The virtues of Ansible – Running Ansible on Windows

Devops and Ansible

The mantra of DevOps (Development Operations) is Infrastructure is Code.
For those who are not familiar with DevOps, it is a culture and philosophy of computer and network infrastructure management geared around development and delivery of software and services. DevOps uses tools geared towards automation of infrastructure, delivery of software and services.
Ansible is one of those indispensable tools used in DevOps. With Ansible, you can manage your whole network infrastructures , deploy and manage virtual machines, install and configure VMs, provision and update software and services, etc. Written in python, and the configuration files are “programmed” in YAML (Yet Another Markup Language). It is a easy to learn tool for mass provisioning of Linux, Windows, Mac and virtual infrastructure using scriptable command line.
Windows operating system is ubiquitous and is probably one of the easiest, lowest cost hardware/software combinations to get for your testing and development and production environment.

The Windows Dilemma

However if you like me, are running Windows, there is one problem, Ansible does not run on Windows. The developers of Ansible have no intention of porting it to Windows (at this time). Even though, there “is” a way to use Linux like libraries on Windows (using things like CygWin) , however, it’s not very stable. You need a stable platform to do mission critical work. So, how do I run Ansible in Windows?

Introducing Vagrant

The answer to this dilemma is to use Virtualization. “Wait a minute…”, you might say, “Isn’t this a clunky and bulky way to run a tool by getting a clunkier interface to run it on?” This is where a virtualization environment for developers like Vagrant comes into play. Vagrant, from command line allows you to do some cool things:

1 – Use your favorite Windows based editor to edit your playbooks in which you can make changes to your files THEN run them without repackaging the image (as in the case of Docker).
2 – With command line within PowerShell, QUICKLY spin up your Linux VM to run Ansible.
3 – From the same command line, enter the Linux VM command line and run Ansible commands and run your playbooks.
4 – If you want to run the Vagrant VM for a dedicated task involving Ansible, with one command, you can do just that.

For those not familiar with Vagrant, this is a piece of cake.

How to set up Ansible in Vagrant

For the purpose of demonstrating how to do this in Windows, I will show you how to do this in a Windows 7 SP1 machine. I will also assume you are running the latest version of VirtualBox hypervisor. Vagrant will also work with VMWare and HyperV and other versions of Windows (7/8/10), but this will be left (for now) as an exercise you can do on your own.

Also, my preferred way to add software to Windows machines is to use a package manager like Chocolatey. Using automation with package management is the DevOps way. Follow this link for instructions installing Chocolatey.

Steps for setting up Vagrant

1 – Download and install VirtualBox

a – use chocolatey
C:\> choco install virtualbox

b – manually install
Download from here:

2 – Download and install vagrant

a – use chocolatey
C:\> choco install vagrant

b – manually install
Download from here:

3 – Download this vagrant file from the git repository and unpack it. This is a Vagrantfile template. You can use git to get the file.

4 – Change directory to vagrant directory and run “vagrant up”

5 – Access VM shell, run “vagrant ssh” It will take you into a Linux shell.

6 – To exit out of the VM shell, type ‘exit’ and hit enter. You will be back to the powershell command prompt.

7 – To shut down vagrant and the VM, run “vagrant halt” and it will shut down the VM.

I would recommend reading the file in the directory for additional details.

How do these files work?

This is not a full tutorial on how to work with Vagrant, just enough to get you running with Ansible on Windows. We may cover the particulars of Ansible and Vagrant another time.

What is a Vagrant file?

The Vagrantfile tells vagrant how to provision the VM. The VM will be installed with Python and Ansible. It’s a file written in the Ruby programming language. It’s pretty straightforward how you can configure it to work with your development environment. Anyhow, from here, you can experiment with Ansible on the VM itself.

Once you access Ansible through Vagrant, you can start using Ad Hoc commands and writing playbooks for Ansible and executing them right there. Do some searching on the internet on what you can do with Ansible. It’s a very powerful tool.

That was quite a bit of info, how do I wrap my head around this?

That is the unfortunate nature of any profession, especially the technology profession.  You need to know many different tools and concepts in order to use them, and many of the tools by themselves don’t make much sense until you find a context to use these tools.  Each one of the tools and technologies I used in this intro have their own use in the DevOps area.  You have to dive right in and play with them in order to find out how they can help you to use them in your own particular situation.   I may cover each of these tools  individually in a future article.

Until then, have a good day.


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