Why choose Ansible for your IT automation

May 3, 2022
Words by Jasna Simončič

This post was originally published on the XLAB Steampunk blog.

Increasing infrastructure complexity and limited time and staff – IT teams not yet embracing automation struggle to keep the vital IT processes up and running. IT automation increases productivity and efficiency while relieving teams of manual tasks, minimizing service disruptions and the risk of errors.

You know manually keeping up isn’t working anymore and you know the benefits of automation. But what now? Before tackling the deployment of automation across your IT infrastructure, you first need to choose the appropriate tool, capable of solving your challenges most efficiently. Yes, there are many automation tools out there, but one stands out. Read on to see why choose Red Hat Ansible and what you can automate with it.

 

Why Ansible?

Ansible Automation Platform provides system administrators, operators, and IT decision makers with all the tools needed to implement enterprise-wide automation. With Ansible, you can automate most of the IT tasks, such as configuration management, application deployment, orchestration, provisioning, and security. And what sets Ansible apart the most is that it is as powerful as it is easy to use. With Ansible, we can simplify the management of extremely complex structures faster than with any other configuration management tool on the market. Why? Because it’s:

Simple

Ansible uses an easy-to-read, natural automation language that both humans and computers understand. It uses YAML declarative language (YAML) to describe system configuration, so no programming skills are required to use it, which makes it one of the most appealing automation tools, enabling better collaboration across teams and the entire organization. The best part is that you don’t even need to know the commands and steps used to accomplish a certain task. You simply describe all existing infrastructure and procedures you want to execute and the way you want them to be executed in a text file, and Ansible will take care of it. Yes, that’s right, all you have to do is specify what state you want the system to be in and Ansible will figure out how to get your systems into the desired state. These instructions are gathered within reusable Ansible playbooks.

Agentless and serverless

Ansible doesn’t use agents, servers, or additional security infrastructure, making it easy to deploy and integrate with hybrid environments. With Ansible, you can remotely install software and change systems settings without having to install anything on the systems you’re controlling. You don’t need to install any additional software or firewall ports on the client systems you want to automate or set up a separate management infrastructure, you can simply connect through SSH or using Python. Ansible uses SSH to communicate between the Ansible server and the remote hosts, so when you run a playbook, commands are executed on your remote host. And since you do not need to install any extra software when using Ansible, it doesn’t burden your servers, hence improving your resource utilization.

Powerful

Although Ansible is very easy to use, it is powerful enough to automate complex multi-tier IT application environments and orchestrate heterogeneous processes at enterprise scale. It allows you to connect everything in your IT environment – from servers, networking, storage, and operating systems to applications, security processes, and management tools – into a complete, automated workflow. With Ansible, you can model even the most complex IT workflows and infrastructures by describing how all your systems inter-relate, rather than just managing one system at a time. And it’s packed with modules, plugins and features that simplify and accelerate the automation, configuration, deployment and orchestration of your IT infrastructure. Because Ansible works with almost every aspect of your IT infrastructure, you can more easily and quickly deploy consistent development, test, and production environments, increasing the reliability and resilience of your applications.

 

What can you automate with Ansible?

1. Provisioning

Manually setting up IT infrastructure involves multiple steps and efforts of multiple people. Even when dealing with modern software-defined infrastructures, IT teams still need to provision virtual infrastructure for each new deployment, which is time-consuming, error-prone and makes it difficult to track changes. Automating infrastructure provisioning is the first step to automating the operational lifecycle of your applications. It frees you from manually provisioning and managing servers, operating systems, storage and other infrastructure components every time you develop or deploy an application. All you need to do is run a script. With Ansible playbooks, you can simply describe the desired state of the infrastructure and let Ansible do the provisioning instead.

With Ansible, you can provision cloud applications, virtualized hosts, network devices, and bare-metal servers, and effortlessly transition into configuration management, orchestration, and application deployment.

2. Configuration management

Keeping your systems, servers, and software in the desired state and making sure they perform as expected despite constant changes is not only highly challenging, but also becoming straight-up impossible if you keep handing it manually. Ansible helps you store and maintain the desired state with repeatable processes, making system management predictable, consistent, and scalable. With Ansible, you can change the configuration of an application, operating system or device, start and stop services, install or update applications, implement a security policy, or perform a variety of other configuration tasks.

Automated configuration management prevents misconfigurations, downtime, inconsistencies, and issues so you don’t have to deal with them in the future. And in case it does come to critical events, Ansible helps you improve system recovery. Because it enables transparency – every action is recorded and traceable – you can quickly identify problem sources and even deploy solutions automatically.

3. Application deployment

When it comes to deploying your application, there’s no easier way than Ansible. It lets you deploy multi-tier applications to your production systems consistently, quickly, and easily using a single framework. You can configure needed services as well as push application artifacts from a common system.

4. Security and compliance

The security of your systems and data is vital. It’s not enough to simply define what it means for your systems to be secure – you must also apply security and, most importantly, constantly monitor your systems to ensure they remain compliant. With Ansible, you can define security policies and deploy them across your infrastructure. Using Ansible, you integrate security policies into other automated processes, meaning they are an integral part of everything that is deployed, freeing you from having to manually monitor each machine for security compliance.

And not just policies, with Ansible you can also automate security solutions that can investigate and respond to threats. Turning security tasks into automatically executed workflows enables real-time threat detection and immediate response execution. Instead of being overwhelmed by security alerts, incident response is standardized so you can prioritize threats and automate response to most incidents.

5. Network automation

Network administrators can also benefit greatly from Ansible. Although networks are integral parts of IT organizations, most network teams manage them manually, and even when organizations do automate their networks, they typically use vendor-specific tools that require extensive training. With Ansible, network teams can use the same simple and powerful automation framework as other teams and manage complex network deployments. Ansible simplifies automation of the entire network and IT processes.

Ansible can be used across diverse network infrastructures, including physical networks, software-defined networks, and cloud-based networks. With Ansible, you can automate physical network devices by leveraging existing network CLI commands; network controllers by providing automation for many purpose-built software-based controllers; and network resource management by automating and integrating inventory systems, IPAM tools, GitHub repositories, ServiceNow, and other network device solutions.

6. Continuous delivery

Achieving continuous application delivery with zero downtime sounds great, but doesn’t it also sound a bit utopian? Well, it is quite a challenge, usually requiring extensive custom coding, and working with multiple software packages and support from a powerful orchestration engine, but thanks to Ansible, it becomes viable. Ansible prides with one of the easiest paths to continuous delivery in the industry. Its push-based architecture allows very fine-grained control over operations.

 

How to get started?

Ready to start using Ansible? It’s open source and free, so you can follow our installation instructions and just dive in. If you would rather start with the help of experts, we are here for you. Rely on our IT automation specialists and Ansible experts for consultation, design, implementation, maintenance and count on long-term support. Reach out and start your automation journey without a hassle.


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