This post is about configuring ISAM WebSeal using the IBM Security Ansible Collection, but it is valid for any string related operation in Ansible yaml files. There are different moving parts in play that impact how your strings will be rendered, and I try to clear that up a bit here.
It can be a Python, Yaml or Jinja syntax thing.

There are a couple of situations where the standard string syntax in Ansible is not enough to pass the configuration data to the IBM Security Ansible Collection.

  • “Truthy” values (!!str) - Python
  • Strings containing special characters (“{​% raw %​}”) - Jinja
  • Multiline strings for long strings without spaces - Yaml

Truthy values

The WebSEAL configuration entries can contain multiple values that are Truthy values in Python. ( Examples of thruthy values in Python are for instance True,False,yes,no,true,false .

If Python handles them as truthy values, they end up in the configuration as Python booleans. So for example, if I want to set use-filename-for-pkmslogout to yes, it actually ends up as True in the configuration.

  - method: set
    stanza_id: actn-mgt
      - ["use-filename-for-pkmslogout", yes]

This is the result:

use-filename-for-pkmslogout = True

This is not going to work in WebSEAL.

So here’s where the Yaml string scalar notation !!str comes in handy.
It means “handle this next thing as String, even if it’s thruthy in Python”.

This syntax will make sure the result in the webseald.conf file is use-filename-for-pkmslogout=true

  - method: set
    stanza_id: actn-mgt
      - ["use-filename-for-pkmslogout", !!str yes]

Special characters in string

Specifically the request-log-format in the webseald.conf file contains characters that can be interpreted incorrectly by the Jinja interpreter in Ansible.

So to pass the String value unchanged, you can use { % raw % }{ % endraw % }.

The text in between will not be parsed by Jinja and will end up unchanged in the webseald.conf file. See for more information.

  - method: set
    stanza_id: logging
    - [request-log-format, '{ % raw % }%{%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S}t %h %A %u "%R" %s %F %b
        SESS_ID:%{PD-S-SESSION-ID}e %d %{User-Agent}i %{tagvalue_session_index}C{ % endraw % }']

Note: Ironically, I’m struggling to escape raw/endraw correctly here, so I’m writing it with spaces in between the { and the % . These spaces should not be there. Since this is Jinja, it also applies to any tools that use Jinja, like this Jekyll-based blog.

Multiline strings for long strings

To keep the Ansible Yaml files readable, it can be useful to split long strings on multiple lines. Yaml has basically 2 syntaxes for multiline strings (and a number of combinations)

  • Folded >
  • Literal |

Combine them with a chomping indicator - , to remove newlines.

Both are equally useless when you want to split up a long string, for instance a URL with a lot of querystring parameters. They are useless, because whatever you do, there’s going to be spaces ( ) entered between the text on your multiple lines.

You can test the different options here :

So to split a long URL in Yaml, forget about the Yaml multiline syntax, but just use a string :

my_long_url: "\

The backslash \ escapes the newline character, so the result is a nice long string without extra spaces.