Managing Your Infrastructure with Ansible Inventory

Managing Your Infrastructure with Ansible Inventory


5 min read


Effective infrastructure management is crucial for any IT operation and Ansible provides robust tools for organizing and managing your servers and resources. Central to Ansible's functionality is the concept of inventory which allows you to define and group your hosts for targeted configuration and automation tasks. This blog will delve into both static and dynamic inventory showing you how to create and manage inventory files and scripts for seamless infrastructure automation.

Understanding Ansible Inventory

Ansible inventory is a configuration file or a script that defines the hosts and groups of hosts Ansible is meant to manage. It provides a way to specify which machines are under Ansible's control how to access them and what variables should be associated with them.

Types of Inventory

There are two main types of inventory in Ansible :-

  1. Static Inventory :- This is a simple text file that lists the hosts and groups. It is straightforward and easy to set up but requires manual updates as the infrastructure changes.

  2. Dynamic Inventory :- This uses scripts or plugins to generate inventory dynamically. It is ideal for environments that change frequently such as cloud-based infrastructures.

Creating a Static Inventory File

A static inventory file is the simplest form of inventory written in plain text and organized into groups and subgroups.

Example of a Static Inventory File

Create a file named inventory.ini with the following content :-



Using the Static Inventory File

To use this inventory file with Ansible, you can run a simple command to check connectivity with all hosts :-

ansible all -i inventory.ini -m ping

This command uses the ping module to test the connectivity of all hosts defined in the inventory.ini file.

Dynamic Inventory

Dynamic inventory allows Ansible to query external sources such as cloud providers or databases to generate inventory dynamically. This is particularly useful for environments where the infrastructure is frequently changing.

Setting Up a Dynamic Inventory

To set up a dynamic inventory, you typically need a script that Ansible will execute to fetch the list of hosts and their details. Ansible comes with several dynamic inventory scripts and plugins out of the box for cloud providers like AWS, Azure and GCP.

Example :- AWS EC2 Dynamic Inventory

  1. Install boto3 :- This is the AWS SDK for Python that Ansible uses to interact with AWS.

     pip install boto3
  2. Create a Configuration File :- Save your AWS credentials in ~/.aws/credentials and configure your region in ~/.aws/config.

  3. Use the AWS Dynamic Inventory Script :- Ansible provides an AWS dynamic inventory script that you can download and use.

     curl -O
     chmod +x
  4. Run Ansible with the Dynamic Inventory Script :-

     ansible all -i -m ping

    This command will use the script to dynamically generate the list of EC2 instances and ping them.

Grouping Hosts and Using Group Variables

Grouping hosts allows you to organize your inventory and apply configurations to specific sets of hosts. Group variables provide a way to define settings for a group of hosts.

Example of Grouping Hosts and Using Group Variables

Modify your inventory.ini to include group variables :-





In this example ansible_user and ansible_ssh_private_key_file are defined for the webservers and databases groups.

Using Group Variables in Playbooks

You can now write playbooks that use these group variables. For example, a playbook to install Apache on web servers might look like this :-

- name: Install Apache on web servers
  hosts: webservers
    - name: Install Apache
        name: apache2
        state: present
      become: yes

Using Multiple Inventory Files

Ansible allows you to use multiple inventory files which can be useful for organizing complex environments. You can specify multiple inventory files on the command line or in your ansible.cfg file.

Example Command with Multiple Inventory Files

ansible all -i inventory_web.ini -i inventory_db.ini -m ping

Configuring Multiple Inventory Files in ansible.cfg

You can also configure multiple inventory files in ansible.cfg :-

inventory = inventory_web.ini,inventory_db.ini

Advanced Inventory Techniques

Using YAML for Inventory

Starting with Ansible 2.0 you can write your inventory in YAML format which can be more readable and easier to manage.

Example of YAML Inventory

Create a file named inventory.yml :-

        ansible_user: webadmin
        ansible_ssh_private_key_file: /path/to/webservers_key
        ansible_user: dbadmin
        ansible_ssh_private_key_file: /path/to/databases_key

Use this inventory file with Ansible :-

ansible all -i inventory.yml -m ping

Inventory Plugins

Ansible inventory plugins provide a flexible way to integrate with various data sources to generate inventory dynamically. These plugins can pull inventory from sources such as databases, cloud providers and other APIs.

Example :- Using a JSON Inventory Plugin

Create a JSON inventory file named inventory.json :-

  "webservers": {
    "hosts": ["", ""],
    "vars": {
      "ansible_user": "webadmin",
      "ansible_ssh_private_key_file": "/path/to/webservers_key"
  "databases": {
    "hosts": [""],
    "vars": {
      "ansible_user": "dbadmin",
      "ansible_ssh_private_key_file": "/path/to/databases_key"

Use the JSON inventory file with Ansible :-

ansible all -i inventory.json -m ping

Best Practices for Managing Inventory

  1. Use Dynamic Inventory for Cloud Environments :- If your infrastructure is cloud-based and changes frequently dynamic inventory scripts and plugins are essential.

  2. Organize Inventory with Groups :- Group your hosts logically to simplify management and playbook targeting.

  3. Leverage Group Variables :- Use group variables to apply common settings across multiple hosts.

  4. Use YAML Format for Readability :- YAML inventory files are more readable and easier to manage than INI files.

  5. Secure Sensitive Information :- Ensure that sensitive information such as SSH keys and passwords are stored securely using tools like Ansible Vault if necessary.


Managing your infrastructure with Ansible inventory is a powerful way to streamline your IT automation. Whether you are using static inventory files for small, static environments or dynamic inventory scripts for large, dynamic infrastructures, Ansible provides the tools you need to keep your infrastructure organized and manageable.

By understanding and utilizing the different inventory options you can optimize your automation workflows and ensure that your infrastructure management is efficient, scalable and adaptable to your needs. Let's continue exploring the capabilities of Ansible in future posts diving deeper into advanced topics and real-world use cases to further enhance your automation skills.

Let's connect and grow on Linkedin :Click Here

Let's connect and grow on Twitter :Click Here

Happy Automation!!!

Happy Reading!!!

Sudha Yadav