In this post, I'm going to go over how I use ansible to manage Windows Servers.  I'm going to start with a playbook that I use to clone a server 2019 template in VMWare to a new domain-joined machine.  I'll try to make the playbook as easy to use so you can take it with little modification and use it yourself.

Don't worry this is going to be super easy, barely an inconvenience.

The first thing we need to do is create a Windows Server 2019 (or 2016 if you want).
The main thing you need to do for prep is to put the powershell script to enable ansible to connect on WinRM

Save the file above in the C:\Windows\Temp directory.  Don't change the name of the file (if you do you'll have to change it in the playbook)

I'm not going to go into great detail on this.  I simply did a standard GUI install of 2019.  I installed VMWare Tools and renamed the machine Server-2019-template.  I did also fully update it with Windows Updates.  Make sure you leave the default administrator account enabled and remember what you set the password to as you will need it later.


Once you have the template made, shut the machine down.  You don't need to Sysprep it or anything, simply shut it down.  Make sure it is a clean shutdown with no updates pending.
Once shutdown, in VMWare, right-click the machine and go to "Template > Convert to Template".  Click Yes on the confirmation box.

We also need to run that powershell on at least one of your domain controllers.  You can pick one to be the one you run your ansible tasks against or you can do it to all of them.  Up to you.

Now we have a bit of work to do in AWX before we can use the playbooks.  We will need to create new credential types and then add the credentials (I'll be adding mine to HashiCorp Vault).  Then we need to set up the project and then the template.

Let's get the project setup.  Go to projects in AWX then fill yours out like mine below.


Hit save and it should grab the playbook.

Now we need to set up two new "Credential Types".  We have to do this because we need to use multiple sets of credentials to manipulate the machine and AWX/Tower only allows for one "Machine" password per template, so a new "Credential Type" is how you get around that.

Go to "Credential Types" in the left menu.  Click the plus in the upper right hand corner.  Now we are going to do two of these.

First is for our domain user.  Name is something like Domain User or yourdomain User.  

In the "Input Configuration" box enter what I have below:

  - id: domain_username
    type: string
    label: Domain User
  - id: domain_password
    type: string
    label: Domain Password
    secret: true
  - username
  - password

In "Injector Configuration" enter:

  domain_password: '{{ domain_password }}'
  domain_username: '{{domain_username }}'

Now we need to create another credential type.  This one we are going to call localwin_password. Go back to Credential Types and click the plus again.This time name it something like Local Windows Password.

In "Input Configuration" enter what I have below:

  - id: localwin_password
    type: string
    label: Local Windows Password
    secret: true
  - password

In "Injector Configuration" enter the following:

  localwin_password: '{{ localwin_password }}'

You may notice this one is a little different.  It only has a password and no username.

Now that we have the credential types created, we need to actually put the credentials into AWX.On the left select "Credentials".  Click the plus in the top right.For the name enter VMWare vCenter (or something similar).Under "Credential Type" click the search button.  We want to select the type of VMWare vCenter.  This gives us 3 fields to fill in.  vCenter host is obviously your vCenter server, then the username and password.I'm storing all my info in HashiCorp Vault so I'm going to map mine like that.  If you aren't using vault just enter the information.

The account you enter here needs to have enough access to clone templates, change hardware etc.  I'm using an admin account I made for ansible.

Now we need to create another credential.  This time we are going to make the Domain credentials.  This time when you select "Credential Type" make sure you select Domain User (or whatever you named your new "Credential Type" you made above.)

This user needs to have permission to join machines to your domain and to move computer objects to different OUs.  I made a service account for ansible and made it a domain admin.  The few places I've worked has done the same.  You need to decide if that works for your environment.  I would say at a minium make it a service account that can not log on interactively to the machines.

We need to create one last Credential.  Name this one something like Local Windows Password.  For the "Credential Type" select Local Windows Password (or whatever you named it above)

You'll notice this one only asks for a password.  Enter the password you set in the template for the admin user.

Now we need to create the template.  Go to Templates, click the plus in the top right corner and select Job Template.  Name it whatever you want.  I'll name mine New Windows VM.  Add a description if you like.  Set the job type to run.  Inventory can be anything, we are using localhost to do this work.  If you still have the "Demo Inventory" you can use that.  For Project select NewVM, then for Playbook, select NewVM.yml

Now we need to select those new credentials we created.  Click the search button.In the pop up, change the "Credential Type" to "VMWare vCenter".  You should see your newly created credential, select it.

Click the search button beside credential again.  This time select Local Windows Password as the "Credential Type".  You should see the credential you created, select it.

Click the search beside Credentials one more time.  This time select Domain User in the "Credential Type".  Select the credential you created earlier.

Click Save.

Now comes the fun part.  We are going to build a Survey.  A survey is a form that will feed the job template the information as variables.  If you've looked at the playbook, you'll notice there are a lot of variables.

Click the "ADD SURVEY" button in the top middle of the job template page.

We are going to create a question for all the variables we have in our playbook.  We will set defaults where we can.  

These are the variables we need to create a question for:


Get this from your IPAM or network. A more advanced version of this would get the IP for you
This should be your full domain
TZ code can be found here: TZ Codes

Now you could statically set some of these things in the playbook if you wanted to set them there and don't have multiple domains.

Now when you click launch, you will fill in all the survey questions and it should start cloning you a new VM.

If everything works correctly, you should get a successfully cloned machine, joined to your domain and ready to manage with Ansible.  In a much shorter blog post I'll cover how to setup an inventory for your Windows hosts and some of the setup you can do to ease the use of ansible and windows.

Here is what all my variables were from the survey.

OU: 'OU=Apps,OU=Elam Servers,DC=elam,DC=sh'
company: GlitchV0
cpu_cores: 2
datacenter: Datacenter
datastore: DS1-esx1
description: Made with Ansible
os_version: '2019'
ram: 4
server_name: blogvm
tz: '020'
vmfolder: Ansible
vmnetname: VMNet

Feel free to contact me if you have problems.  I hope this works for most everyone and gives you a step in the right direction of managing Windows boxes.

If you’d like to get in touch with me with questions or comments about anything I talk about feel free to reach out to me. You can email me or send me a DM on twitter. blog [@] (remove [], trying to avoid spambots) Twitter: