Announcing ansible-review

ansible-review is coming up to the three month anniversary of the first commit, and I’ve given it little publicity other than an ignite talk at the last DevOps Brisbane Meetup.

ansible-review is a code review tool for Ansible. A lot of the work that was done in the ansible-lint 3.0 release was to accommodate ansible-review, including some new rules, and some tidy ups that allow better reuse of the ansible-lint code.

I’ve been working on coding standards for Ansible for around 3 years now. Following an early version of Alexandra Spillane and Matt Callanan’s talk on Making the Right Way the Easy Way, I’ve been careful to version standards, and ensure that best practices are advisory, and standards are (at least theoretically) testable.

There are a number of key differences between ansible-lint and ansible-review.

Designed for code review

ansible-review can take the result of a git diff and only highlight errors on the changed sections.

git diff -U0 | ansible-review

reviews only the lines that have changed (if an error is at a file level, rather than a line level, it will output that if the file has changed at all).

This is on the principle that even if the file as a whole doesn’t meet latest standards, the improvements do.

Works with versioned checks

If you version your standards, you can ensure that errors only occur for playbooks and roles that declare a version newer than the standard (if versions aren’t declared, then the tool assumes you want the latest version of the standards).

ansible-review looks for a line starting # Standards: x.y in playbooks and in role’s meta/main.yml. This declares what version is being met. Failing checks with versions prior or equal to that are errors, and failing checks with later versions or no version are warnings.

This is useful for checks where you might like to know that a playbook or role could be at risk of bad practices, but not necessarily fail on.

Works on lots of different Ansible things

ansible-review attempts to classify what kind of thing a file is, and then run the checks specific to that file kind. So inventory host variables can have different checks to a role’s meta/main.yml.

Choose the checks you want

ansible-review doesn’t even come with default checks (although there is an example file). Use the checks that work for your organisation. You might want to introduce all the example checks in your first version of best practices, or just start with one check in version 0.1 and build up over time)

Examples of standards

The file contains an array of Standards. Each Standard has a name, a check, a list of types that the check applies to, and optionally a version.

Here’s an example of a standard that uses an ansible-lint check:

with_items_bare_words = Standard(dict(
    name="bare words are deprecated for with_items",
    types=["task", "handler", "playbook"]

That uses rule ANSIBLE0015, and runs against task files (tasks/main.yml etc.), handler files (handlers/main.yml etc) and playbooks.

On running this against a tasks file with bare words, you get:

WARN: Future standard "bare words are deprecated for with_items" not met:
tasks/main.yml:9: [ANSIBLE0015] Found a bare variable 'mysql_pkgs' used in a 'with_items' loop. You should use the full variable syntax ('{{mysql_pkgs}}')

The check can be an ansible-lint rule using the lintcheck function, but can be your own rule. For example, I don’t like host_vars at all (in almost all instances, variables for a host should come from group membership unless absolutely unique to the host - SSL key/cert, kerberos keytab etc). So I have a check for that:

def host_vars_exist(candidate, settings):
    errors = [Error(None, "Host vars are generally not required")]
    return Result(candidate.path, errors)

An Error is a line number (or None if it applies to the whole file) and a message. A Result is a filename and a possibly empty list of Errors. Because ansible-review can run against a section of a file (e.g. when running from a diff output) and the line numbers are used to make helpful error messages and also exclude lines from being considered as errors.

The standard that uses that check is then

host_vars_should_not_be_present = Standard(dict(
    name="Host vars should not be present",

Running this gives:

WARN: Future standard "Host vars should not be present" not met:
inventory/host_vars/ vars are generally not required

Ensuring up to date ansible-review and ansible-lint can contain ansible_review_min_version and ansible_lint_min_version. This is to ensure that checks that you need actually exist (e.g. a new ansible-lint rule)


I work for Red Hat. Red Hat owns Ansible. Other than the relationships that I had with Ansible prior to acquisition, my work with Ansible is entirely independent to the Ansible part of the Red Hat organisation