Working with Ansible Inventories - Ansible Tutorial

Welcome to the tutorial on working with Ansible inventories. Ansible inventories define the hosts and groups that Ansible manages. In this tutorial, we will explore the steps involved in working with Ansible inventories and how to organize your infrastructure for effective management.

Introduction to Ansible Inventories

An Ansible inventory is a file or set of files that contains a list of hosts and groups of hosts that Ansible can manage. The inventory defines the targets for Ansible playbooks and allows you to group hosts based on common attributes such as function, location, or environment. By understanding how to work with inventories, you can easily scale and manage your infrastructure.

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow these steps to work with Ansible inventories:

Step 1: Create an Inventory File

Start by creating an inventory file, which is a plain text file with a specific format. You can name the file anything you like, but the conventional name is inventory. Open the file in a text editor and define your hosts and groups using the following syntax:



You can specify hosts by their IP addresses or domain names. Groups are enclosed in brackets and can contain one or more hosts.

Step 2: Organize Hosts into Groups

Grouping hosts allows you to manage them collectively. You can create logical groups based on various criteria, such as roles, locations, or environments. For example, if you have a group of web servers, you can create a group called [webservers] in your inventory file and list the hosts under that group.

Step 3: Define Variables

Inventories also support the definition of variables for hosts and groups. Variables allow you to customize the behavior of Ansible based on specific attributes. You can define variables in the inventory file or in separate variable files. Here's an example of defining a variable:

host1 ansible_user=ubuntu ansible_ssh_private_key_file=/path/to/private_key.pem

In this example, we specify the SSH username and private key file to use for connecting to the host host1.

Common Mistakes

  • Incorrect syntax in the inventory file, resulting in parsing errors.
  • Not updating the inventory file when adding or removing hosts.
  • Using inconsistent or conflicting group names.
  • Forgetting to define variables for hosts or groups.
  • Not securing sensitive information stored in the inventory file.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Q: Can I use dynamic inventories?
    A: Yes, Ansible supports dynamic inventories that can pull host information from external sources such as cloud providers or database queries.
  2. Q: Can I have multiple inventory files?
    A: Yes, you can specify multiple inventory files using the -i option followed by the paths to the inventory files.
  3. Q: How can I assign variables to groups?
    A: Variables can be assigned to groups by using the group_vars directory structure or by defining variables directly in the inventory file under the group definition.


Working with Ansible inventories is an essential part of managing your infrastructure effectively. In this tutorial, we covered the steps involved in creating an inventory file, organizing hosts into groups, and defining variables. We also highlighted common mistakes to avoid and provided answers to frequently asked questions. With a well-structured inventory, you can easily target hosts, group them logically, and define variables for customized management. This helps you maintain control and streamline your Ansible operations.