Ansible Tower Provider Changes

CloudForms 4.1 (ManageIQ Darga) introduced the Ansible Tower provider that allows us to run Tower Job Templates on an external Ansible Tower server. The provider was designated as a Configuration provider, along with the Foreman and Satellite provider types.
Since CloudForms 4.5 (ManageIQ Fine) the Ansible Tower provider has been re-designated as an Automation provider. The provider explorer and jobs are accessed from Automation -> Ansible Tower in the WebUI.

Automate Datastore Changes

In keeping with the designation change, the ConfigurationManagement namespace has been renamed to ConfigurationManagement (Deprecated) in the Automate Datastore, and a new AutomationManagement namespace has been created containing the AnsibleTower namespace.
For example any user-written Automate methods that used
ANSIBLE_NAMESPACE = 'ConfigurationManagement/AnsibleTower/Operations'.freeze
should now use:
ANSIBLE_NAMESPACE = 'AutomationManagement/AnsibleTower/Operations'.freeze

Shared Methods Between Tower Provider and Embedded Ansible

Some new instances and methods have been added to the new AutomationManagement/AnsibleTower namespace, and the commonality between the Tower and embedded Ansible providers has enabled some code re-use.
The Available_Credentials method for example is used by two Tower-specific and two embedded Ansible-specific instances (see screenshot Available Credentials Instances and Method).
Available Credentials Instances and Method

Object Name Changes

The service model objects have also changed name. Any object that previously contained the string ManageIQ_Providers_AnsibleTower_ConfigurationManager_* has now been renamed as ManageIQ_Providers_AnsibleTower_AutomationManager_*.
As an example any user-written Automate methods that used the following object names in CloudForms 4.2:
SCRIPT_CLASS = 'ManageIQ_Providers_AnsibleTower_ConfigurationManager_ConfigurationScript'.freeze
JOB_CLASS = 'ManageIQ_Providers_AnsibleTower_ConfigurationManager_Job'.freeze
Should now be re-written as:
SCRIPT_CLASS = 'ManageIQ_Providers_AnsibleTower_AutomationManager_ConfigurationScript'.freeze
JOB_CLASS = 'ManageIQ_Providers_AnsibleTower_AutomationManager_Job'.freeze

Common Objects Between Tower Provider and Embedded Ansible

Some objects that were Tower-specific have been renamed and are now common to both the Ansible Tower provider and embedded Ansible. An example of this is the inventory root group class:
INVENTORY_CLASS = 'ManageIQ_Providers_AutomationManager_InventoryRootGroup'.freeze

Ansible Tower Provider Usage Tips

Considerable in-the-field experience has been accumulated in the time since the Ansible Tower provider was written and included in CloudForms 4.2 (ManageIQ Euwe). This section describes some of the real-world tips and tweaks that have proved useful when running Ansible Tower jobs from CloudForms.

Handling Mixed IPv4 / IPv6 Addresses

The AutomationManagement/AnsibleTower/Operations/StateMachines/Job/wait_for_ip method is a useful way of pausing a state machine until a VM is reachable on a network. The default method in the ManageIQ Automate domain contains the following line to extract the list of VM's IP addresses:
ip_list = vm.ipaddresses
This line extracts both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses from the VM's configuration, however the presence of an IPv6 address may not necessarily indicate that the VM has finished firstboot configuration and also has an IPv4 address (if IPv4 is to be used for Ansible playbook connectivity).
A useful edit is to modify the line to use the Resolv::IPv4::Regex regular expression from the resolv Ruby gem to extract only the IPv4 addresses, for example:
require 'resolv'
ip_list = vm.ipaddresses.collect { |ip| ip if ip.match(Resolv::IPv4::Regex) }.compact
This will then continue looping until the VM has a valid IPv4 address, whereby the Ansible job can proceed.

Using a Variable for 'hosts:' in a Playbook

For maximum flexibility an Ansible playbook run from Tower is often written with a generic hosts value, for example:
hosts: all
This allows the playbook to be run against an entire Tower inventory, or a restricted inventory sub-set defined by a Tower job template's Limit override.
The AutomationManagement/AnsibleTower/Operations/StateMachines/Job/default state machine passes a :limit value as an extra variable when invoking a Tower job template if either $evm.root['vm'] or $evm.root["miq_provision"].destination are valid VM objects. Under certain exception conditions however the :limit extra variable can be left undefined when the Tower job is run, resulting in the playbook being executed against the entire inventory. This could have undesirable consequences.
To prevent this from happening, playbooks can be written to use an Ansible variable as the hosts: value, for example:
- hosts: "{{ vm_target_name }}"
- debug:
msg: "The Target VM Name is {{ vm_target_name }}"
The value of vm_target_name can be defined as a substitution variable in the job-specific instance of the JobTemplate class (see screenshot vm_target_name defined in the JobTemplate Instance).
vm_target_name defined in the JobTemplate Instance
The VM's name will be substituted at run-time, however if for any exceptional reason the $evm.root['vm'] object doesn't exist, a blank value will be passed to Tower, and the job will simply fail to run (fail-safe).

Failing a Tower Job When a Target VM is Not in a Tower Inventory

Running a Tower job template on a newly provisoned VM involves the correct and complete synchronisation of two separate inventories: the updated VM list from the provider (such as vCenter) into CloudForms / ManageIQ, and the replication of this using a CloudForms inventory credential to Tower (if Update on Launch is set on the inventory).
If for any reason the Tower inventory fails to update, the Tower job will still run to completion with a Status of "Successful", but any plays will be skipped with the playbook output message "skipping: no hosts matched". In this situation the CloudForms job object will indicate success, and any subsequent Automate workflow stages will proceed, potentially erroneously.
To mitigate against this risk, any playbooks run as part of a post-provision operation can be edited to run the following play first:
- name: "Verify VM is in Inventory"
hosts: localhost
gather_facts: false
- name: "Fail if VM is not in Inventory"
msg: "{{ vm_target_name }} is not in Ansible Tower's inventory."
when: "vm_target_name not in groups['all']"
This play will cause the Tower job to fail if the target VM is not in a Tower inventory. The failure status will be returned to CloudForms, allowing the workflow state machine to more accurately determine a suitable course of action.


This chapter has discussed some of the changes to the Ansible Tower provider with CloudForms 4.6 (ManageIQ Gaprindashvili), and some real-world usage tips when combining CloudForms VM provisioning with the execution of Ansible Tower jobs.

Further Reading