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Exploring Ansible via Setting Up a WireGuard VPN

Greg Schafer
・20 min read

Photo by Thomas Jensen on Unsplash

In my previous blogpost, we set up a WireGuard VPN server and client and learned about various configuration options for WireGuard, how to improve VPN server uptime, how to relay traffic, and more. Setting up a server and client like that is a lot of work! If the server dies or you want to set up a new server (maybe for a friend or family member this time), you have to go back to the walk-through and follow all the steps, remembering if you deviated from those instructions at any point.

There's a better way — automation! If you're only going to do a thing once (e.g. set up a VPN), investing in automation probably doesn't make sense. But if you anticipate doing a thing repeatedly, automating it frees up your time to learn and accomplish more in the future. You can also share your automation, empowering others to build and achieve more, faster.

Automation is the heart of computing, and many different automation tools and approaches have sprung up over time. For our project of automating VPN server setup, we can consider a variety of tools:

  • Shell scripts
    • The simplest approach from a tooling perspective, writing shell scripts would involve running the commands from the previous WireGuard tutorial blogpost, using ssh for the commands that run on the server and rsync to copy configurations files to the server.
  • SSH scripting libraries like Capistrano or Fabric
    • If shell scripting isn't ideal, there are libraries that expose similar scripting functionality in a more ergonomic interface for developers familiar with higher-level languages like Ruby and Python.
  • Infrastructure/configuration automation tools like Puppet, Chef, or Ansible
    • Tools in this category are even more specialized for automating server infrastructure and configuration, often including an ecosystem of packages and plugins to automatically set up or configure nearly anything you can think of.
  • Infrastructure-as-code tools like Terraform
    • Infrastructure-as-code (IaC) tools have a lot of overlap with the above category, but support provisioning cloud resources in a more first-class/native way.
  • Containers like Docker
    • You could also run WireGuard in containers, deploying a server-configured container image to a cloud provider and running a client-configured container image locally to connect to the server. There are a few existing examples of this approach.

For this tutorial, I'm going to focus on the middle category above — infrastructure/configuration automation tools — and specifically, I'll focus on Ansible. There is a great comparison of different tools in this area by Gruntwork and, even though that article favors Terraform, Ansible is still a useful general-purpose tool, especially if you're working with servers that aren't "in the cloud", such as a Raspberry Pi at home.

Let's get started with automating VPN setup with Ansible! By the end of this article, we'll be able to set up a VPN server and client with a single command. Similar to the previous blogpost, I'll use Ubuntu 20.04 and DigitalOcean droplets.

Setting up Ansible

Ansible can be installed via an OS package manager like apt, but I prefer to use pip so I can get the latest updates and avoid cluttering system package management with third-party PPAs (Personal Package Archives). We'll also use pyenv (as suggested by Hypermodern Python) to make sure we're not breaking or cluttering the system Python installation. Install pyenv with the following:

# From https://github.com/pyenv/pyenv/wiki#suggested-build-environment
sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends make build-essential libssl-dev zlib1g-dev libbz2-dev libreadline-dev libsqlite3-dev wget curl llvm libncurses5-dev xz-utils tk-dev libxml2-dev libxmlsec1-dev libffi-dev liblzma-dev

curl https://pyenv.run | bash
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It's a good habit when a tutorial gives you curl <url> | bash to open up that URL and see what it's going to do. In this case, you'll see that it'll download and execute a shell script on GitHub that will clone 6 repos from GitHub to your ~/.pyenv folder and prompt you to add a few lines to your shell's initialization script.

Follow the output prompt from above, which asks you to put lines like the below in your shell initialization script (e.g. ~/.bashrc if you use the bash shell). Make sure to fill in your own username!

export PATH="/home/YOUR_USERNAME/.pyenv/bin:$PATH"
eval "$(pyenv init -)"
eval "$(pyenv virtualenv-init -)"
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Install a recent python version:

# List available python versions
pyenv install --list

# Install a specific version
pyenv install 3.9.2

# (Suggested) If you want to always use that version when running `python`
# in your terminal
pyenv global 3.9.2
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If you want, you can also create a virtualenv to further isolate the Ansible installation, and make that virtualenv automatically activate when you're in a particular folder/repo. That would look like:

# (Optional)

# Feel free to pick a different virtualenv name than "ansible-tutorial"
pyenv virtualenv 3.9.2 ansible-tutorial

# Create a .python-version file that pyenv will find when your shell is in the 
# same directory (or a sub-directory) and automatically activate the named
# virtualenv
pyenv local ansible-tutorial
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Install the ansible pip package, which will install various command-line tools, including ansible-playbook, which we'll use to run a "playbook" of commands that will set up a VPN server and client for us.

pip install ansible

# Confirm installation worked
ansible --version
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Get a Server

To use Ansible for a VPN server, we need... a server! Ansible could provision a server from a cloud provider for us (and I'll touch on this briefly later), but we'll keep our playbook hardware-provider-agnostic for now, so you can run it as easily against a cloud server as a Raspberry Pi on your home network. I'm going to create a $5/month DigitalOcean droplet to test against, but you could also use Vagrant (to test against a local VM) or any server you can SSH to.

Testing Ansible playbooks against VMs, rather than a bare-metal machine, comes with an advantage — after you've written the playbook, you can start a new, empty VM and test the whole playbook start to finish to ensure that it works consistently.

Connecting to the Server with Ansible

Once you have your server or VM, take note of its IP address use it to create an inventory.ini file like the below:

[vpn]
vpn_server ansible_host=203.0.113.1 ansible_user=root
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An inventory file tells Ansible what servers it can act upon and how to access them. Let's use the above inventory file as an example. When we run Ansible and target the vpn group of servers or the vpn_server host, it will try to connect to the server using a command like:

ssh root@203.0.113.1
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So, if you can't SSH to the server, then Ansible won't be able to connect either!

Connecting to the server with an SSH key is strongly recommended! Add your SSH key to your server to connect without needing a password. If you must connect with a password, you can sudo apt install sshpass and then provide your SSH password when using Ansible by adding the --ask-pass flag to all ansible commands.

Let's test to make sure that Ansible can connect to the server:

ansible -i inventory.ini -m ping vpn
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This runs the ping Ansible module, targeting the vpn group of servers. You should see "pong" in the output, meaning that Ansible could connect to the server and the server has a Python installation that Ansible can use.

Ansible's Built-in Variables and Facts

There are other useful Ansible modules that we can use with the ansible command:

Try running both of these modules with your server so you can see what facts and information Ansible makes available:

ansible -i inventory.ini -m setup vpn
ansible -i inventory.ini -m debug -a "var=hostvars" vpn
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This was one of the most confusing parts for me when learning Ansible — figuring out what all these built-in variables and facts (like groups, inventory_dir, and ansible_distribution) were and how to find them.

Writing an Ansible Playbook

The ansible command lets you run ad-hoc commands across groups of servers. This is powerful, but we probably shouldn't try to automate server setup and configuration in a single ansible command... probably. 🤔 Instead, we can organize multiple tasks in one or multiple YAML files, which we will run with the ansible-playbook command.

Let's write a playbook.yml file In the same folder as inventory.ini. Here are its contents:

---
- name: setup vpn server
  hosts: vpn_server
  tasks:
  - name: ping
    ping:
  - name: show variables and facts
    debug: var=hostvars
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If you're not familiar with YAML, the above is equivalent to this JSON structure:

[{'name': 'setup vpn server',
  'hosts': 'vpn_server',
  'tasks': [{'name': 'ping', 'ping': None},
            {'name': 'show variables and facts', 'debug': 'var=hostvars'}]}]
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Breaking down the above:

  • The top-level structure is a "play" in Ansible lexicon. Our play above has a name, a hosts pattern which describes which servers the play will run against, and a list of tasks.
  • We have 2 tasks, each has a name and the name of an Ansible module that will do something.

Run the playbook...

ansible-playbook -i inventory.ini playbook.yml
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... and you'll see that it gathers facts from the server (just like the ansible -m setup command above did), and then runs the "ping" task and the "debug" task to show all the gathered facts and variables defined for vpn_server.

There are tons of built-in Ansible modules, even more curated Ansible community modules, and even more published to Ansible Galaxy (an open repository for Ansible collections and roles).

WireGuard Server Setup

There's much more to learn about Ansible! But let's stop here and apply what we've learned in order to set up a WireGuard server.

Referring to the steps we took in the previous tutorial, we want to:

  1. Install the wireguard system package
  2. Create public and private keys with correct permissions
  3. Create the server's WireGuard configuration file
  4. (Optionally) Enable IP forwarding for relaying traffic
  5. Start the VPN

Managing the Keys

As hinted at in the previous tutorial, if we want to repeatably deploy the VPN server without needing to reconfigure all VPN clients, we need to use the same private key every time.

Put another way: if we generated a private key while deploying the server and used the corresponding public key on various clients, and the server ends up dying, we could deploy it again by generating a new private key. However, all of our VPN clients would then need to update to the new public key to be able to connect to the new VPN server. This would be inconvenient!

Instead, we'll generate the server keys once by hand and use them in the playbook so they're consistent between every deploy. This means we won't include step #2 from above in the Ansible playbook.

Generate the keys with wg genkey and wg pubkey commands. You can output both with the following command:

privkey=$(wg genkey) sh -c 'echo "
    server_privkey: $privkey
    server_pubkey: $(echo $privkey | wg pubkey)"'
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Copy the output lines and add them to a new vars mapping under the play in playbook.yml. Here's what mine looks like now (your keys will be different):

---
- name: setup vpn server
  hosts: vpn_server
  vars:
    server_privkey: aBYk1JZyP8ck+FeaTjb3xi94U4Nv8V+gWoTW1hRLQlo=
    server_pubkey: 7/6f7bUT+2hWMEP5BxeK51PGuMuTnQ9pRpkxg5jUSTo=
  tasks:
  # ...
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Encrypting the Private Key

It's a good practice to AVOID having secrets in plaintext (like the VPN private key above). This is especially true if those secrets will be shared with anyone else, like via a git repo. Let's prevent this by using Ansible Vault. Vault is a tool for encrypting secret values and using them in playbooks. Encrypt the private key with:

ansible-vault encrypt_string --ask-vault-password --stdin-name server_privkey
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You'll be prompted twice for a Vault encryption password, after which you'll paste your privkey value and hit Ctrl+d twice. If the command completed after a single Ctrl+d, try again and make sure you're not copy-pasting an invisible newline character at the end of the privkey value. Copy the output into your playbook, which will now look like:

--------
- name: setup vpn server
  hosts: vpn_server
  vars:
    server_privkey: !vault |
          $ANSIBLE_VAULT;1.1;AES256
          646438636565343063343631326136386239623935393637336539653636386135363
          663386639393232346534643163656363316234306439306566306534610a31326664
          363763663139383034636632343230376365333130333230373866353033326563303
          5636138373830633534373033303536303566663166616539360a3936353033663263
          336662663034376661616631343661333164363134373061343739633637623739306
          465653532383838393662396333623966343165366635353132396332313762343534
          65313761623964653532623839356633343838
    server_pubkey: 7/6f7bUT+2hWMEP5BxeK51PGuMuTnQ9pRpkxg5jUSTo=
  tasks:
  ...
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Make sure to remember your encryption password (and save it in a password manager); you'll need to enter it every time you run the playbook.

Installing and Configuring WireGuard

Next, we'll remove our testing ping and debug tasks and write tasks for steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 from the above list. These steps translate neatly into Ansible tasks in our updated playbook.yml:

--------
- name: setup vpn server
  hosts: vpn_server
  vars:
    server_privkey: !vault |
          $ANSIBLE_VAULT;1.1;AES256
          646438636565343063343631326136386239623935393637336539653636386135363
          663386639393232346534643163656363316234306439306566306534610a31326664
          363763663139383034636632343230376365333130333230373866353033326563303
          5636138373830633534373033303536303566663166616539360a3936353033663263
          336662663034376661616631343661333164363134373061343739633637623739306
          465653532383838393662396333623966343165366635353132396332313762343534
          65313761623964653532623839356633343838
    server_pubkey: 7/6f7bUT+2hWMEP5BxeK51PGuMuTnQ9pRpkxg5jUSTo=
  tasks:
  # https://docs.ansible.com/ansible/latest/collections/ansible/builtin/apt_module.html
  - name: install wireguard package
    apt:
      name: wireguard
      state: present
      update_cache: yes

  # https://docs.ansible.com/ansible/latest/collections/ansible/builtin/copy_module.html
  - name: create server wireguard config
    template:
      dest: /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf
      src: server_wg0.conf.j2
      owner: root
      group: root
      mode: '0600'

  # https://docs.ansible.com/ansible/latest/collections/ansible/posix/sysctl_module.html
  - name: enable and persist ip forwarding
    sysctl:
      name: net.ipv4.ip_forward
      value: "1"
      state: present
      sysctl_set: yes
      reload: yes

  # https://docs.ansible.com/ansible/latest/collections/ansible/builtin/systemd_module.html
  - name: start wireguard and enable on boot
    systemd:
      name: wg-quick@wg0
      enabled: yes
      state: started
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Ok ok, yes, this is a bit like drawing an owl.

Draw an owl in 2 steps meme
Source: https://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l7iwzq98rU1qa1c9eo1_500.jpg

...but usually an ansible playbook like the above can be written quickly. I follow a cycle:

  1. Type "ansible module install package" into a search engine
  2. Open the docs.ansible.com result that looks most helpful
  3. Read through available parameters and the (often helpful) examples at the bottom
  4. Copy an example into my playbook and modify parameters as needed
  5. Go back to step 1, searching for the next task (e.g. "ansible module template file")

I've included a comment line linking to the Ansible docs page for each module used in the playbook.yml above, in case you want to read about the parameters.

Testing our First Attempt

Let's test our playbook.

$ ansible-playbook -i inventory.ini --ask-vault-password playbook.yml
Vault password: 

PLAY [setup vpn server] ********************************************************

TASK [Gathering Facts] *********************************************************
ok: [vpn_server]

TASK [install wireguard package] ***********************************************
changed: [vpn_server]

TASK [create server wireguard config] ******************************************
fatal: [vpn_server]: FAILED! => {"changed": false, "msg": "Could not find or access 'server_wg0.conf.j2'\nSearched in: ..."}

PLAY RECAP *********************************************************************
vpn_server                 : ok=2    changed=1    unreachable=0    failed=1    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0
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Oh no! Installing WireGuard was successful, but creating the config failed. Ansible's error messages are usually helpful, and this one indicates that the template file (server_wg0.conf.j2) we're trying to use to create the server's configuration couldn't be found. Let's create it at templates/server_wg0.conf.j2:

# {{ ansible_managed }}
[Interface]
Address = 10.0.1.1/24
ListenPort = 51820
PrivateKey = {{ server_privkey }}
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A few notes about the above:

  • Ansible automatically searches in relative paths like templates/ and files/ when running Ansible modules that have a src parameter. Our template task has a parameter src: server_wg0.conf.j2, so Ansible will search for it in the templates/ folder.
  • It's convention to suffix template files with .j2, to indicate that the file will be templated with Jinja2.
  • In Jinja2, values inside double curly braces ({{ variable }}) will be replaced with the value of the variable. In this template, the server_privkey variable will be decrypted and its value inserted into the resulting file in place of {{ server_privkey }}.
  • The {{ ansible_managed }} text is replaced with the string "Ansible managed". It's a good convention to put this in a comment at the top of templated files, because it signals to anyone reading the file on the server that the file is managed by Ansible — any edits they make could be overwritten when Ansible next runs, so they should find and make edits in the corresponding Ansible playbook and template files instead.

Let's run the test again:

$ ansible-playbook -i inventory.ini --ask-vault-password playbook.yml
Vault password: 

PLAY [setup vpn server] ********************************************************

TASK [Gathering Facts] *********************************************************
ok: [vpn_server]

TASK [install wireguard package] ***********************************************
ok: [vpn_server]

TASK [create server wireguard config] ******************************************
changed: [vpn_server]

TASK [enable and persist ip forwarding] ****************************************
changed: [vpn_server]

TASK [start wireguard and enable on boot] **************************************
changed: [vpn_server]

PLAY RECAP *********************************************************************
vpn_server                 : ok=5    changed=3    unreachable=0    failed=0    skipped=0    rescued=0    ignored=0
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It succeeded! The WireGuard interface is now running on the server.

Notice that the "install wireguard package" step shows ok instead of changed this time. The apt module (and most modules) detect that the server is already in the desired state (the wireguard package was installed last time we ran the playbook, so it satisfies state=present) and perform no actions. The task is idempotent, meaning you can run it repeatedly and the outcome is the same. Idempotent tasks make it easy to see what changed and what didn't each time a playbook is run.

WireGuard Client Setup

Ansible can also operate on the local machine. To set up our local machine as a client, we want to:

  1. Install the wireguard system package
  2. Create public and private keys with correct permissions
  3. Create the client's WireGuard configuration file, which must include the server's public key
  4. Start the VPN

We also need to update the server's configuration file with a [Peer] section including the client's public key, so the client can connect to the server. The client's public key isn't known until after we create it — we could create client keys manually like we did for the server's keys, but then the playbook wouldn't be able to set up multiple clients without having to manually edit the keys for each client.

Acting on Localhost

Because we're targeting a new host (localhost), we need to write a new play in playbook.yml. We can put it above the existing play (which targets vpn_server), so the client's keys are generated before the server config is templated.

--------
- name: setup vpn client
  hosts: localhost
  connection: local
  become: yes
  vars:
    # Use system python so apt package is available
    ansible_python_interpreter: "/usr/bin/env python"
  tasks:
    # Coming soon

- name: setup vpn server
  hosts: vpn
  # Rest of server vars/tasks here...
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Lots of new things here!

  • We target the local machine with using [localhost](http://localhost) for the hosts pattern.
  • We "connect" locally by using the local connection plugin.
  • The become: yes line indicates that the play will run as root, which we need to be able to install the wireguard package. Ansible will effectively run sudo apt-get install wireguard, rather than just apt-get install wireguard (which would fail). Because of this setting, we'll need to run the playbook with the --ask-become-pass flag. We didn't need this line for the server setup play, because we're already connecting as root via the ansible_user=root connection variable.
  • With the ansible_python_interpreter var, we tell Ansible to use the system python (which includes the apt python package). Alternatively, we could install that package for our current python 3.9.2 installation. If you get a No such file or directory error, you may need to change the line from python to python3.

Client Setup Tasks and Config

Writing the Ansible tasks for the client-side VPN setup is similar to the server side.

--------
- name: setup vpn clients
  hosts: localhost
  connection: local
  become: yes
  vars:
    # Use system python so apt package is available
    ansible_python_interpreter: "/usr/bin/env python"
  tasks:
  - name: install wireguard package
    apt:
      name: wireguard
      state: present
      update_cache: yes

  - name: generate private key
    shell:
      cmd: umask 077 && wg genkey | tee privatekey | wg pubkey > publickey
      chdir: /etc/wireguard
      creates: /etc/wireguard/publickey

  - name: get public key
    command: cat /etc/wireguard/publickey
    register: publickey_contents
    changed_when: False

  # Save pubkey as a fact, so we can use it to template wg0.conf for the server
  - name: set public key fact
    set_fact:
      pubkey: "{{ publickey_contents.stdout }}"

  - name: create client wireguard config
    template:
      dest: /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf
      src: client_wg0.conf.j2
      owner: root
      group: root
      mode: '0600'

- name: setup vpn server
  hosts: vpn_server
  # Rest of server vars/tasks here...
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Breaking this down:

  • Installing the wireguard package should look very familiar!
  • We generate keys with the shell module so we can use pipes and file redirection. The keys are only generated if the publickey file doesn't already exist, thanks to the creates parameter.
  • Next, we need to save the public key so we can add it as a [Peer] section in the server config. Normally, we'd use {{ lookup('file', '/etc/wireguard/publickey') }} to look up a value from a file, but the file lookup modules seems not to respect become: yes; it tries to read the file without escalating to root privileges and fails as a result. So, we instead cat the file and save the resulting output as a fact.
  • Finally, template the client config file. Its contents closely match the previous tutorial's, but we use the ansible_host IP address of the VPN server from inventory.ini to set the server's endpoint.
[Interface]
# The address your computer will use on the VPN
Address = 10.0.0.8/32

# Load your privatekey from file
PostUp = wg set %i private-key /etc/wireguard/privatekey
# Also ping the vpn server to ensure the tunnel is initialized
PostUp = ping -c1 10.0.0.1

[Peer]
# VPN server's wireguard public key
PublicKey = {{ server_pubkey }}

# Public IP address of your VPN server (USE YOURS!)
# Use the floating IP address if you created one for your VPN server
Endpoint = {{ hostvars['vpn_server'].ansible_host }}:51820

# 10.0.0.0/24 is the VPN subnet
AllowedIPs = 10.0.0.0/24

# To also accept and send traffic to a VPC subnet at 10.110.0.0/20
# AllowedIPs = 10.0.0.0/24,10.110.0.0/20

# To accept traffic from and send traffic to any IP address through the VPN
# AllowedIPs = 0.0.0.0/0

# To keep a connection open from the server to this client
# (Use if you're behind a NAT, e.g. on a home network, and
# want peers to be able to connect to you.)
# PersistentKeepalive = 25
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Managing Variables

If we run the playbook now, it will fail with a 'server_pubkey' is undefined error. That's because server_pubkey is defined for the play that targets the server, it's not available for the play targeting the client. We need to move the variable somewhere so that it's readable by the entire playbook. Ansible looks for YAML files in a group_vars/ folder where the filename matches server groups in the inventory file. So, we could create a group_vars/vpn.yml file and declare variables in it, which would be directly usable when running a play against any servers in the vpn group. We don't include localhost as a host in the vpn group (though we could). We'll instead use the special group_vars/all.yml file, which makes variables available to all hosts.

Move the server keys' variables from playbook.yml to group_vars.all.yml:

--------
server_privkey: !vault |
      $ANSIBLE_VAULT;1.1;AES256
      646438636565343063343631326136386239623935393637336539653636386135363
      663386639393232346534643163656363316234306439306566306534610a31326664
      363763663139383034636632343230376365333130333230373866353033326563303
      5636138373830633534373033303536303566663166616539360a3936353033663263
      336662663034376661616631343661333164363134373061343739633637623739306
      465653532383838393662396333623966343165366635353132396332313762343534
      65313761623964653532623839356633343838
server_pubkey: 7/6f7bUT+2hWMEP5BxeK51PGuMuTnQ9pRpkxg5jUSTo=
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Your directory should now look like this:

.
├── group_vars
│   ├── all.yml
├── inventory.ini
├── playbook.yml
└── templates
    ├── client_wg0.conf.j2
    └── server_wg0.conf.j2
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Run the playbook and the client should run all its tasks successfully:

ansible-playbook -i inventory.ini --ask-vault-password --ask-become-pass playbook.yml
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The VPN client is now set up. The only remaining step for the client is to start the VPN after the server is running and configured to accept connections from the client (so the client's PostUp ping will succeed).

Adding a Peer to the Server Config

Add a [Peer] section to the server template at templates/server_wg0.conf.j2:

# {{ ansible_managed }}
[Interface]
Address = 10.0.0.1/24
ListenPort = 51820
PrivateKey = {{ server_privkey }}

[Peer]
PublicKey = {{ hostvars['localhost'].pubkey }}
AllowedIPs = 10.0.0.8
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We read the {{ server_privkey }} from group_vars/all.yml and we read {{ hostvars['localhost'].pubkey }} from the set_fact module that runs during the client-targeted play in the playbook.

Reloading the Server Config

If we run the playbook, the config file on the server will be updated with the new [Peer] section, but the WireGuard interface is already running and configured based on the old file contents. We need to reload the configuration when it changes. Handlers are the Ansible-provided mechanism for this, and they trigger when a task referencing them changes. Handlers run at the end of the play in which they're notified, so many tasks could notify a "reload config" handler, but the handler would only run once at the end. Let's create a couple handlers in a handlers list after the tasks lists in playbook.yml and notify them from the create client wireguard config and create server wireguard config tasks:

  # ...
  - name: create client wireguard config
    template:
      dest: /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf
      src: client_wg0.conf.j2
      owner: root
      group: root
      mode: '0600'
    notify: restart wireguard

  handlers:
  # Restarts WireGuard interface, loading any new config and running PostUp
  # commands in the process. Notify this handler on client config changes.
  - name: restart wireguard
    shell: wg-quick down wg0; wg-quick up wg0
    args:
      executable: /bin/bash

- name: setup vpn server
  hosts: vpn_server
  tasks:
  # ...
  - name: create server wireguard config
    template:
      dest: /etc/wireguard/wg0.conf
      src: wg0.conf.j2
      owner: root
      group: root
      mode: '0600'
    notify: reload wireguard config
  # ...

  handlers:
  # Reloads config without disrupting current peer sessions, but does not
  # re-run PostUp commands. Notify this handler on server config changes.
  - name: reload wireguard config
    shell: wg syncconf wg0 <(wg-quick strip wg0)
    args:
      executable: /bin/bash
# ...
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The template Ansible module only performs an action and marks the task as changed if the config file changes — it is idempotent. Idempotence is valuable when used with handlers, because the handler will only run when the task changes. Notifying a handler on a task that isn't idempotent may result in the handler always running (e.g. a service is unnecessarily restarted everytime the playbook is run).

Start the VPN Client

Add one final play to the end of the playbook to start the client VPN now that the server is configured to accept its connection:

# ...
- name: start vpn on clients
  hosts: localhost
  connection: local
  become: yes
  tasks:
  - name: start vpn
    command: wg-quick up wg0
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Automation Complete!

Now we can run the whole playbook and — whether the server and client are brand-new or in some intermediate state — this single command will set up a WireGuard VPN server and client!

ansible-playbook -i inventory.ini --ask-vault-password --ask-become-pass playbook.yml
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The complete Ansible code can be found at: https://gitlab.com/tangram-vision-oss/tangram-visions-blog

There are many improvements that could be made:

  • Provision a cloud server automatically, using an Ansible module such as community.digitalocean.digital_ocean_droplet.
  • Automatically update a floating IP address when provisioning a new cloud VPN server.
  • Configure multiple clients automatically. One approach is to add a vpn_clients group to the inventory, define VPN IPs in the inventory (e.g. vpn_ip=10.0.0.8), and use those host variables in the config templates. When templating the server config, loop over hostnames in the clients group, adding a new [Peer] block for each.
  • Organize the playbook as roles, one for the server and one for the client. Roles are more reusable and shareable than playbooks.
  • Test and lint with molecule and ansible-lint.

Thanks for joining me on this Ansible-learning journey! If you have any suggestions or corrections, please let me know or send us a tweet, and if you’re curious to learn more about how we improve perception sensors, visit us at Tangram Vision.

Discussion (1)

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ignacioard profile image
IgnacioARD

Great article!! I had to make some changes in order for it to work but it was all great help