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A short tutorial on how to use Vault in your Ansible workflow. Ansible-vault allows you to more safely store sensitive information in a source code repository or on disk.

##Working with ansible-vault

I've been using a lot of Ansible lately and while almost everything has been great, finding a clean way to implement ansible-vault wasn't immediately apparent.

What I decided on was the following: put your secret information into a vars file, reference that vars file from your task, and encrypt the whole vars file using ansible-vault encrypt.

Let's use an example: You're writing an Ansible role and want to encrypt the spoiler for the movie Aliens.

Your Ansible role should have the following structure similar to the following:

roles/aliens
	├── tasks
	│   └── main.yml
	└── vars
		    └── spoilers.yml

First, put your spoiler text in a roles/aliens/vars/spoilers.yml:

---
spoiler_text: | 
  people run into some space aliens
  and they end up fighting them

(Note the pipe, followed by the new line with text indented by two spaces. This allows you to easily put multi-line text into a variable.)

Then, reference your spoiler_text variable in your task:

---
- include_vars: spoilers.yml

- name: Put the spoiler text in the tmp directory on the remote server.
  copy:
    content="{{spoiler_text}}"
    dest=/tmp/spoiler_text.txt

Encrypt your spoilers file using your vault password file on the command line:

$ ansible-vault encrypt roles/aliens/vars/spoilers.yml --vault-password-file ~/.vault_pass.txt
Encryption successful

You can now safely put this file in your source control without spoiling the movie for everyone.

$ head -n3 aliens/vars/spoilers.yml
$ANSIBLE_VAULT;1.1;AES256
61616366326131636131323230613333356361333737356566646133343062623061313931666462
3933316533346664393430643963646533663737343434320a613862353665663862393939383336
...

Then, given a playbook that looks like:

---
# file: movies.yml
- hosts: all

  roles:
    - { role: aliens }

You can now run this against your server:

$ ansible-playbook -i inventory/development.hosts playbooks/movies.yml --vault-password-file ~/.vault_pass.txt

That's it! Hop on the server and you can see that the decrypted content is there on disk:

remote_server$ cat /tmp/spoiler_text.txt 
people run into some space aliens
and they end up fighting them

This is useful for more than just movie spoilers -- I use this approach to copy over my deploy-keys to make continuous integration and simple deployments a reality.

26-April-2016 edit: There's now a "best practice" document that may be interesting to you if you're reading this tutorial: http://docs.ansible.com/ansible/playbooks_best_practices.html#best-practices-for-variables-and-vaults

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