creating your playbooks. But first, you have to install Ansible.

I want to walk you through the steps of installing the official Ansible release on Ubuntu Server 18.04. We’ll then export the Ansible server SSH keys to a single client node (to demonstrate how nodes are associated with the server), and configure that node in Ansible.

SEE: Data center automation research report 2018: Despite growth in data, automation adoption remains slow (Tech Pro Research)

What you need

You will need two Ubuntu Server 18.04 installations, as well as user accounts (on both) with sudo privileges. That’s all.


Before we install Ansible, make sure that your server is updated and upgraded. Do note, should your kernel be upgraded, you’ll need to reboot the server. Because of this, make sure to run the update/upgrade at a time when a reboot is possible (unless you have live patching installed, at which point you can run the task any time). To update and upgrade, log into the server to host Ansible and issue the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade -y

Once that process completes, reboot the server (if necessary). You’re now ready to install.

Installing Ansible

Next, install Ansible. Here are the steps to make that happen:

  1. Log into the Ubuntu Server that will host Ansible
  2. Install the necessary repository with the command sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ansible/ansible.
  3. Update apt with the command sudo apt-get update.
  4. Install Ansible with the command sudo apt-get install ansible -y.

Because Ansible requires a Python interpreter (in order to run its modules), we need to install Python as well. For that, issue the command:

sudo apt-get install python -y

Note: You may find Python already installed.

At this point, Ansible is installed and ready to go.

Configure SSH access to the server

Next, we need to make it possible for our node to access the Ansible server. We do this via Secure Shell (SSH). Copy the server’s SSH public key to the node. If your server doesn’t have a key yet, generate one with the command:


You will be asked for a file name (keep the default) and to create/verify a passphrase for the key (Figure A).

Figure A

Display the contents of the public SSH key with the command:

cat ~/.ssh/

Here’s what you do with the output of that command:

  1. Copy the text from the key.
  2. Log into your node server.
  3. Issue the command sudo -s.
  4. Open the authorized_keys file with the command sudo nano ~/.ssh/authorized_keys.
  5. Paste the contents of the server key at the bottom of this file.
  6. Save and close the file.

If you want to simplify this process, issue the command (from the Ansible server):

ssh-copy-id NODE_IP

Where NODE_IP is the IP Address of the node to be added.

To test the newly added key, go back to your Ansible server and SSH to the node machine. Instead of being prompted for the user’s password, you should be prompted for the SSH key passphrase (Figure B).

Figure B

Complete this for all of the nodes you want connected to Ansible.

Setting up our node

Next, make sure Ansible knows the location of our node. Issue the command:

sudo nano /etc/ansible/hosts

In that file, create a new group for your nodes (in our case, we’ve only connected one node) and associate the IP addresses like so:


Where group_name is the name of the group to be created, ALIAS is an alias for the node, and NODE_IP is the IP address of your node. If you have more than one node, list them like so:


Save and close that file. You can now test this by pinging all of your added nodes with the command:

ansible -m ping all

You should see SUCCESS in the output (Figure C).

Figure C

One thing to note is that Ansible will attempt to connect with the user running the command. So if you issue the Ansible command with user jack, it will attempt to connect to the nodes with that user. If that user isn’t on your nodes, you need to instruct Ansible which user to use. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new directory (on the Ansible server) with the command sudo mkdir /etc/ansible/group_vars.
  2. Create a new file with the command sudo nano /etc/ansible/group_vars/servers.
  3. In that file, add the following line: ansible_ssh_user: USERNAME (Where USERNAME is the username on the remote node).
  4. Save and close that file.

Congratulations, Ansible is installed and communicating with a node. You’re now ready to start creating playbooks.

Subscribe to the Data Insider Newsletter

Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays

Subscribe to the Data Insider Newsletter

Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays