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Ansible tips’n’tricks: provision multiple machines in parallel with Vagrant and Ansible

Vagrant is a great tool that I’m regularly using for building playground environments on my laptop. I recently came across a slight inconvenience with Vagrant’s Virtualbox provider: occasionally I would like to spin up a Data Guard environment and provision both VMs in parallel to save time. Sadly you can’t bring up multiple machines in parallel using the VirtualBox provisioner according to the documentation . This was true as of April 11 2019 and might change in the future, so keep an eye out on the reference.

I very much prefer to save time by doing things in parallel, and so I started digging around how I could achieve this goal.

The official documentation mentions something that looks like a for loop to wait for all machines to be up. This isn’t really an option, I wanted more control over machine names and IP addresses. So I came up with this approach, it may not be the best, but it falls into the “good enough for me” category.


The Vagrantfile is actually quite simple and might remind you of a previous article:

  1 Vagrant.configure("2") do |config|
  2   config.ssh.private_key_path = "/path/to/key"
  4   config.vm.define "server1" do |server1|
  5 = "ansibletestbase"
  6     server1.vm.hostname = "server1"
  7 "private_network", ip: ""
  8     server1.vm.synced_folder "/path/to/stuff", "/mnt",
  9       mount_options: ["uid=54321", "gid=54321"]
 11     config.vm.provider "virtualbox" do |vb|
 12       vb.memory = 2048
 13       vb.cpus = 2
 14     end
 15   end
 17   config.vm.define "server2" do |server2|
 18 = "ansibletestbase"
 19     server2.vm.hostname = "server2"
 20 "private_network", ip: ""
 21     server2.vm.synced_folder "/path/to/stuff", "/mnt",
 22       mount_options: ["uid=54321", "gid=54321"]
 24     config.vm.provider "virtualbox" do |vb|
 25       vb.memory = 2048
 26       vb.cpus = 2
 27     end
 28   end
 30   config.vm.provision "ansible" do |ansible|
 31     ansible.playbook = "hello.yml"
 32     ansible.groups = {
 33       "oracle_si" => ["server[1:2]"],
 34       "oracle_si:vars" => { 
 35         "install_rdbms" => "true",
 36         "patch_rdbms" => "true",
 37       }
 38     }
 39   end
 41 end

Ansibletestbase is my custom Oracle Linux 7 image that I keep updated for personal use. I define a couple of machines, server1 and server2 and from line 30 onwards let Ansible provision them.

A little bit of an inconvenience

Now here is the inconvenient bit: if I provided an elaborate playbook to provision Oracle in line 31 of the Vagrantfile, it would be run serially. First for server1, and only after it completed (or failed…) server2 will be created and provisioned. This is the reason for a rather plain playbook, hello.yml:

$ cat hello.yml 
- hosts: oracle_si
  - name: say hello
    debug: var=ansible_hostname

This literally takes no time to execute at all, so no harm is done running it serially once per VM. Not only is no harm done, quite the contrary: Vagrant discovered an Ansible provider in the Vagrantfile and created a suitable inventory file for me. I’ll gladly use it later.

How does this work out?

Enough talking, time to put this to test and to bring up both machines. As you will see in the captured output, they start one-by-one, run their provisioning tool and proceed to the next system.

$ vagrant up 
Bringing machine 'server1' up with 'virtualbox' provider...
Bringing machine 'server2' up with 'virtualbox' provider...
==> server1: Importing base box 'ansibletestbase'...
==> server1: Matching MAC address for NAT networking...


==> server1: Running provisioner: ansible...


    server1: Running ansible-playbook...

PLAY [oracle_si] ***************************************************************

TASK [Gathering Facts] *********************************************************
ok: [server1]

TASK [say hello] ***************************************************************
ok: [server1] => {
    "ansible_hostname": "server1"

PLAY RECAP *********************************************************************
server1                    : ok=2    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0   

==> server2: Importing base box 'ansibletestbase'...
==> server2: Matching MAC address for NAT networking...


==> server2: Running provisioner: ansible...

    server2: Running ansible-playbook...

PLAY [oracle_si] ***************************************************************

TASK [Gathering Facts] *********************************************************
ok: [server2]

TASK [say hello] ***************************************************************
ok: [server2] => {
    "ansible_hostname": "server2"

PLAY RECAP *********************************************************************
server2                    : ok=2    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0

As always the Ansible provisioner created an inventory file I can use in ./.vagrant/provisioners/ansible/inventory/vagrant_ansible_inventory. The inventory looks exactly as described in the |ansible| block, and it has the all important global variables as well.

$cat ./.vagrant/provisioners/ansible/inventory/vagrant_ansible_inventory
# Generated by Vagrant
server2 ansible_host= ansible_port=2201 ansible_user='vagrant' ansible_ssh_private_key_file='/path/to/key'
server1 ansible_host= ansible_port=2200 ansible_user='vagrant' ansible_ssh_private_key_file='/path/to/key'



After ensuring both that machines are up using the “ping” module, I can run the actual playbook. You might have to confirm the servers’ ssh keys the first time you run this:

$ ansible -i ./.vagrant/provisioners/ansible/inventory/vagrant_ansible_inventory -m ping oracle_si
server1 | SUCCESS => {
"changed": false,
"ping": "pong"
server2 | SUCCESS => {
"changed": false,
"ping": "pong"

All good to go! Let’s call the actual playbook to provision my machines.

$ ansible-playbook -i ./.vagrant/provisioners/ansible/inventory/vagrant_ansible_inventory provisioning/oracle.yml 

TASK [Gathering Facts] ***************************************************************
ok: [server1]
ok: [server2]

TASK [test for Oracle Linux 7] *******************************************************
skipping: [server1]
skipping: [server2]

And we’re off to the races. Happy automating!