Skip to main content Logo

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Home | About | All pages | Cluster Status | RSS Feed

Ansible - Only if a file exists or does not exist

Published: 27-12-2014 | Author: Remy van Elst | Text only version of this article

❗ This post is over nine years old. It may no longer be up to date. Opinions may have changed.

This Ansible playbook example helps you execute actions only if a file exists or does not exist. If you for example have a command you need to run to generate a certificate (or Diffie Hellman parameters for nginx) you only want to do that once. The command itself is not convergent so it will run with every ansible run. However, the command creates a file and Ansible is able to check if that file exists. If the file exists, it will not execute the action. The same goes for checking if a file does exist and only executing the action if it exists. (The action you want to do will remove that file).

Recently I removed all Google Ads from this site due to their invasive tracking, as well as Google Analytics. Please, if you found this content useful, consider a small donation using any of the options below:

I'm developing an open source monitoring app called Leaf Node Monitoring, for windows, linux & android. Go check it out!

Consider sponsoring me on Github. It means the world to me if you show your appreciation and you'll help pay the server costs.

You can also sponsor me by getting a Digital Ocean VPS. With this referral link you'll get $100 credit for 60 days.

The below example command will generate Diffi Hellman parameters for NGINX ssl. This command creates the file /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem. It should run only if that file does not exist (because only newly deployed servers will not have the file), if the file exist there is no need to run again.

- name: generate dh params
command: sudo openssl dhparam -out /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem 2048 
  creates: /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem

Ansible has the creates option in the command module. Give it a filename (directories will not work) and if it already exists Ansible will skip the action.

The same goes for only executing an action if a file exists. The command you are using will remove that file, so only if the file is there the action should be executed. Just as the creates option, there is the removes option. For the removes option, you need at least Ansible 0.8.

The below example is for a custom piece of software one of my clients uses. If we deploy a new version, we check out the code repository and run a script to install a new version. That script will only run when the configuration file is renamed to software.conf.upgrade. After the upgrade it renamed that config file to the original software.conf and also puts the config in its database. It is sadly proprietary software and the manufacturer has stated they are not changing the behavior to a more sane default. The below example will only run the upgrade script when the file /etc/software/software.conf.upgrade exists. Since the script removes it, the next time Ansible runs it does not try to upgrade the software.

- name: upgrade software
command: /opt/software/bin/upgrade 
  removes: etc/software/software.conf.upgrade

Documentation for the Command Module

If you have other commands which do not support the creates option, you need to first use the stat module and register the result of that. This example is for the Shorewall firewall. We first check if the rules file exists:

- name: check if rules file exists
    path: /etc/shorewall/rules
  register: shorewall_rules

We fill the shorewall_rules variable with the result of this action. The next two actions add a rule to the rules file and restart the firewall, but only if the rules file exists:

- name: add firewall rule for ssh
    dest: /etc/shorewall/rules 
    state: present 
    regexp: "^ACCEPT net0:192\.0\.2\.22 \$FW tcp 5666" 
    line: "ACCEPT net0: $FW tcp 5666"
  when: shorewall_rules.stat.exists == true

- name: restart shorewall
  command: "shorewall restart"
  when: shorewall_rules.stat.exists == True

If you want to do stuff when a file is not present, you can check if the result is False, like so:

- action: example
  when: stat_result.stat.exists == False
Tags: ansible , configuration-management , deployment , devops , nginx , openssl , tutorials