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About linux : How-to-set-Linux-environment-variables-with-Ansible

Question Detail

Hi I am trying to find out how to set environment variable with Ansible.

something that a simple shell command like this:


tried as shell command and got an error
tried using the environment module and nothing happend.

what am I missing

Question Answer

There are multiple ways to do this and from your question it’s nor clear what you need.

1. If you need environment variable to be defined PER TASK ONLY, you do this:

- hosts: dev
    - name: Echo my_env_var
      shell: "echo $MY_ENV_VARIABLE"
        MY_ENV_VARIABLE: whatever_value

    - name: Echo my_env_var again
      shell: "echo $MY_ENV_VARIABLE"

Note that MY_ENV_VARIABLE is available ONLY for the first task, environment does not set it permanently on your system.

TASK: [Echo my_env_var] ******************************************************* 
changed: [] => {"changed": true, "cmd": "echo $MY_ENV_VARIABLE", ... "stdout": "whatever_value"}

TASK: [Echo my_env_var again] ************************************************* 
changed: [] => {"changed": true, "cmd": "echo $MY_ENV_VARIABLE", ... "stdout": ""}

Hopefully soon using environment will also be possible on play level, not only task level as above.
There’s currently a pull request open for this feature on Ansible’s GitHub: https://github.com/ansible/ansible/pull/8651

UPDATE: It’s now merged as of Jan 2, 2015.

2. If you want permanent environment variable + system wide / only for certain user

You should look into how you do it in your Linux distribution / shell, there are multiple places for that. For example in Ubuntu you define that in files like for example:

  • ~/.profile
  • /etc/environment
  • /etc/profile.d directory

You will find Ubuntu docs about it here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/EnvironmentVariables

After all for setting environment variable in ex. Ubuntu you can just use lineinfile module from Ansible and add desired line to certain file. Consult your OS docs to know where to add it to make it permanent.

I did not have enough reputation to comment and hence am adding a new answer.
Gasek answer is quite correct. Just one thing: if you are updating the .bash_profile file or the /etc/profile, those changes would be reflected only after you do a new login.
In case you want to set the env variable and then use it in subsequent tasks in the same playbook, consider adding those environment variables in the .bashrc file.
I guess the reason behind this is the login and the non-login shells.
Ansible, while executing different tasks, reads the parameters from a .bashrc file instead of the .bash_profile or the /etc/profile.

As an example, if I updated my path variable to include the custom binary in the .bash_profile file of the respective user and then did a source of the file.
The next subsequent tasks won’t recognize my command. However if you update in the .bashrc file, the command would work.

 - name: Adding the path in the bashrc files
   lineinfile: dest=/root/.bashrc line='export PATH=$PATH:path-to-mysql/bin' insertafter='EOF' regexp='export PATH=\$PATH:path-to-mysql/bin' state=present
-  - name: Source the bashrc file
   shell: source /root/.bashrc

 - name: Start the mysql client
   shell: mysql -e "show databases";

This would work, but had I done it using profile files the mysql -e "show databases" would have given an error.

- name: Adding the path in the Profile files
   lineinfile: dest=/root/.bash_profile line='export PATH=$PATH:{{install_path}}/{{mysql_folder_name}}/bin' insertafter='EOF' regexp='export PATH=\$PATH:{{install_path}}/{{mysql_folder_name}}/bin' state=present

 - name: Source the bash_profile file
   shell: source /root/.bash_profile

 - name: Start the mysql client
   shell: mysql -e "show databases";

This one won’t work, if we have all these tasks in the same playbook.

Here’s a quick local task to permanently set key/values on /etc/environment (which is system-wide, all users):

- name: populate /etc/environment

    path: "/etc/environment"

    state: present
    regexp: "^{{ item.key }}="
    line: "{{ item.key }}={{ item.value}}"
  with_items: "{{ os_environment }}"

and the vars for it:

    value : websec.prod_settings  
    value : admin

and, yes, if you ssh out and back in, env shows the new environment variables.

p.s. It used to be dest as in:

    dest: "/etc/environment"

but see the comment

For the task only: inlining works, some of the time.


Note: the stuff below is more an observation/experiment than a recommendation.

The first task is the equivalent to Michael’s top voted answer.

The second doesn’t work, but then again foo=1 echo $foo doesn’t work in bash either (I suspect that’s because echo is a builtin).

The third does work, as it does in bash, and takes very little effort. However… when I tried doing this to set a node variable, it failed miserably until I used Michael’s answer.

    - name: Echo my_env_var
      shell: "echo $MY_ENV_VARIABLE"
        MY_ENV_VARIABLE: value1  

    - name: Echo my_env_var inline, doesnt work in bash either
      shell: "MY_ENV_VARIABLE=value2 echo $MY_ENV_VARIABLE"

    - name: set my_env_var inline then env
      shell: "MY_ENV_VARIABLE=value3 env | egrep MY_ENV"


TASK [Echo my_env_var] *********************************************************
changed: [] => changed=true 
  cmd: echo $MY_ENV_VARIABLE
  stdout: value1

TASK [Echo my_env_var inline, doesnt work in bash either] **********************
changed: [] => changed=true 
  stdout: ''

TASK [set my_env_var inline then env] ******************************************
changed: [] => changed=true 
  cmd: MY_ENV_VARIABLE=value3 env | egrep MY_ENV
  stdout: MY_ENV_VARIABLE=value3

This is the best option. As said Michal Gasek (first answer), since the pull request was merged (https://github.com/ansible/ansible/pull/8651),
we are able to set permanent environment variables easily by play level.

- hosts: all
     - php
     - nginx
    MY_ENV_VARIABLE: whatever_value

For persistently setting environment variables, you can use one of the existing roles over at Ansible Galaxy. I recommend weareinteractive.environment.

Using ansible-galaxy:

$ ansible-galaxy install weareinteractive.environment

Using requirements.yml:

- src: franklinkim.environment

Then in your playbook:

- hosts: all
  sudo: yes
    - role: franklinkim.environment
        NODE_ENV: staging
        DATABASE_NAME: staging

You can also set env with a custom become plugin

hosts setting



from ansible.plugins.become import BecomeBase

class BecomeModule(BecomeBase):
    def build_become_command(self, cmd, shell):
        cmd = 'PYTHONPATH="/foo/bar:$PYTHONPATH" ' + cmd
        return cmd

I’m installing krew plugin manager and some of its plugin using ansible for a Fish shell. To install the plugins, I wanted to use the $PATH value as set by my previous task in /.config/fish/config.fish.


Using shell module with executable parameter was throwing:

stderr: |-
  error: unknown command "krew" for "kubectl"
  error: unknown command "krew" for "kubectl"
  error: unknown command "krew" for "kubectl"


  1. add a line declaring the path to the krew bin in /.config/fish/config.fish

    - name: Add krew to $PATH
         path: '{{ home }}/.config/fish/config.fish'
         search_string: krew
         line: set --append --export --global PATH $HOME/.krew/bin
  2. Then, use the shell module to source Fish config file and run kubectl commands to install my plugins:

    - name: Install `kubectx` (context) and `kudens` (namespace)
       shell: |
         source {{ home }}/.config/fish/config.fish
         kubectl krew install ctx
         kubectl krew install ns
         kubectl krew install oidc-login
         executable: /usr/bin/fish


Look a bit hack-ish to me, would love more ansible-ish solution.

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