ansibleAnsible: Loops and Conditionals


What kinds of conditionals to use?

Use Conditionals via (syntax is in [brackets]):

  • when [when:]

       - name: run if operating system is debian
         command: echo "I am a Debian Computer"
         when: ansible_os_family == "Debian"
  • loops [with_items:]

  • loops [with_dicts:]

  • Custom Facts [ when: my_custom_facts == '1234']

  • Conditional imports

  • Select files and Templates based on variables

[When] Condition: `ansible_os_family` Lists

Common use

  • when: ansible_os_family == "CentOS"
  • when: ansible_os_family == "Redhat"
  • when: ansible_os_family == "Darwin"
  • when: ansible_os_family == "Debian"
  • when: ansible_os_family == "Windows"

All Lists

based on discuss here

OS_FAMILY = dict(
            RedHat = 'RedHat',
            Fedora = 'RedHat', 
            CentOS = 'RedHat', 
            Scientific = 'RedHat',
            SLC = 'RedHat', 
            Ascendos = 'RedHat', 
            CloudLinux = 'RedHat', 
            PSBM = 'RedHat',
            OracleLinux = 'RedHat', 
            OVS = 'RedHat', 
            OEL = 'RedHat', 
            Amazon = 'RedHat',
            XenServer = 'RedHat', 
            Ubuntu = 'Debian', 
            Debian = 'Debian', 
            SLES = 'Suse',
            SLED = 'Suse', 
            OpenSuSE = 'Suse', 
            SuSE = 'Suse', 
            Gentoo = 'Gentoo',
            Archlinux = 'Archlinux', 
            Mandriva = 'Mandrake', 
            Mandrake = 'Mandrake',
            Solaris = 'Solaris', 
            Nexenta = 'Solaris',  
            OmniOS = 'Solaris', 
            OpenIndiana = 'Solaris',
            SmartOS = 'Solaris', 
            AIX = 'AIX', 
            Alpine = 'Alpine', 
            MacOSX = 'Darwin',
            FreeBSD = 'FreeBSD', 
            HPUX = 'HP-UX'

When Condition

Basic Usage

Use the when condition to control whether a task or role runs or is skipped. This is normally used to change play behavior based on facts from the destination system. Consider this playbook:

- hosts: all
    - include: Ubuntu.yml
      when: ansible_os_family == "Ubuntu"
    - include: RHEL.yml
      when: ansible_os_family == "RedHat"

Where Ubuntu.yml and RHEL.yml include some distribution-specific logic.

Another common usage is to limit results to those in certain Ansible inventory groups. Consider this inventory file:



And this playbook:

- hosts: all
    - name: Restart Apache on webservers
      become: yes
        name: apache2
        state: restarted
      when: webservers in group_names

This is using the group_names magic variable.

Conditional Syntax and Logic

Single condition


when: (condition)


  • when: ansible_os_family == "Debian"
  • when: ansible_pkg_mgr == "apt"
  • when: myvariablename is defined

Boolean Filter


when: result|failed

Multiple Conditions


When: condition1 and/or condition2

Example (simple)

when: ansible_os_family == "Debian" and ansible_pkg_mgr == "apt"

Example (complex)

Use parentheses for clarity or to control precedence. "AND" has a higher precedence than "OR".

Clauses can span lines:

  ansible_distribution in ['RedHat', 'CentOS', 'ScientificLinux'] and
  (ansible_distribution_version|version_compare('7', '<') or
  ansible_distribution_version|version_compare('8', '>='))
  ansible_distribution == 'Fedora'
  ansible_distribution == 'Ubuntu' and
  ansible_distribution_version|version_compare('15.04', '>=')

Note the use of parentheses to group the "or" in the first distribution check.

Get `ansible_os_family` and `ansible_pkg_mgr` with setup

We can get facts (ansible_os_family, ansible_pkg_mgr) with Ad-Hoc command of setup module and filter.

  • ansible_os_family:

      $ ansible all -m setup -a 'filter=ansible_os_family'
      ra.local | SUCCESS => {
          "ansible_facts": {
              "ansible_os_family": "Debian"
          "changed": false
  • ansible_pkg_mgr:

      $ ansible all -m setup -a 'filter=ansible_pkg_mgr'
      debian.local | SUCCESS => {
          "ansible_facts": {
              "ansible_pkg_mgr": "apt"
          "changed": false

Simple "When" Example(s)


variable_name: True

Then, these tasks with always run.

- name: This is a conditional task
  module: src=/example/ dest=/example
  when: variable_name 

- name: This is a conditional task
  module: src=/example/ dest=/example
  when: True

This task will never run.

- name: This is a conditional task
  module: src=/example/ dest=/example
  when: False

Using until for a retry looping alive check

This is an example of using until/retries/delay to implement an alive check for a webapp that is starting up. It assumes that there will be some period of time (up to 3 minutes) where the webapp is refusing socket connections. After that, it checks the /alive page for the word "OK". It also delegates the retrieval of the URL to the localhost running ansible. This makes sense as the final task in a deployment playbook.

- hosts: my-hosts
  - action: uri url=http://{{ ansible_all_ipv4_addresses }}:8080/alive return_content=yes
    delegate_to: localhost
    register: result
    until: "'failed' not in result and result.content.find('OK') != -1"
    retries: 18
    delay: 10

The until retry pattern can be used with any action; Ansible documentation provides an example of waiting until a certain shell command returns a desired result: