Ansible Playbook Services

CloudForms 4.5 / ManageIQ Fine introduced the capability to run Ansible playbooks as services. Playbook services can be ordered interactively through the service catalog, from Automate, or can be used as control actions.

Creating a Playbook Service

Playbook services are created in the same way as other service catalog items, via the Catalog Items accordion in the Services -> Catalogs section of the WebUI.
We'll create a new playbook service that runs the following simple playbook to list the variables and facts available to an embedded Ansible playbook as it runs:
- name: List Variables
hosts: all
- ansible-role-listvars
A new service catalog item type, Ansible Playbook is used to create a playbook service (see screenshot Selecting the Ansible Playbook Catalog Item Type)
Selecting the Ansible Playbook Catalog Item Type
Once 'Ansible Playbook' is selected, the main service creation dialog is displayed (see screenshot Service Creation Dialog)
Service Creation Dialog

Provisioning Tab Options

The selectable options on the Provisioning tab are as follows:
  • Repository/Playbook - the repository to select from, and the playbook to run when the service is ordered.
  • Machine Credential - the credential to use to run the playbook. For playbooks run on localhost the CFME Default Credential can be used. This value can be overriden from a service dialog when the service is ordered.
  • Vault Credential - the credential to unlock a vault file, if used.
  • Cloud Type/Cloud Credential - the cloud type and credential to use if the playbook is to connect to a cloud provider.
  • Hosts - the host(s) on which the playbook should be run, either localhost or a single or comma-separated list of IP addresses or resolvable host names. This value can be overriden from a service dialog when the service is ordered.
  • Max TTL (mins) - the maximum time that the playbook should be allowed to run (default: 10 minutes)
  • Logging Output - whether to log playbook output to evm.log (On Error / Always / Never)
  • Escalate Privilege - option to run the playbook using the privilege escalation mode and credentials defined in the selected Machine Credential.
  • Verbosity - the desired verbosity (from 0 to 5) of the playbook output
  • Variables & Default Values - optional variables and values to pass into the playbook. The values can be overriden from a service dialog when the service is ordered.
  • Dialog - the selection of service dialog to use when the service is ordered; either an existing dialog, or an option to create a new one using the entered Variables & Default Values
Although the service can be created and saved with neither Dialog radio button selected, ordering the resultant service catalog item will fail with the error No Ordering Dialog is available

Retirement Tab Options

An optional retirement playbook can be specified from the Retirement tab. This tab contains the same options as the Provisioning tab, but with the addition of a Remove Resources? drop-down selection. This can take the following options:
  • No - leave the resources in place, just run the retirement playbook.
  • Before Playbook runs - remove the resources and then run the retirement playbook.
  • After Playbook runs - run the retirement playbook and then remove the resources.
In this context Resources are VMs associated with the service
Creating a retirement playbook is not neccessarily straightforward. The idempotent nature of Ansible means that the steps to 'undo' the tasks run by a provisioning playbook may not be predictable. This can be illustrated with a provisioning playbook containing the following task:
- name: Install package
yum: name={{ package }} state=present
The package may not have been installed by the provisioning playbook if it already existed on the managed node. The following retirement playbook would therefore leave the managed node in an incorrect state:
- name: Remove package
yum: name={{ package }} state=absent

Service Dialogs for Playbook Services

The elements in the service dialogs used for embedded Ansible playbook services must be named in a particular way for their values to be passed through to the running playbook.
Each service's dialog should prompt for the machine credential to be used when running the playbook, and the list of hosts on which to run the playbook. These elements must be named credential and hosts respectively. Any additional playbook variables to be passed in to the playbook should have their element named prefixed by param_.
The element names are setup correctly when we select Create New as the dialog radio button in the Adding a new Service Catalog Item page. Any Variables and Default Values that we add will automatically be added to the service dialog, with the variable name prefixed correctly. For example an added variable name of "package" would result in an element being added to the resultant service dialog with the element name of param_package.

Ordering the Service

When we order the service we are presented with the service dialog that was created automatically. It gives us a choice of overriding the machine credential and host that were selected when the catalog item was created, or ordering with the default values.

Test 1

Order the service and leave the service dialog values at their defaults. The playbook will run on localhost.
The resultant service (in My Services) has a Provisioning tab that shows the results of the playbook run (see screenshot Resulting Service from First Test)
Resulting Service from First Test
It can be seen that the service did run on localhost.

Test 2

We can order the service again, but this time override the service dialog defaults to run the playbook on another host (, using SSH Key credentials suitable for that host (see screenshot Resulting Service from Second Test).
Resulting Service from Second Test
This time we can see from the resultant service Provisioning tab that the playbook has been run on the remote host.

Variables Available to the Ansible Playbook

When an Ansible playbook is run as a service, several manageiq-prefixed variables are made available to the playbook to use, for example:
"manageiq": {
"X_MIQ_Group": "EvmGroup-super_administrator",
"action": "Provision",
"api_token": "ef956ff763ccf6c1ca77199eff6e25f2",
"api_url": "",
"group": "groups/2",
"service": "services/27",
"user": "users/1"
"manageiq_connection": {
"X_MIQ_Group": "EvmGroup-super_administrator",
"token": "ef956ff763ccf6c1ca77199eff6e25f2",
"url": ""
These enable us to connect back to the RESTful API from the playbook without hard-coding appliance IP addresses or credentials. Of particular use is the manageiq.service variable which contains the href_slug of the currently running service. This enables the playbook to manipulate the service while it's running, for example to add newly provisioned VMs, or (as in the following example) rename the service.
- set_fact:
timestamp: "{{ lookup('pipe', 'date +%Y-%m-%d\\ %H:%M') }}"
- name: Get the existing service name
url: "{{ manageiq.api_url }}/api/{{ manageiq.service }}"
method: GET
validate_certs: no
X-Auth-Token: "{{ manageiq.api_token }}"
body_format: json
register: current_service
- name: Update the service name with appended timestamp
url: "{{ manageiq.api_url }}/api/{{ manageiq.service }}"
method: POST
validate_certs: no
X-Auth-Token: "{{ manageiq.api_token }}"
body_format: json
action: edit
name: "{{ }} {{ timestamp }}"
In a multi-appliance CloudForms or ManageIQ region the Configuration -> Advanced session_store setting should be set to "sql" when using the manageiq.api_token variable (see Ansible Automation Inside playbooks are not able to use the manageiq.api_token extra_var for authentication with the CloudForms API in a multi appliance region)


This chapter has illustrated how an embedded Ansible service can be created and run. The simple default service dialog allows the playbook to be run on the CFME appliance itself (localhost) using default credentials, or on another managed node, specifiying valid credentials for that node.
The next chapter will examine the Ansible playbook service provisioning and retirement state machines.