What’s an Ansible Playbook?

An Ansible playbook is a coded script written in YAML, which stands for “Yet Another Markup Language.” Think of playbooks as the director of a play, instructing various characters (in this case, servers) on what their roles should be.

Each playbook consists of one or multiple “plays,” and each play defines tasks to be executed on a particular set of hosts.

Why are they so popular?

  1. Idempotency: This fancy term means that you can run the playbook once or a thousand times, but the end result remains the same. No more “it works on my machine” issues!
  2. Readability: Written in YAML, playbooks are easy on the eyes. Even those not familiar with Ansible can get a good grasp of what’s happening just by reading through.
  3. Flexibility: From setting up a basic web server to orchestrating complex deployment processes, playbooks can handle it all.

Getting Started with a Simple Playbook


In the world of automation, Ansible stands tall as one of the most popular and user-friendly tools. It eliminates repetitive tasks and ensures consistent configurations across servers. Central to Ansible’s magic is the ‘playbook’, a series of automated steps defined in simple YAML format. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basic syntax and structure to craft your first Ansible playbook.

1. Understanding the Basics

Before diving in, let’s understand some foundational concepts:

  • Playbook: A YAML script containing one or more ‘plays’.
  • Play: A set of tasks executed on a group of hosts.
  • Task: A single action, like installing a package.

2. YAML – The Language of Ansible

Ansible playbooks are written in YAML. Here are some fundamental rules:

  • Indentation is crucial; use spaces (not tabs) to indent.
  • Use a dash (-) to denote list items.
  • Use a colon (:) for key-value pairs.

3. Crafting Your First Playbook

Let’s design a playbook to install and start the apache web server:

Make sure name of the playbook ends with .yml or .yaml

#To run playbook use the following command

amaster@Rushi-Infotech:~$ ansible-playbook <playbook.yml>

# To check the playbook for syntax errors

ansible-playbook --syntax-check <playbook.yml>

#To view hosts list

ansible-playbook --list-hosts <playbook.yml>

#To check the playbook for syntax errors

ansible-playbook --syntax-check <playbook.yml>

amaster@Rushi-Infotech:/opt$ sudo nano apache2.yml
- name: Set up Apache2 Web Server
  hosts: web_servers
  become: yes
    - name: Install Apache2
        name: apache2
        state: present
        update_cache: yes

    - name: Ensure Apache2 service is enabled and running
        name: apache2
        enabled: yes
        state: started

once playbooks is created use the below command to execution

amaster@Rushi-Infotech:/opt$ ansible-playbook apache2.yml



  • ---: This signifies the start of a YAML file.
  • name: A descriptive name for the play.
  • hosts: Specifies which group of hosts (from the Ansible inventory) this play targets.
  • tasks: Lists the actions you want to perform.

4. A Deeper Look at Tasks

Each task uses an Ansible module, like package or service, to perform actions. Modules are the tools in Ansible’s utility belt.

In our playbook:

  • The package module ensures apache2 is installed.
  • The service module ensures apache2 is running.

5. Expanding Further

Once you’re comfortable with this basic playbook, you can explore:

  • Variables to customize tasks.
  • Conditionals to run tasks based on specific criteria.
  • Loops to repeat tasks multiple times.
  • Roles to organize and reuse playbook content.


Congratulations! You’ve taken your first steps into the world of Ansible playbooks. As you continue your journey, remember that Ansible’s strength lies in its simplicity and readability. Keep your playbooks clear, concise, and well-commented, and you’ll reap the benefits of smooth, automated infrastructure management. Happy automating!

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