Default variable details

Some of debops.nsswitch default variables have more extensive configuration than simple strings or lists, here you can find documentation and examples for them.


The nsswitch__*_services variables define a list of NSS services which should be defined on a host. Each element of this list will be checked against the configuration stored in the nsswitch__combined_database_map and services that are present will be enabled in the finished configuration file.

To see a list of possible services, consult the nsswitch.conf(5) manual page. You can also check what NSS libraries are installed on the system by running the command:

dpkg -l | grep -E '(libnss|libsss)'

NSS service configuration in Ansible inventory

The nsswitch__services, nsswitch__group_services and nsswitch__host_services variables can be used in respective levels of the Ansible inventory to configure the NSS services on different hosts. For example, to make sure that a given host use LDAP lookups, add in the ansible/inventory/host_vars/<hostname>/nsswitch.yml file:

nsswitch__host_services: [ 'ldap' ]

This configuration should enable ldap NSS service for specific lookup databases, according to the configuration defined in the nsswitch__database_map variables.

To remove a specific NSS service from the configuration file, you can add in inventory:

nsswitch__remove_services: [ 'sss' ]

NSS service configuration by another role

The debops.nsswitch Ansible role supports activation of NSS services from other roles via the nsswitch__dependent_services variable. The configuration will persist as long as the service activated by another role via dependent variables is one of the services known by the debops.nsswitch roles and is included in the nsswitch__database_map configuration.

In an application role, define a variable that can be passed to the debops.nsswitch role with list of NSS services to activate:

application__nsswitch__dependent_services: [ 'sss', 'ldap' ]

After that, you can use this variable in a playbook as a dependent variable:


- name: Configure application with NSS service
  hosts: [ 'debops_service_application' ]
  become: True

  environment: '{{ inventory__environment | d({})
                   | combine(inventory__group_environment | d({}))
                   | combine(inventory__host_environment  | d({})) }}'


    - role: application
      tags: [ 'role::application' ]

    - role: debops.nsswitch
      tags: [ 'role::nsswitch' ]
        - '{{ application__nsswitch__dependent_services }}'

Make sure that the debops.nsswitch role is used after your application role, or the one that configures a specific NSS service, that way it can automatically detect any changes in the /etc/nsswitch.conf configuration file made by the OS packages.


The nsswitch__*_database_map variables are YAML dictionaries which define the order of the NSS services for specific NSS databases. Each YAML dictionary key is a name of the NSS database, and its value is a YAML list (only lists are supported) of NSS services, which can contain different elements.

NSS services defined as strings

Each element of a YAML service list can be a string, which is a name of the NSS service which should be enabled for a given databse. This service will be enabled when a corresponding string is found in the nsswitch__combined_services variable. For example, the configuration below will only enable file-based user and group lookups:

nsswitch__services: [ 'files' ]

  'passwd': [ 'files', 'sss', 'ldap' ]
  'group':  [ 'files', 'sss', 'ldap' ]
  'shadow': [ 'files', 'sss', 'ldap' ]

NSS services defined as YAML lists

Another element type in a YAML service list is a YAML list. This format can be used to include custom actions described in the nsswitch.conf(5) for a given NSS service. The role checks the first element of the list for the NSS service name, if it should be enabled, the whole list will be included in the generated configuration file. Remember to write the actions with square brackets (see the example below). The following example will enable the nis database lookups for services, with a custom service action:

nsswitch__services: [ 'files', 'nis' ]

    - [ 'nis', '[NOTFOUND=return]' ]
    - 'files'

NSS services defined as YAML dictionaries

The last version of an element in a YAML service list is a YAML dictionary, with specific parameters:

Required. name of the NSS service to include in the service list.
Optional. NSS service action to add after a given service in the service list. You need to include the square brackets in this string.
Optional. By default the role uses the service parameter to look up existing NSS services in the /etc/nsswitch.conf configuration file and decide to include them. If the replace parameter is specified, the role will instead look for the service name specified in it and if found, replace it with the service string.

Optional, boolean. If not present, or True, this NSS service will always be added if a given NSS service type is present in the nsswitch__combined_services list.

If False, role will not check if a given NSS service is present in the enabled services, but only of a given NSS service type is already present in the configuration file.

This parameter can be used to ensure that a given NSS service state is preserved without enforcing its presence in the generated /etc/nsswitch.conf config file.

Optional. If not specified or present, the given NSS service will be considered for inclusion in the service list, depending on its presence in nsswitch__combined_services variable. if absent, the given NSS service will be skipped during template generation. This can be used to enable or disable different NSS service entries conditionally.

An example configuration which will enable a ldap NSS lookup for user and group accounts on Ubuntu-based hosts:

nsswitch__services: [ 'files', 'ldap' ]



    - 'files'

    - service: 'ldap'
      state: '{{ "present"
                 if ansible_distribution == "Ubuntu"
                 else "absent" }}'


    - 'files'

    - service: 'ldap'
      state: '{{ "present"
                 if ansible_distribution == "Ubuntu"
                 else "absent" }}'


    - 'files'

    - service: 'ldap'
      state: '{{ "present"
                 if ansible_distribution == "Ubuntu"
                 else "absent" }}'

The example below will make sure that sudo LDAP lookups will be enabled if sudo-ldap package is enabled, but they won't be considered otherwise:

nsswitch__services: [ 'files', 'ldap' ]


    - service: 'files'
      require: False

    - service: 'ldap'
      require: False

NSS service order

The order of elements in the NSS service lists is significant, and defines the order in which the system uses various services to lookup the information. If needed, the system administrator can change the order of services for a particular NSS database, using the additional nsswitch__*_database_map variables. Order cannot be changed from another role due to idempotency constraints, and because this property is related to the particular environment as a whole, rather than to a specific application/service.

For example, the default (simplified) configuration for hostname lookups could be defined as:

  'hosts': [ 'files', 'dns' ]

In this configuration, the system resolver while looking for a hostname or an IP address, will first check the local /etc/hosts file, and if hostname is not found there, the system will ask the DNS database of a hostname.

If you want to change this order and look in the DNS database first, you can define a variable in Ansible inventory like this:

  'hosts': [ 'dns', 'files' ]

With this configuration in place, system should ask the DNS database before looking in local /etc/hosts file. If you plan to change a database service lookup order, make sure that you include all of the relevant services in your customized variable, since it will mask the default dataabse list as a whole.