Automate your IT Infrastructure with Ansible

More modern software development shops continue to boost productivity by leveraging a variety of modern methodologies — most notably Agile and DevOps — as well as the software tools to make things run smoothly. Automation also plays a big role in helping the development and QA processes become more efficient. Ansible is one such automation engine earning accolades in IT departments for its simplicity and power.

If you are looking to get more done in less time — a common refrain in today’s technology world — read further to learn more about Ansible. It might just be the missing link in your shop’s arsenal of tools.

A Closer Look at Ansible

Ansible’s automation engine handles a host of tasks normally taking up the valuable time of software engineers, QA personnel, and network administrators. These include the provisioning of Cloud environments, application deployment, configuration management, and loads more. Since it was first developed for multi-tier architectures, Ansible won’t have a problem modeling your shop’s entire IT infrastructure — Cloud-based and on-premise.

This free-software automation tool first became available under the GNU Public License in 2012, and it is compatible with the Linux and Windows platforms. A company named Ansible, Inc. offers commercial support while maintaining the application’s codebase. Ansible, Inc. was acquired last year by the major Linux distributor and open source software company, Red Hat.

Similar configuration automation tools include Chef and Puppet. Ansible holds an advantage over these older applications with its agent-less architecture. This allows management of remote machines without a local daemon present, greatly reducing the overall network traffic.

Simple and Elegant Configuration Management

With no remote agents and no additional security considerations, Ansible deploys in an easy manner. It uses simple documents, called Ansible Playbooks, written in a YAML format to describe automation and configuration tasks. This means nearly all system functionality is controllable using only a text editor and a terminal program.

When running, Ansible connects to all the nodes in a system, while quickly installing and executing a small program called an Ansible Module over SSH to perform a variety of orchestration and management tasks. The module then removes itself upon completion. Modules can be written in a variety of scripting languages: Python, Perl, Ruby, or anything that can output JSON.

The tool plays well with other network applications, enabling you to connect and get inventory information from a variety of Cloud management tools, like Rackspace, OpenStack, and EC2. Of course, you can simply define all this information in a text file — simplicity and flexibility are the keys. Ansible also comes with over 200 pre-written modules, so you can get started managing your network environment with minimal hassle.

A simple architecture with little network overhead, combined with Modules to perform functions and Playbooks to orchestrate the whole show makes Ansible worthy of consideration for automating your organization’s technical infrastructure. It integrates nicely with your existing Cloud investment while taking advantage of your development staff’s scripting language acumen. Download Ansible and give it a test run to see if it makes sense at your shop.

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