Ansible : rolling upgrades or updates.

Making a change to live servers in production is something which has to be done with extreme care and planning. Several deployment types such as blue/green, canary, rolling update are in use today to minimize user impact. Ansible can be used to orchestrate a zero-downtime rolling change to a service.

A typical upgrade of an application, such as patching, might go like this –

  1. disable monitoring alerts for a node
  2. disable or pull out from load balancer
  3. make changes to server
  4. Reboot node
  5. wait for node to be UP and do sanity check
  6. put node back to load balancer
  7. turn on monitoring of node

Rinse and repeat.

Ansible would be a great choice in orchestrating above steps. Let us start with an inventory of web servers, a load balancer and a monitoring node with nagios –




The web servers are running apache2, and we will patch apache and the kernel. For the patch to take effect, the servers need to be recycled. We will perform the patching one node at a time, wait for the node to be healthy and go to the next. The first portion of our playbook would be something like this –

- hosts: webservers
  serial: 1

  - name: Stop apache service
    service: name=httpd state=stopped

  - name: update apache
    yum: name=httpd state=latest
  - name: Update Kernel
    yum: name=kernel state=latest
  - name: Reboot server
    shell: /sbin/reboot -r +1

  - name: Wait for webserver to come up
    wait_for: host={{ inventory_hostname }} port=80 state=started delay=65 timeout=300

I haven’t included the playbook tasks for disabling/enabling monitoring as well as removing/adding node to the load balancer. The procedures might differ depending on what type of monitoring system or load balancer technology you are using. In addition to this, the sanity check show is a simple port 80 probing, in reality a much more sophisticated validation can be done.

References –

Getting started with Google Cloud Platform(GCP)

Google provides the same cloud services as other cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services(AWS) and Microsoft (Azure). It refers it as Google Cloud Platform or GCP. You can easily get started by signing up for free –

List of all products provided in GCP –

Google provides several ways to interact with its services-

1. GCP console (web ui)
GCP console is a web user interface which lets you interact with GCP resources. You can view, create, update and delete cloud resources from this page.

How to create a Linux vm(instance) using the console –

2. Command Line Interface (gcloud cli toolset)
Install gcloud :

The gcloud toolkit is a command line interface tool to interact with GCP resources. Very useful in automating cloud tasks, with its command completion and help pages, it is almost a necessity to familiarize yourself with this tool.

How to create an instance using gcloud cli –

3. Cloud deployment manager
GCP deployment manager allows you to create, delete and update GCP resources in parallel by declaring a set of templates written in jinja2 or python. Templates can be shared with other teams and can be re-used with little modification.

What deployment manager is and how it works –

How to deploy an a GCP instance using deployment manager –

4. APIs
Google provides application programming interface(APIs) to interact with its GCP services. Google recommends using the client libraries over directly calling the RESTful apis.

a. Client libraries

List of client libraries for different programming languages –

How to interact with Google Compute Engine(GCE) using the Python client library –

b. RESTful or raw APIs

API Reference –

Method for creating an instance –

Ansible – How to run a portion of a playbook using tags.

If you have a large playbook it may become useful to be able to run a specific part of it or only a single task without running the whole playbook. Both plays and tasks support a “tags:” attribute for this reason.

In this specific scenario, I have a playbook which configures all productions servers from the moment the servers boot till they start taking traffic. While testing the plays in dev environment, I was debugging an issue on the parts which does dns configuration. This is where the “tags” attributes comes handy –

1. Tag the task –

- name: Configure resolv.conf
  template: src=resolv.conf.j2 dest=/etc/resolv.conf
  when: ansible_hostname != "ns1"
    - dnsconfig

2. Run only the tasks tagged with a specific name –

root@linubuvma:/etc/ansible# ansible-playbook -i dc1/hosts dc1/site.yml --tags "dnsconfig" --check

PLAY [Setup data center 1 servers] *****************************************************

TASK: [common | Configure resolv.conf] ****************************************
skipping: [ns1]
changed: [docker]
ok: [ns2]
ok: [whitehat]
ok: [mail]
ok: [www]
ok: [ftp]

PLAY RECAP ********************************************************************
whitehat                   : ok=1    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0
docker                     : ok=1    changed=1    unreachable=0    failed=0
ns1                        : ok=0    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0
ns2                        : ok=1    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0
mail                        : ok=1    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0
www                   : ok=1    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0
ftp                   : ok=1    changed=0    unreachable=0    failed=0

Ansible playbook will run only the task with the specified tag, it will skip the rest of the tasks in the playbook. Use the ‘–list-tags’ flag to view all the tags.

References –