I have an ansible structure that contains some roles.


Usually, when running this from the ansible server, the template: module finds group_vars/role2.yml and applies it to my_template just fine.

When I use ansible-pull the template module cannot find the group vars and the first template line that references a variable causes an error - can't find the variable. Only by putting my variables in vars/main.yml can we find them.

ansible-pull -C dockervm -d /usr/local/ansible -U [email protected]:MRI-Software/HappySoftware-config-usr_local_ansible.git -i localhost, -e 'small=yes vagrant=True ServerNamePrefix=docker' --accept-host-key /usr/local/ansible/playbooks/docker.yml

Since the ansible-pull operation leaves behind the entire /usr/local/ansible directory tree (as pulled from the git server) I tried running ansible-playbook manually and got the same failure as ansible-pull.

ansible-playbook -i localhost -e  'small=yes vagrant=True ServerNamePrefix=docker'  ./docker.yml

The main difference between this provisioning and the normal web server provisioning is that this is running against localhost.

So I made sure that /usr/local/ansible/group_vars and /usr/local/ansible/playbooks/group_vars both contained a localhost collection of variables, but the playbook still fails on the first variable reference in the template:

TASK [docker : template] *******************************************************
fatal: [localhost]: FAILED! => {"changed": false, "msg": "AnsibleUndefinedVariable: 'SSH_WEB_USER' is undefined"}

Yes, I checked that the variable definition was there.

So I transplanted the entire collection of variables to the roles/docker/vars directory inside main.yml and that works, but it's now an exception compared to the rest of the provisioning roles.

Any idea how to get the ansible-pull to reference the group_vars directory (in playbooks)?

1 Answer 1


Your directories group_vars and playbooks are in the same directory /usr/local/ansible. The command ansible-pull runs the playbook from the directory playbooks /usr/local/ansible/playbooks/docker.yml.

Take a look at Variable precedence: Where should I put a variable?. You'll see that group_vars can be placed either in the playbook or inventory directory (precedence 4.-7.).

  • The simplest solution would be to move group_vars into the directory playbooks

But, you'll see an error if you haven't cloned the repository playbooks yet

fatal: destination path '/usr/local/ansible/playbooks' already exists and is not an empty directory.

As a result, this option works if you move group_vars into the already cloned repository and the option --purge isn't used.

  • The next option is moving group_vars into the inventory. For example,
shell> pwd

shell> tree .
└── inventory
    ├── group_vars
    │   └── all
    │       └── main.yml
    └── hosts

3 directories, 2 files

shell> cat inventory/hosts 

shell> cat inventory/group_vars/all/main.yml 
test_var_1: test variable 1

Configure inventory

shell> export ANSIBLE_INVENTORY=/tmp/test/inventory

and run the ansible-pull command

shell> ansible-pull -d /tmp/test/test_001 -U https://repos.example.org/test_001.git --full /tmp/test/test_001/pb_001.yml
Starting Ansible Pull at 2023-07-22 19:18:03
/home/admin/.local/bin/ansible-pull -d /tmp/test/test_001 -U https://repos.example.org/test_001.git --full /tmp/test/test_001/pb_001.yml
localhost | CHANGED => {
    "after": "1f637428cafb37156e4027dc459e90609a2c2192",
    "before": null,
    "changed": true

PLAY [all] *********************************************************************

TASK [debug] *******************************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  msg: Playbook pb_001.yml is runnning ...

TASK [debug] *******************************************************************
ok: [localhost] => 
  test_var_1: test variable 1

PLAY RECAP *********************************************************************
localhost: ok=2    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0   

, where the below playbook was used

shell> cat test_001/pb_001.yml 
- hosts: all
  gather_facts: false
    - debug:
        msg: Playbook pb_001.yml is runnning ...
    - debug:
        var: test_var_1
  • Actually, I have the group_vars in playbooks and had copied it to ../playbooks as part of debugging this. It doesn't find it in either place. I'm going to try putting it in a subdir called inventory as you suggested, and specify that on the ansible-pull line. I'll report back. Jul 24, 2023 at 15:26
  • See Special Variables. As part of debugging, you might want to take a look at inventory_dir and playbook_dir. Jul 24, 2023 at 15:29

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