Ansible London Meetup 19th March 2019

Narrated by James Spurin, @jamesspurin, the views and opinions are my own. All images in this post including the Sainsbury’s front desk were captured by myself during the event and are free to use, share or modify.

Sainsbury's 33 High Holborn

The regular Ansible London Meetup was hosted yesterday, at the London Headquarters of Sainsbury’s, 33 High Holborn. A fantastic event with great talks, sprinkled, with some pure Ansible Magic!

Ansible at G-Research (Luke Griffith)

First to the stand to brave the crowd of Ansiblers was Luke Griffith of G-Research to talk about how they integrate aspects of automation into CI/CD pipeline execution with Ansible. The company has a philosophy of driving automation and self-service through GitOps.

Luke from G-Research

Luke made reference to how they make extensive use of AWX and why they opted to leverage AWX as an open source option instead of utilising the commercial offering of Ansible Tower. Luke explained that although they’ve experienced issues relating to stability when moving between releases, after all, AWX is the bleeding edge version of Ansible Tower, the deployment process that they implemented, leveraging configuration management and a local password vault (via Hashicorp Vault) allows them to reinstall AWX to a known working state should an issue arise.

Automated AWX with Hashicorp Vault

To both the delight and jest of the crowd, G-Research also detailed their efforts in automating Microsoft Windows through Ansible to achieve workstation/server standardisation, self-service patching, validation tests and immutable server builds. Although somewhat expected in a predominantly Linux focussed crowd, it was questioned why they were using Windows in the first place… a show of hands highlighted the bitter truth that in many organisations, Windows is an area that is both heavily used and requires automation.

On elaboration, Luke helpfully covered their use and integration of Chocolatey, a toolset that allows package management on Windows.

Variable precedence (Jiri Tyr)

Next to the stage was Jiri Tyr, a veteran of the Ansible community with his regular appearances at Ansible meetups. Jtyr as he is otherwise known is an Ansible core developer and has authored over 100 publicly available Ansible Roles, Nice!

Impressive Resume

In the opening slides, Jiri highlighted with precedence, 22 different means of defining a variable in Ansible.

Variable Precedence

With detailed examples, he took the audience through the different types of approaches. The associated slides with this talk make an excellent resource and when available, I will be sharing the links in the comments section.

There were a number of gems thrown into this talk that I liked, to summarise -

Making use of ansible_facts. as a var prefix

Implicitly reference facts vars

It is possible, for a custom fact to override the value, of a setup fact. By implicitly including the top level of ansible_facts when making a reference, you safeguard from this happening.

Using the prefix of a custom fact name as a var prefix

Implicitly reference custom facts

In the same way as implicitly using ansible_facts. to segregate a setup derived fact, we can use the naming structure of ansible_local.custom_fact_name.section.fact, for implicitly targeting custom facts

Variable precedence (Jiri Tyr) continued…

Finally, Jiri closed the session with summary slides of his recommended best practices -

Data Deployments with Ansible at Growth Intelligence (Prash Majmudar)

Prash boldly stepped up to the stage and confidently inserted the disclaimer that his role is more focused with himself as the CTO managing the company and less so on the technical detail of Ansible, however, Prash need not have worried as he provided an excellent overview of how they manage Data Deployments with Ansible at Growth Intelligence.

Prash providing an overview

The company uses machine learning against unstructured data to facilitate their customer recommendation engine. As well as Ansible, they make use of Python, Elasticsearch, React and Flask to name a few technologies. A great eye opener into the use of common open source software to facilitate a startup.

Architecture Overview

Their Architecture diagram gives a very interesting insight into how Ansible fits in to their overall strategy.

How I provision my Macbook with Ansible (Adam Johnson)

Adam Johnson, well known for his efforts in the world of Django provided both an entertaining and insightful talk on how he leverages Ansible to facilitate automation of his personal development laptop.

Adam Johnson

What I liked from a personal perspective about this talk was the very personal nature of the area it covered. Most of us who use Ansible end up using Ansible to deal with something related to a requirement in our respective work. Adam however uses Ansible here to automate his own laptop both for his work and recreational needs. As he put it, this is the playbook to make his mac, his mac.

The main takeaways I found useful from his talk were the knowledge of homebrew-cask and mas, both of which simplifying the installation of Mac Apps (without and with, the app store respectively).

I caught up with Adam afterwards and he is a truly nice guy, if you have questions on this, or Django I highly recommend you reaching out to him.

On my todo list also … I’ve now added, automate my mac, after a result of seeing this brilliant talk, thanks Adam.


Kudos to the speakers, the organisers - John Barker, Greg DeKoenigsberg, Andrea “Shaps” Tartaglia and Mark Phillips. To Sainsbury’s for hosting a great event. Lastly, to Bob Benson from Springer Nature, it was awesome discussing Ansible with you.