Creating Custom Rules for Ansible Lint

December 15, 2022 by Vineeth Reddy Katuru

What is Ansible Lint? 

Ansible Lint is a command-line tool (part of the ansible-lint upstream community project) for linting of Ansible Playbooks, Roles, and Collections. Ok, so what exactly is “linting?” Its fundamental objective is to promote proven behaviors, patterns, and practices while avoiding typical traps that can quickly result in errors or make code more difficult to maintain. That is - leverage community recommendations and opinions in writing Ansible content by means of a tool to help ensure what you’re writing is generally valid.

Additionally, Ansible Lint is designed to assist users in updating their code to function with more recent Ansible versions. Even though the version of Ansible being used in production can be an older version of ansible-core, we advise utilizing it with the most recent version.

Ansible Lint is opinionated just like any other linter. However, because community members contributed to its rules, each user has the option to enable or disable them on an individual or category basis.

 

Why should I use Ansible Lint? 

The goal of Ansible Lint is to flag programming errors, bugs, stylistic errors and suspicious constructs and also ensure that content created by different people has a similar look and feel. This makes the adoption and use of Ansible content easier in the community, and by extension, the enterprise. By keeping the number of configurable features at a minimum, authors can achieve more consistent outcomes

Ansible Lint should be considered a trusted advisor to Ansible content creators, helping them write and package higher quality Ansible content. While not all rules may be applicable in all situations, they should be followed whenever possible.

In 2022, additional rules have been added to help content creators ready their content for production. With ansible-lint and these rules, developers can have confidence that their playbooks, roles, and task files are easy to understand and produce consistent results, whether deployed  on servers in a home lab, or mission-critical systems in the cloud.

Adopting Ansible Lint will save time by focusing on the quality of the content and less so on the nuances of formatting and style. As code formatting is not an art, we can save  time and effort on a project by applying a standardized code style and formatting.

 

Guidelines to add new rule 

Multiple rules may be added based on the requirements. Adding a new rule should combine implementation, testing and documentation. 

Some guidelines to create a new Ansible Lint rule include the following:

  • Use a short but clear class name, which must match the filename.
  • Pick an unused ID; the first number is used to determine the rule section. Refer to the  rules page and pick one that matches the best your new rule and see which one fits best.
  • Include experimental tags. Any new rule must stay as experimental for at least two weeks until this tag is removed in the next major release.
  • Update all class level variables.
  • Implement linting methods needed by your rule, these are the ones starting with match prefix. Implement only those you need. For the moment you will need to look at how similar rules were implemented to figure out what to do.
  • Update the tests. It must have at least one test and likely also a negative match one.
  • If the rule is task specific, it may be best to include a test to verify its use inside blocks as well.
  • Optionally run only the rule specific tests with a command like: tox -e py38-core -- -k NewRule .
  • Run tox in order to run all ansible-lint tests. Adding a new rule can break some other tests. Update them if needed.
  • Run ansible-lint -L and check that the rule description renders correctly.
  • Build the documentation using the tox -e docs command and check that the new rule is displayed correctly in them.

Here is a reference example MetaTagValidRule that may be useful to create new rules.

 

Creating Custom Rules

Rules are described using a class file per rule. For example, default rules are named DeprecatedVariableRule.py, etc.

Each rule definition should have the following:

  • ID: A unique identifier.
  • Short description: Brief description of the rule.
  • Description: What the rule is looking for.
  • Tags: One or more tags that may be used to include or exclude the rule.
  • At least one of the following methods:
    • Match that takes a line and returns none or false; if the line doesn’t match the test, and true or a custom message, when it does. (This allows one rule to test multiple behaviors - see e.g. the CommandsInsteadOfModulesRule.)
    • Matchtask that operates on a single task or handler, such that tasks get standardized to always contain a module key and module_arguments key. Other common task modifiers, such as when, with_items, etc., are also available as keys, if present in the task.

An example rule using match is:

from ansiblelint.rules import AnsibleLintRule
class DeprecatedVariableRule(AnsibleLintRule):
    """Deprecated variable declarations."""
    id = 'EXAMPLE002'
    description = 'Check for lines that have old style ${var} ' + \ 'declarations'
    tags = { 'deprecations' }
    def match(self, line: str) -> Union[bool, str]:
        return '${' in line

An example rule using matchtask is:

from typing import TYPE_CHECKING, Any, Dict, Union
import ansiblelint.utils
from ansiblelint.rules import AnsibleLintRule
if TYPE_CHECKING:
    from ansiblelint.file_utils import Lintable
class TaskHasTag(AnsibleLintRule):
    """Tasks must have tag."""
    id = 'EXAMPLE001'
    description = 'Tasks must have tag'
    tags = ['productivity']
    def matchtask(self, task: Dict[str, Any], file: 'Lintable' | None = None) -> Union[bool,str]:
        # If the task include another task or make the playbook fail
        # Don't force to have a tag
        if not set(task.keys()).isdisjoint(['include','fail']):
            return False
        # Task should have tags
        if not task.has_key('tags'):
              return True
        return False

The task argument to matchtask contains a number of keys - the critical one is action. The value of task['action'] contains the module being used, and the arguments passed, both as key-value pairs and a list of other arguments (e.g. the command used with shell).

In ansible-lint 2.0.0, task['action']['args'] was renamed task['action']['module_arguments'] to avoid a clash when a module actually takes args as a parameter key (e.g. ec2_tag)

In ansible-lint 3.0.0 task['action']['module'] was renamed task['action']['__ansible_module__'] to avoid a clash when a module takes a module as an argument. As a precaution, task['action']['module_arguments'] was renamed task['action']['__ansible_arguments__'].

 

Packaging Custom Rules

The ansible-lint provides a sub directory named custom in its built-in rules, /usr/lib/python3.8/site-packages/ansiblelint/rules/custom/ for example, to install custom rules since v4.3.1. The custom rules, which are packaged as a Python package installed into this directory, will be loaded and enabled automatically by ansible-lint.

To make custom rules loaded automatically, you need the following:

  • Packaging your custom rules as a Python package named some descriptive ones like ansible_lint_custom_rules_foo.
  • Install it into<ansible_lint_custom_rules_dir>/custom/<your_custom_rules_subdir>/.

You may accomplish the second by adding some configurations into the [options] section of the setup.cfg of your custom rules python package like the following:

[options]
packages =
    ansiblelint.rules.custom.<your_custom_rules_subdir>
Package_dir = ansiblelint.rules.custom.<your_custom_rules_subdir> = <your_rules_source_code_subdir>

 

Getting Started and Next Steps with Ansible Lint

Where is the repo?

Ansible repository is open source code, which you can find on GitHub: https://github.com/ansible/ansible-lint.

 

Any resources/documentation?

Full, in-depth upstream community documentation of Ansible Lint can be found at https://ansible-lint.readthedocs.io/

 

How to contribute

As ansible-lint is open source, anyone in the community can also contribute new rules to the project.

Here are the steps that everyone should follow:

  • First create pull requests on a branch of your own fork.
  • After [creating your fork on GitHub], do the following at the command-line:
$ git clone git@github.com:your-name/ansible-lint
$ cd ansible-lint
$ git checkout -b your-branch-name
# DO SOME CODING HERE
$ git add your new files
$ git commit -v
$ git push origin your-branch-name

 

Standards that need to be maintained:

  • ansible-lint is flake8 compliant with max-line-length set to 100.
  • ansible-lint only works with supported Ansible versions at the time it was released.
  • Automated tests will be run against all PRs for flake8 compliance and Ansible compatibility — to check before pushing commits, just use tox.
  • You will then be able to create a pull request from your commit.
  • All fixes to core functionality (i.e. anything except docs or examples) should be accompanied by tests that fail prior to your change and succeed afterwards.
  • Feel free to raise issues in the repo if you feel unable to contribute a code fix.
  • Installing the upstream open source package from pip.
  • Installing the downstream RPM package from Customer Portal for Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform customers.
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Topics:
Playbooks, Roles, Ansible content collections


 

Vineeth Reddy Katuru

Vineeth was a Fall 2022 Co-Op, where he worked on different projects in the Ansible business unit. He worked on projects like Ansible Lint and Ansible Cloud (Azure). Vineeth previously worked in Athena Health and Accenture, where he helped to develop new features in the products by developing applications in different tech stacks. He resides in Tempe, AZ and continues his master studies from Arizona State University.

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