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Getting Started Guide

The following guide will step through an example of developing and testing a new Ansible role. After reading this guide, you should be familiar with the basics of how to use Molecule and what it can offer.


In order to complete this guide by hand, you will need to additionally install Docker. Molecule requires an external Python dependency for the Docker driver which is provided when installing Molecule using pip install 'molecule[docker]'.

Creating a new role

Molecule uses ansible-galaxy under the hood to generate conventional role layouts. If you've ever worked with Ansible roles before, you'll be right at home. If not, please review the role directory structure guide to see what each folder is responsible for.

To generate a new role with Molecule, simply run:

$ molecule init role acme.my_new_role --driver-name docker

You should then see a my_new_role folder in your current directory.


For future reference, if you want to initialize Molecule within an existing role, you would use the molecule init scenario -r my_role_name command from within the role's directory (e.g. my_role_name/).

Molecule Scenarios

You will notice one new folder which is the molecule folder.

In this folder there is a single root_scenario called default.

Scenarios are the starting point for a lot of powerful functionality that Molecule offers. For now, we can think of a scenario as a test suite for your newly created role. You can have as many scenarios as you like and Molecule will run one after the other.

The Scenario Layout

Within the molecule/default folder, we find a number of files and directories:

$ ls
INSTALL.rst  molecule.yml  converge.yml  verify.yml
  • INSTALL.rst contains instructions on what additional software or setup steps you will need to take in order to allow Molecule to successfully interface with the driver.
  • molecule.yml is the central configuration entrypoint for Molecule. With this file, you can configure each tool that Molecule will employ when testing your role.
  • converge.yml is the playbook file that contains the call for your role. Molecule will invoke this playbook with ansible-playbook and run it against an instance created by the driver.
  • verify.yml is the Ansible file used for testing as Ansible is the default verifier. This allows you to write specific tests against the state of the container after your role has finished executing. Other verifier tools are available Note that testinfra was the default verifier prior to molecule version 3.


If the verify.yml playbook does not explicitly include_role your role, the library and module_utils provided by your role are not available in the playbook by default. If you need those for testing but would like to avoid re-running your role, consider adding an empty task file init.yml to your role and use tasks_from to include your role in the verify.yml playbook:

- name: Verify
    hosts: all
    become: true
    - name: Initialize role without actually running it
        name: my_role
        tasks_from: init

# Start testing: can use role library now

Inspecting the molecule.yml

The molecule.yml is for configuring Molecule. It is a YAML file whose keys represent the high level components that Molecule provides. These are:

  • The dependency manager. Molecule uses galaxy development guide by default to resolve your role dependencies.
  • The driver provider. Molecule uses Docker by default. Molecule uses the driver to delegate the task of creating instances.
  • The platforms definitions. Molecule relies on this to know which instances to create, name and to which group each instance belongs. If you need to test your role against multiple popular distributions (CentOS, Fedora, Debian), you can specify that in this section.
  • The provisioner. Molecule only provides an Ansible provisioner. Ansible manages the life cycle of the instance based on this configuration.
  • The scenario definition. Molecule relies on this configuration to control the scenario sequence order.
  • The verifier framework. Molecule uses Ansible by default to provide a way to write specific state checking tests (such as deployment smoke tests) on the target instance.

Run test sequence commands

Let's create the first Molecule managed instance with the Docker driver.

First, ensure that Docker is running with the typical sanity check:

$ docker run hello-world

Now, we can tell Molecule to create an instance with:

$ molecule create

We can verify that Molecule has created the instance and they're up and running with:

$ molecule list

Now, let's add a task to our tasks/main.yml like so:

- name: Molecule Hello World!
    msg: Hello, World!

We can then tell Molecule to test our role against our instance with:

$ molecule converge

If we want to manually inspect the instance afterwards, we can run:

$ molecule login

We now have a free hand to experiment with the instance state.

Finally, we can exit the instance and destroy it with:

$ molecule destroy


If Molecule reports any errors, it can be useful to pass the --debug option to get more verbose output.

Run a full test sequence

Molecule provides commands for manually managing the lifecycle of the instance, scenario, development and testing tools. However, we can also tell Molecule to manage this automatically within a root_scenario sequence.

The full lifecycle sequence can be invoked with:

$ molecule test


It can be particularly useful to pass the --destroy=never flag when invoking molecule test so that you can tell Molecule to run the full sequence but not destroy the instance if one step fails.

If the --platform-name=[PLATFORM_NAME] flag is passed or the environment variable MOLECULE_PLATFORM_NAME is exposed when invoking molecule test, it can tell Molecule to run the test in one platform only. It is useful if you want to test one platform docker image.