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Ansible Alternatives in Python (rfox.eu)
146 points by alexeiz 26 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 89 comments

How hard is YAML to use really? The world has much more interesting problems to solve than a decent markup language.

I use Ansible with zero issues daily as do many in our team. It’s perplexing coders fined it difficult or hard to use to the point where something as useful as Ansible becomes undesirable because it uses YAML?

I hate to say it, but the “alternatives” are just the least good somewhat similar products.

Ansible configuration exists in YAML files which look static but are deceptively dynamic: values in these files get parsed as static values, Python expressions, or Jinja2 templates that may themselves contain Jinja2 filters and Python snippets. This mish-mash of conceptual models leads to awkward syntax that requires careful quoting and a constant mental effort to separate each of the three layers (static YAML, Jinja2 interpolation/filtering, and Python evaluation).

Some example sources of discomfort:

- The context-dependent need to quote Jinja2 syntax interpolation ({{ ... }}) in some places but not others, due to conflict with YAML syntax rules.

- Undifferentiated mixing of Python evaluation (eg. list concatenation with +) and Jinja2 filtering/transformtion (eg. `| zip` and `| list`) in a single value.

- Awkward encoding of imperative programming patterns using YAML keys (eg. `loop` and `loop_control` to describe a loop; `when` to describe a conditional).

- Context-specific embedding of Python expressions (eg. raw Python code being passed as a string in the `when` property, but elsewhere being interpolated in Jinja2 interpolation).

- Implicit/magical variable naming conventions (eg. use of loop implies the existence of an `item` variable).

- No obvious scoping rules eg. variables magically available with no obvious source (they are defined in another file, or defined in a prior task).

That's from an example I wrote up over on my dotfiles repo: https://github.com/wincent/wincent/tree/master/fig#on-ansibl... - I used Ansible happily enough for years there, but concluded that at least on a little toy project like that it was more fun/pleasant/simpler to just embody the imperative, procedural work in an actual programming language. I still use Ansible in other places, to manage remote hosts, but I can't shake off the discomfort I feel about how it uses YAML.

The loop variable can be specified, and if anyone is writing a playbook for other people to read / use, then they should absolutely do this. It is a problem that writing things in the most clear and reusable way isn't the most obvious way. Fairly basic things like copying directories or looping over files have really good solutions, but it takes time for someone to come around to those patterns. So this leaves around a lot of ugly implementations. Some improved hand-holding layer could be productive.

A well-designed abstraction makes optimal usage fall out naturally. It would be very difficult to make the claim that optimal usage "falls out naturally" when one uses Ansible, and yet another layer of abstraction on top would more likely than not just increase the already staggering complexity in the system.

I understand you're making a lot of good points; However, Jinja templating happens "before" it becomes YAML.

It's not "injected" into the YAML.m

I get people have criticisms; But it's not like these things are very difficult to overcome. Outside of creating a DSL, what could actually be different?

It sounds like your complaints are more to do with Jinja + YAML and Ansible was unfortunately a victim of some of those issues?

While a lot of negatives are pointed out about the marriage between the two, there are still at least some positives I believe.

Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the tool outside of using it.

when we compared salt and ansible a few years ago to decide which one to choose, this issue of yaml scripts was what let us to decide against ansible. we looked at examples how to set up user accounts, and the example ansible offered at that time was just atrocious. it is possible that ansible now has better ways to configure users, but at the time that was what a red flag for us. (we also checket puppet, but our junior admin tasked to test it couldn't even get it to work after a week of trying, so that failed too)

I always replace Jinja2 with Mako - I don't want to "learn" the Jinja2 DSL when I already know Python.

Don't @ me with BS about putting logic in templates - I know what I'm doing.

The problem isn't YAML specifically, it's that to do everything ansible does they have to extend YAML into a crappy programming language in-and-of-itself.

If they're going to do that, the configuration files should just use a actual programming language. Just make them actual python files (or ruby files, or whatever).

From the famous quote:

> Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp.

The problem here isn't that they're using lisp (or python, or yaml, or whatever), it's that they're re-implementing a very mature language with lots of supporting infrastruture poorly with lots of bugs and corner cases, rather then just using the relevant (open source) programming language itself.

> The problem isn't YAML specifically, it's that to do everything ansible does they have to extend YAML into a crappy programming language in-and-of-itself.

I don't recall how ansible extends yaml, but Microsoft does something that sounds similar with their JSON-based ARM templates (which are for deploying cloud resources), adding functions for loops, parameters and variables. The result is predictably horrible. There are however at least APIs available for C# and others, so it's not the only automation option.

The thing is you don’t really write syntax in yaml. On the surface you kinda do.

You use yaml to write code to some hidden programming language that doesn’t have any kind of formalized syntax.

Want to add a value to a parameter in your function call? Since there is no specification your IDE can’t help you look up parameter or function names.

Want to do a for-loop? Maybe some functions will support looping and other won’t, because looping is just a ` - loop-while: “a = b”` (or maybe it is double equal signs, who knows, because there is no actual IDE support.

Yaml is straightforward. But in the case of ansible yaml is just the concrete encoding. The author's grievance seems to come from the fact that they would prefer to invoke commands directly as python, instead of having ansible translate yaml to python. I do not know if ansible gets any significant benefits from the usage of yaml (maybe restricting the available functionality for better safety?), but I can totally understand the issue from a user's point of view (I am using robotframework quite often).

This is the same sort of argument/discussion I used to hear when ant came around and they made the horrible choice of using XML for the configuration language.

And you ended up with some sort of half baked thing that was like a language but not. I get the same spidey sense when you look at how ansible uses YAML.

Ultimately I really do not care but it was a bad choice. I make bad choices all the time. I would expect the people who wrote Ansible do also.

The problem we have with ansible is not yaml related but the push based approach, even with awx/tower as soon as you’re running hundreds of machines of a given group it gets painful.

We are actually seriously considering a shift to salt atm...

The push versus pull difference between ansible versus salt is a worthwhile design choice. In my opinion, salt does start to make sense until about when you would outgrow ansible. That said having to replace all the playbooks and. Roles written in ansible.when you outgrow it is a bummer. I don't want ansible to move away from push, but it would be nice if there was a layer to let it work both ways.

likewise salt also has a way to push via salt-ssh which works just like ansible without a salt-minion.

so at this point both ansible and salt can go both directions, and i do infact myself make use of that. i use pull/minions on all servers in our network, and push to those servers outside our network, because they can't reach the master behind the firewall.

although zerotier has helped solve that problem, so i'll probably be able to stop using salt-ssh soon

There is this too:


You can reuse all the playbooks and start scaling with salt.

salt does start to make sense until about when you would outgrow ansible.

i read that as: by the time ylu outgrow ansible, salt doesn't make sense either. but the next sentence seems to suggests to switch to salt when you outgrow ansible.

i always assumed that ansible and salt solve the same problems and when you outgrow one, you'd outgrow the other too.

There was some talk about Salt not being very active as a community, I guess, that changed during the last 1-2 years? Ansible can be a lot faster/ efficient with Mitogen https://mitogen.networkgenomics.com/

E.g. seznam.cz (a Czech search engine) migrated from Salt to Ansible, they seem to cope ok. (There is a PDF from the LinuxDays talk last year.) Google Docs can translate PDFs even from Czech into English: https://pretalx.linuxdays.cz/media/Ansible.pdf

Salt states can very quickly/easily become unweildy as, unlike Ansibble, you can throw Jinja2 everywhere. It becomes far more tempting to create multiple states with a Jinja2 loop, or worse, macros, and before you know it you have a huge mess of what I like to call "spaghetti Jinja".

Templated YAML really isn't pretty to work with.

I can definitely recommend Salt. Has its bugs/warts like any other config management system. But it works fairly well/is extensible for the most part.

I like salt - doing 30s deploys on prod for python changes was great -- the big slowdown with pushing the entire site was frontend webpack builds...

I actually like this about it though? There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.

Have you looked into ansible pull mode?

Don't personally have much of an issue with YAML but Python itself seems like an odd choice for an automation tool given the dependencies incurred with it by default. Does anyone know of any tools with binary deployment like Go or Rust that can do this job?

I have tried or used most of the projects cited in the blog post. I pretty much agree with the conclusion that Pyinfra looks the most promising at this point. I've also tried Bundlewrap (https://bundlewrap.org/) a couple of years ago though I lack the perspective to compare them. Another interesting project not cited in the post is Nuka (https://doc.bearstech.com/nuka/).

Some personal perspectives:

I have used Ansible in the past and didn't like it.

I have used Fabric and Fabtools many years ago (Fabtools happens to be written by a friend) and I agree that something like Fabtools is needed to make Fabric relevant. Fabric has a completely revamped version, which was quite long in the making, but not fairly stable, but AFAIK Fabric 2 doesn't (yet) have something similar to what Fabtools was to Fabric 1.

I had great hope for opsmop (https://github.com/opsmop/opsmop) by Ansible's creator, which was supposed to address Ansible's shortcomings, but he dropped the project (citing lack of traction) a few months after starting it in 2018.

At this point I'm sticking to Fabric 2, but I'm still looking for alternatives.

I'm also wondering if Augeas (https://augeas.net/ - a configuration editing tool which parses configuration files for a large set of software in their native formats and transforms them into a tree) could be used in combination with one the of tools mentioned in the post to ease the parts related to managing configuration.

Thanks for the links. I am kinda surprised by the activity on this blogpost, it's just something that I've put together in an hour or so, mostly as notes for myself.

I do "exporations" where I put bunch of related stuff into the wiki node and then take an evening to go over them and do some evaluation. It wasn't really meant as a comprehensive study.

The author of Ansible actually tried to make a Python3 DSL based Ansible alternative called opsmop.[1]

I'm not sure why but it was discontinued. I would think that if anyone could make that work it would be that particular person with their previous experience from Cobbler and Ansible.

I started using Ansible when it was brand spanking new and what I've noticed over the years is that people often over complicate their Ansible use. Sometimes it's better to out source something to an RPM or a container than to use Ansible to do every single thing.

1. https://github.com/opsmop/opsmop

Agreed that people tend to overcomplicate their Ansible configs. It is also OK to write a script and run it from Ansible as part of your playbook if you have a complex use case.

Here's an explanation by the sensible/opsmop creator: https://medium.com/@michaeldehaan/revisiting-systems-managem...

Thanks, I just skimmed it and found this.

>Nobody wants to keep up with a configuration management tool, especially learn another new one (which is why creating opsmop failed), learn another YAML dialect, or maintain a full active cloud abstraction layer running on top of their cloud itself.

If you feel YAML is too complicated for you, a host of problems await for anything you want to do in infrastructure...

Ansible has it's own set of features that are largely abstracted out by it's YAML playbook syntax. You can run it across any (or almost) system, from Linux to Windows and even networking devices. You can create modules in any language you want.

For speeding up Ansible runs, a number of optimisations can be made including using Mitogen https://mitogen.networkgenomics.com/ansible_detailed.html

Alternatives listed in the blog post don't even come close to the speed and power of Ansible.

> If you feel YAML is too complicated for you, a host of problems await for anything you want to do in infrastructure...

This is an uncharitable dismissal of a valid point. Think a bit more about the concern: is it that YAML is too hard or that it’s adding complexity in addition to that inherent to the work? You’re taking the domain-specific challenges of whatever you’re doing and adding YAML’s quirks like magic type conversion, various syntax oddities which just have to be memorized, requirement for a domain specific linter to validate things like macros, etc.; the various Ansible conventions for variable declaration and manipulation, programming language-like loops and conditionals, mix of raw Python and Jinja2 template syntax; the whole complex system for doing inventory and host/group variables; the various modules’ different implementation decisions for how they accept arguments and what they return; and the fact that those modules are wrapping other libraries which you can’t call directly (AWS adds something, wait for boto3 to add it, wait for Ansible to add it, find out that they forgot to add the optional feature you need, repeat). YAML is part of the concern and it especially adds wrinkles like needing dialect-specific editor / formatter / linter support to get the formatting and validation support which using a programming language would give out of the box but most of it comes back to using a document formatting language to write what inevitably needs to be code.

The counter-argument is that it’s easier to start with and that the high-level module interface avoids needing to write as much code. I think that’s a valid goal but it makes me wish there was an easier way to drop code into a project than writing a plugin: imagine if you hit a tricky place with the basic modules but could just drop a .py task in and have the richness of full Python with type validation telling you that an argument is incorrect before your deploy fails 10 minutes in.

> Ansible has its own set of features that are largely abstracted out by its YAML playbook syntax.

I don't understand what YAML has to do with abstraction. The example from pyinfra is pretty much the same as the ansible equivalent. Whether the feature set is comparable is a different question (I agree with you, it's probably nowhere close to ansible).

        {'Install iftop'},
> If you feel YAML is too complicated for you

Ansible YAML is a poor substitute for a real language once you add conditional logic to the mix. Another huge downside is that composition in YAML is much harder than in any programming language. A Python (or dhall, or cue) library that compiled to ansible would be pretty swell.

Ansible YAML is a poor substitute for a real language once you add conditional logic to the mix. Another huge downside is that composition in YAML is much harder than in any programming language

Given that the average devops person is already stuck with yaml, many of those problems are addressed by jsonnet. But I agree, having it in the language would be preferable. I think it stems from the desire to make infrastructure declarative, which isn't really the case when your declarations are dynamic.

I've written a lot of Ansible in the past year. While I'm happy with the work, I'd admit to looking at some of the logic I've had to put together with clunky, esoteric constructs like `with_nested_items` and the super colloquial variable system, while thinking "it's great to be able to do this stuff, but htf am I going to explain this code to a newbie?".

I'd like some kind of 'sensible', backwards compatible layer in Ansible that would allow me to rewrite stuff in raw Python, with 'normal' code, where it makes sense, but keep YAML for constructs that do actually look and work like lists of basic tasks.

Stuff that gets too complex you can pretty easily abstract into a role and jump into Python.

https://opendev.org/zuul/zuul-jobs/src/branch/master/roles/t... is a nice example of some pretty complex co-install of libraries for testing under tox (and you can unit test bits of it too...).

https://zuul-ci.org/docs/zuul-jobs/ is a collection of roles and playbooks that do a lot of complicated things with nice abstractions such as this. Although they're designed to be called from the Zuul CI system, there's many good examples for anyone wanting to build out their Ansible in a scalable and maintainable way.

> I don't understand what YAML has to do with abstraction. The example from pyinfra is pretty much the same as the ansible equivalent.

I said this in continuation to the line you quoted:

> You can run it across any (or almost) system, from Linux to Windows and even networking devices. You can create modules in any language you want.

This is abstracted in YAML so that anyone who uses any modules does not need to know the language it is written in. Only the YAML syntax.

> This is abstracted in YAML so that anyone who uses any modules does not need to know the language it is written in. Only the YAML syntax.

And the declarative and imperative language you've built on top of that.

Probably worth checking out Mitogen[0] if you want to take away some of the pain points with Ansible. It’s an extremely well built product that really complements Ansible.

[0] https://mitogen.networkgenomics.com/

I've seen Mitogen, but that to me looks like lowlevel ssh paralelization library. Great project, but it doesn't seem to provide any abstractions, for example declarative package manager wrapper, that would work on multiple linux versions.

Kubernetes already requires YAML. If you use Kubernetes, you might as well use Ansible.

How YAML got so popular is a mystery to me. It's a huge pain. Then again, I've given up on fighting it, and simply learned how to use it, since I can't escape Kubernetes anyways.

What kind of logic is that? Lots of things use yaml they usually have some sort of templating engine on top, so whether the tool is friendly/adequate is depending on the templating capacity not the fact that it uses yaml, or any markup language for that matter.

Also people are mostly arguing for code vs markup. yml, json, xml etc are all the same. Yml just happens to be more compact which helps with visibility in a big file.

> How YAML got so popular is a mystery to me.

It's good at being human-readable. It's basically json with indents and comments. What other configuration format is out there that allows for tree structure and it's easier on humans? (not XML or json).

I'd say YAML's good at seeming human-readable...

JSON has some surprises and a lot of limitations, but is so much simpler than YAML that it seems worth putting up with them.

> good at being human-readable

If we consider high composability, non-ambiguity, clarity, expressability (even a word?) as aspects of "human readability" - YAML doesn't go very far in the scale across many of these. A language, with slightly more appealing (yet non-limiting for programmablity) declarative constructs seem very helpful for needs like this.

It would be great to see any spider-web-graph of all these solutions across those aspects and thus help someone to take a wiser decision.

problem is it's not even the same. Kubertinos yaml is similar enough to docker and docker compose, but has differences with anisible.

Yaml is just like xml. They all kinda look similar, but can have big and important differences

There is no mention of Python Bundlewrap (https://bundlewrap.org/), which I have really liked, though I don't know how speed and scalability compares. I believe Bundlewrap will welcome contributors for these enhancements.

Fabric was a casualty of the Python 2/3 split. Unicode isn't a great default for the shell interaction so the project took a long time to be ported, and by then it lost all momentum.

The successor project, Invoke, was finally released a year or two ago, but now it's unmaintained too.

I have been using the unofficial fork Fabric3 (https://pypi.org/project/Fabric3/ == https://github.com/mathiasertl/fabric/) for many years with great success (completely automated the IT infrastructure of a medium-sized startup on AWS including provisioning using boto, system config, and app deploy), all with a couple of hundred lines magic-less, easy-to-read scripts, but sadly Fabric3 is no longer updated either, which causes security concerns.

I wish someone would pick that up and continue it — rather then the official version and split into Invoke (which I still don't understand despite a whole week of energy invested).

Honestly fabric was the best thing ever... I still depend on it for personal projects, but sad I can't use it for work projects anymore.

UPDATE: I just found `fab-classic` which is an actively maintained fabric fork with the old API: https://github.com/ploxiln/fab-classic/releases everyone rejoice, for civilized devops is once again upon us, and with the paramiko that is new!

Thanks for the fab-classic link. I too spent a week inside Fabric2 / Invoke trying to port our extensive Fabfile and ran in to so many problems that I'd pretty much given up too.

I think it’s more that Jeff Forcier is one – very productive – person and while tons of places used Fabric there were far fewer who contributed significantly to supporting it.

I much prefer Python to programming in a YAML derivative with multiple bolt-on extension mechanisms but at the end of the day Ansible brings a lot to the table because there are a bunch of people employed by Red Hat to work on it full-time.

I count Jeff as a personal friend, and I think you’re exactly right. Everyone was riding his butt to port to Python 3, but the giant companies using Fabric weren’t exactly lining up to help. He found that incredibly frustrating.

Yes that's true, but turning it around: the task is too big (and also sucks too much) for one person to do mostly alone. And also like, why?

There would've been a more active community of companies depending on it and it wouldn't have blocked out on him if it had maintained the momentum it had.

I was talking about it at the peak of that momentum. This is a common problem in open source: companies often don’t contribute or only support specific things they need. It’s much harder to get general ongoing contributions even if that would make the entire community better off long-term.

"In Python" seems like a weird constraint on the problem. Python doesn't really read like a great deployment configuration language.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrastructure_as_code#Communi... the space has a lot of players. For upgrading like one VPS and some home servers, I'd probably go with Ansible. It probably has the lowest barrier to entry, and getting an IDE just solves the problem that you created by wanting something in Python. Basic config management doesn't need an IDE.

“In Python” does seem like an odd constraint. I take the OP’s intent to be “let’s find something imperative not declarative”. If that’s the case, I’d love to see the idempotent functionality of Ansible’s modules (e.g. lineinfile) made available as simple CLI commands.

I assume you consider Ansible to be "declarative". By that definition of "declarative", the following Bash script is also "declarative":

    rm -f /etc/bar
    mkdir -p /etc/conf.d
    cp -u /srv/src.txt /etc/conf.d/
because Anisble playbook is really just bunch of following statements

    if (!stuff_exists(stuff))
which the above utilities in Bash script do with the provided flags.

Ansible "declarativeness" isn't anything worthy of worship. It's plain dumb definition of sequence of steps to take with added guard for each step.

So let's be honest and stop pretending that this "declarativeness" is anything novel or of any value worthy of writing sequence of (guarded) commands in ad-hoc YAML language. Just add some sugar for the pattern above to a decent language and that's all that's needed.

Op is python programmer who is using python for everything for more than 13 years, so there you have the reason. I am also writing my own programming language .. in python: https://github.com/Bystroushaak/tinySelf

You could kind of do this using ansible-runner to dynamically generate a playbook that does what you want.

This is fascinating to me, as someone who manages and Ansible-based config management infra that keeps thousands of servers running. The problem I have with Ansible isn’t the YAML, it’s the Python. I spend at least half my time struggling with reconciling which Python runtime and modules are installed on which hosts. And between the Python 2 EOL, the growth of ARM hosts in our inventory, a fuzzy and changing line between what’s “Ansible” or “Python” or “Jinja” in the syntax, and regular OS upgrades, it’s a lot more work than it ought to be. And at scale there are some really frustrating performance issues that aren’t entirely Python’s fault but which would be much better if we could use native code. I’ve been hoping for years that someone would build a Golang tool that could take Ansible playbooks and do the right thing with minimal tweaking, but I think we’re beyond the point where anyone is going to invest that much time and effort into new CM tooling.

I suspect if anybody is going to write something new it won't benefit so much by being constrained by Ansible's YAML parser, etc.

I toyed with writing a simple thing, inspired by Fabric, and that was moderately useful:


Later I tried again, with something more puppet-like, to experiment with how you might handle dependencies in a simple and consistent fashion, ideally without using a complete language (i.e. puppet/ruby):


The problem with the simpler approach is that they do only basic things, to support "everything" means writing a hell of a lot of glue, and making a lot of busywork until it is remotely useful to others.

Puppet/CFengine/Chef/Salt/Ansible sometimes seem like they're a dead-end with how many things are moving to master /golden images (packer, etc), and containers.

It's healthy to look at alternatives, good on OP.

I wanted to comment on a specific part that mentions that Ansible's YAML is a nightmare to debug.

I wouldn't describe it like that but I'm biased because I've written ARA Records Ansible exactly to make playbooks easier to understand and troubleshoot: https://github.com/ansible-community/ara

I've been using Ansible for many years in different contexts and I think it is easy to get into the trap of "when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail".

For me, Ansible shines as an excellent abstraction layer for supporting different operating systems or as a glue between different tools.

I am very much a believer of using the right tool for the job. Ansible isn't always the answer and I think that's OK.

So when is Ansible not the answer?

I think there would be value in providing idempotent operations to all common Linux tools. This often exist, but sometimes with weird side effects. Sometimes an add operation returns a failure code because item already exist and so on. It would be quite worthwhile to go through the Ansible documentation and document a command line alternative for each. Then it would be easier to use a regular programming language to achieve the same effects.

If one is not tied to python, NixOps is a breath of fresh air.

I don't see anyone else mentioning that the selling point of using YAML in Ansible is "human readable."

I see no practical benefit to requiring devops people to use one scripting language over another, when there are so many equivalent choices to accomplish the same tasks.

This isn’t a simple binary flag - there’s an inflection point for most projects where YAML starts easier to read for simple tasks but you end up having to do things with loops, value manipulation, etc. which would be much easier to read in normal Python.

Well, that presumes the person is a regular user of Python. Maybe they write bash scripts instead. Maybe they're using a BSD and write bourne shell scripts and hate bash. Maybe they're Windows servers using powershell.

As someone else stated the beauty of Ansible is that it abstracts away the most common functions so that the scripts are portable, and the person maintaining the scripts doesn't have to keep up with every syntax change in version if they keep Ansible updated.

Unless you're going to convince individual open source project maintainers to agree to and convert to a somewhat rigid style guide for command line flags, API syntax, and configuration syntax (which no one has managed to do, hence the existence of distros, containers, and Ansible), you're gonna have a hard time convincing anyone to give up on markup languages in deployment tools, I think.

My point was that language complexity needs to be there once you get over a certain level of project complexity, which many projects hit. Once you need to do more than the most basic operations you’re learning something which is going to be better off learning a regular programming language which can take you much further rather than learning at least two separate syntaxes (Python and Jinja2) plus all of YAML’s quirks and duplicate syntax structure, and almost all programming tools have better IDE support, linting, and validation tools.

If you want a document language, TOML is a better choice (or JSON or even non-enterprise XML). If you want to write programs, anything else is a better choice. Hashicorp’s HCL is interesting in that it’s much better designed and supported but even there the main thing which makes it work is the presence of an escape hatch when you hit a limitation.

YAML may be human readable, that doesn't make DSL built on top of YAML by people who know shit about building DSLs less pain. You don't really write YAML, on the higher level, you interact with Ansible via interface, that on the lowest level uses YAML.

> I see no practical benefit to requiring devops people to use one scripting language over another, when there are so many equivalent choices to accomplish the same tasks.

I actually agree. I am a python programmer, for me, python makes perfect sense. Blogpost doesn't say that you should use python, just that I find pyinfra nice.

What I like most from Ansible is that a playbook is idempotent and (mostly) declarational. Biggest downside is that it's hard to debug (no realtime output) and a bit slow (but acceptable)

I wasn't aware of the VSCode Ansible plugin, I've got to check that out.

Pyinfra examples he shows don't look that different from Ansible YAML. ("apt('nginx', update=True, present=True)")

I'm pretty happy with Ansible, with one exception: speed. I may play with Pyinfra, but I'm heavily invested in Ansible. But if Pyinfra is fast, I might try replacing our Fabric with it. I get pushback about how long Ansible takes for our deploys vs. Fabric.

So I looked at the VSCode Ansible plugin and it says it is authored by "Microsoft"[1], but the repository is owned by a Github organization called "Visual Studio China"[2] and the plugin identifier is "vscoss.vscode-ansible", when other Microsoft plugins usually has identifiers in the "ms-vscode" namespace (for example the TSLint and C/C++ extensions) or "ms-vscode-remote" or some similar namespace starting with "ms".

So why is this ansible plugin such an outlier? How can I be sure that this plugin is actually authored by Microsoft and not by some other entity?

Maybe I'm just being paranoid.

Edit: Ok so if you click the name "Microsoft" in the vscode marketplace it will take you to a list of Microsoft authored plugins, which I guess means the organization name in the marketplace is verified somehow. So yes, I was just being paranoid.

[1] https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=vscoss.v...

[2] https://github.com/VSChina/vscode-ansible

try the mitogen plugin. we went from 2 hours to 15 minutes in run time

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of using cloud-init to bootstrap VMs. The configuration is in YAML, but doesn’t require any other client side tooling. Most major distributions (incl. the public clouds) all support it and make it available in their machine images. It integrates nicely into Terraform too.


pyinfra looks interesting.

The thing I want it a way to keep configuration for a single server in a git repo, and have that server periodically run "git pull" and apply any changes.

I ended up bodging together some custom scripts to do this but I really didn't want to. Maybe I can get pyinfra to do this? I don't want to have to run it on another machine and run commands over ssh though.

For reference, in Ansible land the two approaches to this would be https://docs.ansible.com/ansible/latest/cli/ansible-pull.htm... or https://github.com/ansible/awx (upstream project of Ansible Tower)

I had missed ansible-pull, looks like the exact pattern I want. Thanks!

To be honest, I do everything inside my nodes via https://cloud-init.io these days. A single YAML file (yes, yes, I know) that typically bootstraps the machine, grabs a compose file, end done.

What I really want is a strongly typed version of Ansible possibly substituting the YAML bit for just calling library code in say Go or something else.

I'm on the same boat. I'd like to try cuelang but I haven't had the opportunity

None of this stuff works with pipelined / staged deployments, where tools cannot make changes across stages using SSH.

For all its flaws, Docker does solve a lot of the pain the author mentions. Deploying postgres, for example, with a config file and keeping it running is really very easy with Docker Compose.

Not affiliated with Docker except for using it, and while I do have some thoughts about design choices made by Docker, it's still a very good tool.

I don't see Docker as an alternative to a configuration manager. For one, turning to containers represents a distinct architectural choice, with a clear set of tradeoffs, that a developer may or may not want to introduce to a project.

It sure does, but even if you choose not to take advantage of container tech, it's still a very easy way to deploy stuff on a single machine. Not sure why the downvotes.

I didn't downvote. I see your point, but it's a bit of a digression, tbf.

I do use Docker, but that is a tool for completely different purpose. I need something else for configuration of all my physical machines; virtual server, physical server, several notebooks and so on.

What about SaltStack ?

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