Ansible might be running slow if libyaml is not available

Recently I upgraded from an Intel-based MacBook Pro to two M1 Macs. As part of the upgrade, I also made sure to refine my Mac setup automation with Ansible and my Mac Development Ansible Playbook.

But one weird thing I noticed was no matter how I installed Ansible on my new Macs, I couldn't get libyaml support to work:

$ ansible --version
ansible [core 2.11.1] 
  config file = /etc/ansible/ansible.cfg
  configured module search path = ['/Users/jgeerling/.ansible/plugins/modules', '/usr/share/ansible/plugins/modules']
  ansible python module location = /Users/jgeerling/Library/Python/3.8/lib/python/site-packages/ansible
  ansible collection location = /Users/jgeerling/.ansible/collections:/usr/share/ansible/collections
  executable location = /Users/jgeerling/Library/Python/3.8/bin/ansible
  python version = 3.8.2 (default, Apr  8 2021, 23:19:18) [Clang 12.0.5 (clang-1205.0.22.9)]
  jinja version = 3.0.1
  libyaml = False

If you run ansible -v and see libyaml = False, then Ansible can't find the libyaml bindings (which are very fast) and it will resort to a slower Python-based YAML interpreter.

What's libyaml, you ask? It's described as a YAML parser and emitter library, and it helps PyYAML (the library Ansible uses for YAML parsing much faster.

I first found out just how much slower Ansible can be without libyaml support when I was testing out Ansible 2.10 on a Raspberry Pi—which has a very slow microSD card as a boot volume. I opened the following GitHub issue to investigate: On systems with slow disks, Ansible 2.10 runs generally much slower than 2.9.

The speedup is dramatic: just running the ansible command took 6 seconds without libyaml, but only 1.5 seconds with libyaml.

The GitHub issue has a lot of good discussion in it, but since there aren't a whole lot of helpful docs on how to properly get Ansible working with libyaml support out there, I thought I'd write up this blog post.

Checking if libyaml is present

The simplest test to see if libyaml is present in your Python installation is to run the following command:

$ python3 -c 'import _yaml'

If successful, you'll see no output. If it isn't present, you'll see ImportError: No module named _yaml.

Getting libyaml support working on macOS

On my Mac, I first made sure I was using the Python 3 version I installed via Homebrew, and then made sure to install libyaml with brew install libyaml.

Then I made sure Ansible was completely uninstalled using pip3 uninstall ansible ansible-core.

Then I re-installed Ansible with:

$ pip3 install ansible

And finally, I can see libyaml support is working:

$ ansible --version
ansible [core 2.11.2] 
  libyaml = True

Getting libyaml support working on Raspberry Pi OS (Debian aarch64)

I had to uninstall Ansible and any installed pyyaml version:

pip3 uninstall pyyaml ansible ansible-base

Then I explicitly installed libyaml, pyyaml, and ansible, making sure when installing the latter two that Pip's local cache was not used:

sudo apt install -y libyaml-dev
pip3 install --no-cache-dir --no-binary pyyaml ansible

Why the --no-binary option? Well, currently the pyyaml wheel for Pi OS / ARM64 is not built correctly to detect libyaml support, so you have to skip the pre-built wheel and basically compile the library yourself. See this issue for more details.

Hopefully if you encounter the same issue—which you might not have even known you had!—Ansible will be a bit faster after fixing this annoying problem.


Shouldn't you use arch -x86_64 brew install libyaml to install it on your M1 ?

I can't make it work using the regular brew install command .... have to use the arch -x86_64 keywords first.