Friday, 20 May 2016

Inverting Ansibe execution flow. The Pull Mode

In most cases,  where I've seen Ansible being implemented to automate ops taks is using the Push mode. On this approach, playbooks start running from a given host where Ansible is set. The Ansible host is gonna interpret the tasks and apply   "pushing" them to all target hosts through SSH.
What is maybe unnoticed when start playing with It, is the fact that the same results can be achieved by using a totally different flow, the Pull Mode.

There isn't much about It on the official documentation, but the idea is pretty simple.Instead of pushing playbooks to  the target hosts, using pull mode you can make target host "pull" them from a given repository.  By doing this, there is no need to have a single machine playing the ansible-host role, in this scenario, this responsibility is spread on the machines on the datacenter..
There is nothing special in order to get It running.Both, Pull and Push will be available after following the installing steps available here.
Lets say I want to deploy the application I build here using the Pull mode in all my cluster machines. After having Ansible properly installed  on the target hosts, the following command should be raised:

This command will connect on Github and download the entire repository locally. After doing this, Ansible will look for a file named as Local.yml. This file should contains all tasks, or a reference to the ones who have them in order to perform  a playbook.
An interesting approach is to make the target hosts pull the remote repository times to times. By doing this, changes will be applied on all target machines asynchronously and in background as soon they are available on the repository.That could be quite interesting when talking about provision hundreds or thousands of machines. This mode will scale much better than the Push mode. This can be achieved by just setting a cron job.  and calling a script that encapsulates the pull command described before, like this:

The Pull mode can be useful also to  change application configuration more dynamically. By using tags, I can update the log4j config as soon they hit the remote repository:

As we can see, there are a range of scenarios where the Pull mode can be useful. BTW, It could be a bit more flexible by letting the user specify which playbook to run (It only look or a file named as Local.yml, something different  than that is gonna produce an error).  Users need also be careful when sending code to repository when using this feature. Code badly written can break an entire datacenter without you notice.


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