Working with Dynamic Inventories in Ansible

Dynamic inventories in Ansible allow you to automate the management of your infrastructure by generating inventory information dynamically. Rather than maintaining a static inventory file, dynamic inventories retrieve the inventory information from external sources such as cloud providers, configuration management databases (CMDBs), or custom scripts. This tutorial will guide you through working with dynamic inventories in Ansible.

Introduction to Dynamic Inventories

Ansible provides several methods for working with dynamic inventories:

  • Script-Based Inventories: You can write custom scripts that generate inventory information based on your specific requirements.
  • Dynamic Inventory Plugins: Ansible provides built-in inventory plugins for various platforms and services, including cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, as well as CMDBs like ServiceNow and Foreman.
  • External Inventory Scripts: Ansible can execute external scripts that generate inventory information dynamically. These scripts can be written in any programming language and can retrieve inventory details from any source.

Let's explore a couple of examples to understand how to work with dynamic inventories in Ansible.

Example 1: Dynamic Inventory Plugin for AWS

If you're using AWS as your infrastructure provider, you can use the built-in aws_ec2 dynamic inventory plugin to generate inventory information based on your AWS resources. To use this plugin, you need to install the boto3 library and configure your AWS credentials. Once configured, you can use the dynamic inventory in your Ansible commands or playbooks. For example:

$ ansible-inventory -i aws_ec2.yml --list-hosts

This command uses the aws_ec2.yml dynamic inventory file and lists all the available hosts.

Example 2: Custom External Inventory Script

You can also create custom external inventory scripts to generate inventory information from your own data sources. Let's assume you have a script named that retrieves inventory information from a CMDB. You can use this script as an external inventory source in Ansible. For example:

$ ansible-inventory -i --list-hosts

This command uses the script to dynamically generate the inventory and lists all the available hosts.

Steps for Working with Dynamic Inventories

Here are the steps to follow when working with dynamic inventories in Ansible:

1. Choose a Dynamic Inventory Method

Select the appropriate method for your dynamic inventory based on your infrastructure, requirements, and available integrations.

2. Configure the Dynamic Inventory

Set up the necessary configuration for the chosen dynamic inventory method. This may include installing dependencies, configuring credentials, and specifying any required parameters.

3. Test the Dynamic Inventory

Validate that the dynamic inventory is functioning correctly by executing test commands or running sample playbooks against the inventory. This ensures that the dynamic inventory is providing the expected host information.

4. Incorporate the Dynamic Inventory in Playbooks

Use the dynamic inventory in your Ansible playbooks by specifying it as the inventory source. You can now target hosts dynamically and perform various tasks and configurations using Ansible modules.

Common Mistakes with Dynamic Inventories

  • Incorrect configuration of dynamic inventory plugins or external scripts.
  • Using outdated versions of dynamic inventory plugins, resulting in compatibility issues.
  • Insufficient permissions or misconfigured credentials for accessing the inventory source.
  • Incomplete or inaccurate inventory information due to misconfigured data sources or scripting errors.
  • Failure to update the dynamic inventory when changes occur in the infrastructure.

FAQs about Dynamic Inventories in Ansible

  1. Q: Can I combine dynamic and static inventories in Ansible?

    A: Yes, Ansible allows you to combine dynamic and static inventories by specifying multiple inventory sources in your playbook or command line.

  2. Q: How often does Ansible update the dynamic inventory?

    A: The dynamic inventory is updated each time you run an Ansible command or playbook that references the inventory. It retrieves the latest information from the inventory source.

  3. Q: Can I use dynamic inventories with Ansible Tower?

    A: Yes, Ansible Tower fully supports dynamic inventories. You can configure Tower to use dynamic inventory sources and integrate them into your automation workflows.


Working with dynamic inventories in Ansible enables you to automate the management of your infrastructure by generating inventory information on the fly. Whether you use built-in plugins, custom scripts, or external inventory sources, dynamic inventories provide flexibility and scalability for managing large and dynamic environments. By following the steps outlined in this tutorial, you can effectively leverage dynamic inventories in your Ansible workflows and take full advantage of their capabilities.