How To Install and Manage System Packages in Ansible Playbooks

Automating the installation of required system packages is a common operational task in Ansible playbooks, since a typical application stack requires software from different sources.

The apt module manages system packages on Debian-based operating systems such as Ubuntu, the distribution we’re using on remote nodes throughout this guide. The following playbook will update the apt cache and then make sure Vim is installed on remote nodes.

Create a new file called playbook-09.yml in your ansible-practice directory:

  • nano ~/ansible-practice/playbook-09.yml

Then add the following lines to the new playbook file:

~/ansible-practice/playbook-09.yml

--- - hosts: all   become: yes   tasks:     - name: Update apt cache and make sure Vim is installed       apt:         name: vim         update_cache: yes 

Save and close the file when you’re done.

Notice that we’ve included the become directive in the beginning of the play. This is required since installing packages requires administrative system permissions.

Removing a package is done in a similar way, the only change is that you have to define the package state to absent. The state directive has a default value of present, which will make sure that the package is installed on the system, regardless of the version. The package will be installed if not present. To assure you have the latest version of a package, you can use latest instead. This will cause apt to update the requested package if that is not on their latest version.

Remember to provide the -K option when running this playbook, since it requires sudo permissions:

  • ansible-playbook -i inventory playbook-09.yml -u sammy -K
OutputBECOME password:   PLAY [all] **********************************************************************************************  TASK [Gathering Facts] ********************************************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10]  TASK [Update apt cache and make sure Vim is installed] ************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10]  PLAY RECAP ********************************************************************************************** 203.0.113.10                : ok=2    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0    

When installing multiple packages, you can use a loop and provide an array containing the names of the packages you want to install. The following playbook will make sure the packages vim, unzip, and curl are installed and in their latest version.

Create a new file called playbook-10.yml in your ansible-practice directory, on your Ansible control node:

  • nano ~/ansible-practice/playbook-10.yml

Add the following content to the new playbook file:

~/ansible-practice/playbook-10.yml

--- - hosts: all   become: yes   tasks:     - name: Update apt cache and make sure Vim, Curl and Unzip are installed       apt:         name: "{{ item }}"         update_cache: yes       loop:         - vim         - curl         - unzip 

Save and close the file when you have finished.

Then, run ansible-playbook with the same connection arguments from the previous examples, and don’t forget to include the -K option since this playbook requires administrative privileges:

  • ansible-playbook -i inventory playbook-09.yml -u sammy -K

You’ll see output like this, indicating that the same task run through three iterations using the different values we have provided: vim, curl, and unzip:

OutputBECOME password:   PLAY [all] ***************************************************************************************************************************************  TASK [Gathering Facts] *************************************************************************************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10]  TASK [Update apt cache and make sure Vim, Curl and Unzip are installed] ************************************************************************** ok: [203.0.113.10] => (item=vim) ok: [203.0.113.10] => (item=curl) changed: [203.0.113.10] => (item=unzip)  PLAY RECAP *************************************************************************************************************************************** 203.0.113.10            : ok=2    changed=1    unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0     

For more details on how to manage system packages, including how to remove packages and how to use advanced apt options, you can refer to the official documentation.