Mastering AWX: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Up and Running


With the continued rise of automation, there has been a growing need for powerful and flexible tools to manage and execute complex workflows at scale. AWX is one such tool that aims to make automation simpler and more accessible to everyone.

AWX is an open-source web-based application that provides a graphical user interface for managing Ansible playbooks, inventories, and scheduling jobs. It is built on top of the Ansible engine, which means it inherits all the capabilities of Ansible while providing additional features like role-based access control (RBAC), job templating, project management, and more.

Explanation of what AWX is and why it’s important

AWX can be seen as an evolution of Ansible Tower, which was a commercial offering by Red Hat that provided similar functionality but with proprietary licensing. With AWX being free and open source, it has become a popular choice for organizations looking to automate their infrastructure without incurring licensing expenses or vendor lock-ins.

Moreover, AWX provides many features that are not available in Ansible Core or other automation tools. For example, its RBAC system allows organizations to delegate control over different parts of the infrastructure to different teams or individuals based on their roles or responsibilities.

Overview of what the guide will cover

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive step-by-step tutorial for getting started with AWX from scratch. It assumes no prior knowledge of Ansible or AWX and covers everything from installation to advanced features like custom credentials and notifications.

The guide is organized into several sections that build upon each other gradually. The first section will cover the basics such as installing AWX on your system and navigating its interface.

The subsequent sections will dive deeper into topics like creating projects, configuring inventories and hosts, creating playbooks, running jobs manually or scheduled tasks automatically using AWX’s powerful functionalities. The guide will provide some best practices and tips for using AWX effectively and efficiently.

Getting Started with AWX

Explanation of how to install AWX on your system

AWX is an open source web-based solution that provides a management interface for Ansible, the popular IT automation tool. The first step to getting started with AWX is to install it on your system.

The installation process for AWX can be somewhat complex, but there are a few different methods you can use depending on your environment. One option is to use the official installation script provided by the developers.

This script automates most of the installation process and ensures that all necessary dependencies are installed. Another option is to install AWX manually, which involves downloading and compiling the source code yourself.

This method gives you more control over the installation process, but requires more technical knowledge. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s important to carefully follow the instructions provided in the official documentation to ensure a successful installation.

Overview of the AWX interface and features

Once you have successfully installed AWX on your system, you’ll be greeted with its user-friendly web-based interface. The interface consists of several different components, including a dashboard, inventory management page, job templates page, and many others.

One of the most powerful features of AWX is its job scheduling capabilities. You can easily schedule jobs to run at specific times or intervals using either cron-like syntax or date/time pickers in the UI.

Another useful feature of AWX is its role-based access control (RBAC) system. This allows administrators to define different levels of access for different users or groups within their organization.

Overall, getting started with AWX can be somewhat challenging due to its complexity and many features. However, by following best practices and carefully reading through documentation provided by Ansible and Red Hat (the company behind Ansible), you can quickly become proficient in using this powerful automation tool.

Creating Your First Project in AWX

Step-by-Step Instructions

Once you’ve installed AWX and are familiar with the interface, it’s time to create your first project. To do so, navigate to the “Projects” tab on the left-hand side of the screen and click “Create”.

You’ll be prompted to give your project a name and description. It’s important to choose a descriptive name that will make it easy for you and your team to identify the project later on.

Next, you will need to add your source control (e.g., Git) info by clicking on the SCM type dropdown. Once you’ve done this, enter in your repository URL, branch or tag information, and any credentials if required.

After entering this information, click “Save” at the bottom of the screen. Then click on “Sync” button next to new project to import it into AWX.

Tips for Organizing Your Project

Once you have created a project in AWX, it’s important to organize it properly for efficient use later on. One best practice is creating multiple inventories – one per environment (e.g., dev inventory) – where each inventory has a group of hosts that correspond with its respective environment.

This approach allows easier management of variables based on specific environments and helps avoid conflicts between inventories. Another best practice is using roles when creating playbooks instead of having all tasks in a single playbook file.

Roles help keep specific tasks separate from each other while still being part of a cohesive playbook workflow. Make sure that you are leveraging YAML syntax correctly as this will help make your playbook more readable and easier for others who may need to modify or review them in future.

Setting up Workflows

In order to automate complex workflows within AWX projects using multiple playbooks or steps that interact with each other, one can create a workflow job template. The workflow feature allows one to combine the different playbooks into a single job template and specify the order in which tasks should be executed. Within the AWX interface, workflows can be defined by dragging and dropping individual templates into a flowchart-like diagram to build complex workflows.

By configuring dependencies between steps, you can ensure that each step is only executed after its dependent steps have completed successfully. This makes it easier for you to manage your automation workflow for complex projects.

When setting up workflows, it is important to test your work so you know how it will behave in production or similar environments. AWX provides a dry run mode which allows you to test your playbook without actually modifying anything on your target hosts or applications.

Configuring Inventories and Hosts in AWX

The Importance of Inventory Management

Inventories are the foundation of any successful Ansible project, and as such, must be created with care. An inventory is responsible for keeping track of the hosts on which playbooks will be executed.

The first step to creating a new inventory in AWX is to navigate to the Inventories page and click on the green button labeled “Create Inventory”. From there, you can choose whether you want to create a new inventory manually or import one from an external source such as a file or another Ansible Tower instance.

Managing Inventory Groups and Variables

Once you have created an inventory in AWX, it’s time to organize your hosts into groups. This can be done by clicking on the “Groups” tab under your newly created inventory, then selecting “Add Group”.

Here, you can specify a name for your group and add hosts by hostname or IP address. Additionally, you can create groups within groups by adding child groups.

These nested groups can be used for more granular control over which playbooks are executed on which hosts. Variables are another important aspect of inventory management in AWX.

Variables allow users to set custom values that override those specified in playbook files. Variables can be used globally across all inventories or locally within individual playbooks.

To define variables globally in AWX, navigate back to the Inventories page and select “Variables” under your desired inventory. Here, you can view existing variables or add new ones using YAML syntax.

Tips for Efficient Inventory Management

To keep your inventories organized and easy-to-use, it’s recommended that users follow established best practices when working with AWX inventories. One best practice is separating production environments from development environments by creating separate inventories for each environment type.

This makes it easier to avoid accidentally running playbooks on production servers when they were intended for development servers. Another best practice is using dynamic inventories whenever possible.

Dynamic inventories allow users to automatically generate inventory entries based on external data sources such as Amazon Web Services or OpenStack. This can save time and effort, especially in large-scale deployments.

Users should regularly review their inventories and remove any unused hosts or groups. In large-scale deployments, this can help prevent unnecessary overhead and increase the performance of AWX.

Creating Playbooks in AWX

Step-by-Step Instructions for Creating Playbooks in AWX

At its core, AWX is all about automation. Playbooks are the heart of this automation, as they define a set of tasks to be executed on one or more hosts.

Creating playbooks in AWX can be a daunting task for beginners, but with a bit of practice and guidance, it becomes an essential skill. To create your first playbook in AWX, you’ll need to navigate to the “Projects” tab and select the project where you’d like to store your playbook.

From there, click on “Create Job Template” and give your template a name and description. Under “Playbook”, select the YAML file where you’ll define your tasks.

Once you’ve created your job template, it’s time to start defining your tasks. Each task should have a unique name and should specify which module will perform the task.

You can also add arguments to modules if needed. Use loops and conditionals as necessary to make sure your playbook is flexible enough to handle different scenarios.

Tips for Using Modules, Loops, and Conditionals

Modules are pre-written scripts that perform specific actions on remote hosts. They’re incredibly useful for automating complex tasks without having to write lots of code from scratch. In AWX, modules are specified inside tasks using YAML syntax.

Loops allow you to execute multiple iterations of a task based on some criteria or list of values. For example, you might use a loop when creating users on multiple hosts using different sets of credentials.

Conditionals let you execute certain tasks only if certain criteria are met; otherwise they’re skipped altogether. For example, you might want to skip certain tasks if they’ve already been completed successfully on previous runs.

When working with modules in playbooks, it’s important to ensure that you have the required module installed on the remote host. In some cases, you may need to specify custom parameters or set environment variables.

When using loops, it’s important to make sure that your playbook is idempotent – that is, it will produce the same result regardless of how many times it’s run. This ensures that your playbook won’t accidentally break things by running tasks more than once.

When using conditionals, be careful not to create too many exceptions and edge cases. Overcomplicating your playbooks can make them difficult to maintain and debug later on.

Running Jobs and Scheduling Tasks in AWX

Manually Running Jobs in AWX

One of the main benefits of using AWX is the ability to automate tasks and run jobs with just a few clicks. To manually run a job in AWX, first navigate to the “Jobs” page.

From there, you can select the desired job template and fill out any necessary variables or credentials. Once all required information is entered, simply click “Launch” to start the job.

While running jobs manually can be beneficial for testing purposes or small-scale tasks, it can quickly become tedious to manually launch jobs for every task that needs to be completed. This is where scheduling tasks comes into play.

Scheduling Tasks in AWX

Scheduling tasks allows you to configure jobs to automatically run at specific times, on specific days, or even triggered by certain conditions like changes in code repositories or server statuses. To schedule a task in AWX, navigate to the “Schedules” page and select “Add Schedule”. From there, you can select the desired job template and specify when you want it to run.

When scheduling tasks, it’s important to consider factors like server load and dependencies between jobs. For example, if multiple jobs rely on each other’s completion before running successfully, it may be necessary to create dependent schedules that account for these dependencies.

Monitoring Job Status and Troubleshooting Issues

Once a job has been launched or scheduled in AWX, monitoring its status is crucial for ensuring that everything runs smoothly. The “Jobs” page displays real-time updates on each running or completed job’s status as well as any error messages that may have occurred.

If issues arise during a job’s execution process, troubleshooting tools are available within AWX for quickly identifying problem areas. These tools include detailed logs of each step taken during a job’s execution, as well as the ability to pause or cancel jobs mid-process.

Overall, AWX’s job running and scheduling features allow for greater automation and efficiency in completing tasks. By monitoring job statuses and utilizing troubleshooting tools, users can quickly identify and resolve any issues that arise during the job execution process.

Advanced Features of AWX

Custom Credentials: Adding Security and Flexibility to Your Workflows

One of the most powerful features of AWX is its ability to manage custom credentials. This means that you can store sensitive information such as passwords and API keys in a secure way, and then reference those credentials within your playbooks and job templates.

For example, you might need to connect to a remote server or cloud provider using a specific set of credentials. Rather than hard-coding those credentials into your code (which would be a security risk), you can define them as custom credentials within AWX.

The process for setting up custom credentials in AWX is relatively straightforward. First, you’ll need to define the credential type (such as SSH, AWS access key, or Azure service principal).

Then, you’ll create a new credential object within AWX that references those credentials. You can reference that credential object within your playbooks or job templates using Jinja2 variables.

Notifications: Keeping Everyone Informed

Another great feature of AWX is its notification system. When jobs run in AWX, you can configure it to send notifications to various channels such as email or chat platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams. This means that everyone involved in your project can stay informed about job progress without needing to manually check the interface for updates.

In order to configure notifications in AWX, you’ll first need to add notification configurations under `Settings`. There are several built-in notification types available out-of-the-box such as email and webhooks; however, if none of these fit your needs precisely then it’s possible to write custom notification plugins using Python.

Job Templates: Scaling Your Workflows Efficiently

One final advanced feature worth mentioning is job templates. Job templates allow you to define reusable sets of parameters for running jobs. For example, you might define a job template that deploys your application to staging, and another job template that deploys it to production.

Both templates might use the same playbook, but have different inventory groups and extra variables. The benefit of using job templates is that they allow you to scale your workflows efficiently.

Rather than manually creating new jobs for each deployment, you can simply select the appropriate job template and let AWX handle the details. This makes it much easier to manage large-scale deployments with many different environments and configurations.

Best Practices for Using AWX

Optimizing Performance

One of the key aspects of using AWX effectively is ensuring that your workflows are optimized for performance. One best practice to consider in this regard is to use inventory filters whenever possible. This will minimize the number of hosts that need to be scanned, reducing the amount of time it takes to run jobs.

Additionally, you should avoid running multiple tasks on a single host simultaneously, as this can cause issues with resource contention and slow down your overall workflow. Another best practice for optimizing performance is to use parallelism in your workflows whenever possible.

This can significantly reduce the time it takes to run jobs by allowing multiple tasks to be executed simultaneously. However, care must be taken when using parallelism, as there are limits to how many tasks can be executed at once.

Enforcing Security

Security is another critical aspect of using AWX effectively. It’s important to follow best practices around user access and permissions in order to prevent unauthorized access or modification of sensitive data or systems. One best practice in this regard is limiting user access according to the principle of least privilege – granting users only the permissions they need in order to perform their job responsibilities.

This minimizes the risk of data breaches or other security incidents caused by users with unnecessary levels of access. Additionally, you should ensure that all passwords and credentials are stored securely within AWX itself or an external credential store such as HashiCorp Vault, rather than being stored directly within playbooks or scripts.

Tips on Best Practices

There are a few key tips that can help you get the most out of AWX while avoiding common pitfalls: – Use version control: Storing your playbooks and other configuration files in a version control system like Git allows you full control over changes made over time. – Document everything: Make sure to document your workflows and playbooks thoroughly, including any inputs, outputs, error messages and troubleshooting steps.

– Test early and often: Test your workflows frequently in a staging or development environment before deploying them in production. This will help you catch any bugs or issues before they become a problem for end-users.


AWX is a powerful automation tool that can help streamline IT workflows and make life easier for IT professionals. By following best practices around performance optimization, security, and testing, you can maximize the benefits of AWX while minimizing the risks of data breaches or other incidents. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an AWX expert!

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