Rebooting Server(s) Using Ansible

Of late, I've seen a lot of guys on #ansible irc channel & google groups asking questions about rebooting servers/nodes & temporarily pausing the playbook for a given amount of time before continuing with the execution of the playbook. In some cases, you'd want to set some kernel parameters which take effect at boot time or perform major upgrades which might require a reboot before configuring the server/node.

Using ansible's wait_for module[1], we can temporarily stop running the playbook while we wait for the server to finish rebooting or for a service to start & bind to a port. We can also use the same module to wait for a port to become available which can be useful in situations where services are not immediately available after their init scripts finish running - as is the case with Java application server e.g. Tomcat.

Gettin' Started

Basically, we can break our problem into 4 sections for easier conceptualization:

  • Section 1: Pre-reboot: Run your pre-reboot task, it can be performing major upgrades and/or performing some configuration which only take effect at boot time. For example - upgrade all packages using yum module[2]

    - name: upgrade all packages
      yum: name=* state=latest
  • Section 2: Reboot: In this stage we'll use the command module[3] to reboot the remote machine/server by running the reboot command - nothing fancy - you can also use shutdown --reboot.

    - name: reboot server
      command: /sbin/reboot
  • Section 3: Pause the playbook: We'll use the wait_for module to wait for 300 seconds for port 22 to become available before resuming the playbook. I'm using port 22 because most servers run openssh-server on port 22 & if we were to telnet to that port we'd probably see something like :SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_6.6.1, so we can use regex to check whether the output matches "OpenSSH". I'm also using a timeout value of 300 seconds because most physical servers take 3 - 5 minutes to finish rebooting due to hardware checks e.t.c. but you can use any value that suites you. For example: - wait for 300 seconds for port 22 to become available & contain OpenSSH

    - name: wait for the server to finish rebooting
      local_action: wait_for host="web01" search_regex=OpenSSH port=22 timeout=300
  • Section 4: Resume the playbook: After we've got a response from port 22, we can resume running the playbook. This step can be optional depending on your needs.

Puttin' It All Together

  • We can merge all the above sections into one playbook as shown below:
    - hosts: all
      sudo: yes
        - name: Upgrade all packages in RedHat-based machines
          when: ansible_os_family == "Redhat"
          yum: name=* state=latest
        - name: Upgrade all packages in Debian-based machines
          when: ansible_os_family == "Debian"
          apt: upgrade=dist update_cache=yes
        - name: Reboot server
          command: /sbin/reboot
        - name: Wait for the server to finish rebooting
          sudo: no
          local_action: wait_for host="{{ inventory_hostname }}" search_regex=OpenSSH port=22 timeout=300

Stuff to Note

  • I know you might be wondering why we didn't use handlers. Well, notify tasks[4] are only executed at the end of the playbook regardless of their location in the playbook - remember we're interested in rebooting the server & waiting for a given amount of time for the server to finish rebooting.
  • inventory_hostname variable[5] is the name of the remote server as stated in the ansible hosts file
  • local_action directive[6] runs the given step on the local machine, for example, it would run the wait_for task on your local machine.
  • yum module only works on RedHat based OS e.g. Fedora, CentOS & RHEL - and so we'll also use the apt module for Debian based OS e.g. Ubuntu, Debian e.t.c.


  1. Ansible wait_for module
  2. Ansible command module
  3. Ansible yum module
  4. Ansible Handlers: Running operations on change
  5. Playbook built-in variables
  6. Ansible local_action directives