Creating a Custom Execution Environment For AWX

Uğur Akgül
4 min readFeb 29, 2024

Hi, in this post we are going to look at AWX execution environments and how to create a custom execution environment if we need one. Let’s begin !

What is AWX and Execution Environment ?

AWX is the upstream project of Ansible Tower/Ansible Automation Platform based on the explanation here. We are using AWX, because it takes care of some of the basic needs when using ansible.

The term Execution Environments based on the explanation, refers to the container runtime execution of Ansible within an OCI Compliant Container Runtime using an OCI Compliant Container Image that appropriately bundles Ansible Base, Ansible Collection Content, and the runtime dependencies required to support these contents. The build tooling provided by Ansible Builder aids in the creation of these images.

Each execution environment allows you to have a customized image to run jobs, and each of them contain only what you need when running the job.

If you need a specific command, module or python package that is not available in the default execution environment image, you can easily create your own custom execution environment with ansible-builder.

Configuring The Dependencies

I’ve created a github repository just for the execution environments. I will be using this repository for the rest of this post.

NOTE: I am using AWX operator 2.5.0

After you’ve cloned the repository you will have a folder structure like below:

awx-ee-builder
├── LICENSE
├── README.md
└── builder
├── dependencies
│ ├── bindep.txt
│ ├── requirements.txt
│ └── requirements.yml
├── execution-environment_v1.yml
├── execution-environment_v3.yml
└── files
└── ansible.cfg

NOTE: There is detailed information in the README of the repository.

To create your custom execution environment, you will need:

  • Docker
  • Python3
  • Ansible Builder

NOTE: If you want to use ansible-builder v3, you need to install Python3.9 on your system.

After installing docker and python3, you can install ansible-builder with the command:

python3 -m pip install ansible-builder

Based on your python3 version, ansible-builder v1 or v3 will be installed. If you have python3.9 or upper ansible-builder v3 will be installed and if you have lower python3 version, ansible-builder v1 will be installed.

After you are done with the prerequisites, you can begin to work with the customization. The repository contains folders/files that can help you customize your image. Under builder/dependencies folder there are 3 different files with the following purpose:

  • bindep.txt: Is used for RPM packages that needs to be installed on the image
  • requirements.txt: Is used for python packages/libraries that needs to be installed on the image
  • requirements.yml: Is used for ansible-galaxy modules that needs to be installed on the image

After modifying requirements files, you need to modify your main file which is execution-environment.yml.

The repository includes examples for both ansible-builder v1 and v3, respectively

  • execution-environment_v1.yml
  • execution-environment_v3.yml

You can edit these execution-environment.yml files based on your specific needs, and change it’s name to execution-environment.yml

Creating The Execution Environment

After you modified the above files based on your need, you can create your EE with below with:

ansible-builder build --tag <your_registry_name>/awx/ee:<your_base_ee_version>-custom --container-runtime docker --verbosity 3

This command will create your execution environment and it will take some time, let’s take a look at the options:

  • — tag is used for tagging the newly created docker image
  • <your_base_ee_version> is used here to know which image is your image based on
  • — container-runtime is docker, so our images will be docker images
  • — verbosity is just the configuration of the command about how verbose should it be.

NOTE: There is caching when creating an image, if your build fails, cached steps can be used again. But if you don’t want to use that cache, you can remove it with clearing the folder context, in your folder structure.

After you’ve successfully created your image, you can push the image to your image registry and create an execution environment in AWX.

To push your image:

docker push <your_registry_name>/awx/ee:<your_base_ee_version>-custom

NOTE: If your registry needs authentication, you can authenticate with docker login command.

Adding EE to AWX

After creating your EE image and pushing it to your image registry, your EE is ready to use. You can create a new EE in AWX from Administration -> Execution Environments -> Add

Execution environment

In new EE creation form you need to fill the fields with the required values.

Create new execution environment
  • Name: You can write your image name
  • Image: This is the link to your image, in our example it is<your_registry_name>/awx/ee:<your_base_ee_version>-custom
  • Pull: There are 3 options here: Always pull, Only if not present pull, Never pull. You can choose Only if not present pull.
  • Description: This is the description of the EE
  • Organization: This is the organization which can use the EE, leave blank if you want to make the EE globally available.
  • Registry credential: If your registry needs authentication, you need to create a Credential with the type of Container Registry and select it here.

After creating the EE, you can edit one of your templates and select execution environment to your newly created EE image.

Conclusion

In this post, we learned about why we need custom execution environments and how to create them. In the repository I’ve shared with you, there is much detailed information in README about the process.

If you have any question, feel free to reach out to me. Thanks for reading :)

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