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AnsibleFest 2019 Retrospective

A recap of 2019 AnsibleFest including summaries of announcements and a focus on the importance of Content Collection.

October 1, 2019

World Wide Technology (WWT) was a Gold sponsor of Red Hat AnsibleFest in Atlanta, September 24-26, 2019. WWT has sponsored or contributed to AnsibleFest since 2015.

In addition to the sponsorship, WWT's Jeff Andiorio was selected to present during the breakout session titled "Do I choose Ansible, DNA Center or both?" The session focused on campus networking and using the Ansible Modules for DNA Center and the DNA Center inventory plugin, developed by WWT.

The Ansible Contributor Summit was held on Monday with more than 130 contributors attending. This day-long session is focused on the community, with Ansible developers and product managers providing updates on the direction of the project as well as seeking feedback from the contributor community.

Much of the discussion focused on the status of Content Collection, the thought process behind the collection approach and highlighting potential issues. A number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are actively developing modules supporting their products and have plans to embrace this new delivery model.

Key observations

The event included keynote talks by engineers from Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase & Co about the significant role Ansible has played in their organizations.

Organizational transformation

Adopting automation and using Ansible as an automation engine is about more than simply eliminating toil in IT operations. Adopting new organizational structures and empowering engineers changes the dynamics of an organization. The concept of Centers of Excellence — creating a working environment where best practices can be vetted, documented and socialized to a broader audience — is an important aspect of a digital transformation. Ansible enables this transformation because of its simplicity, low barrier to entry and ease of use.

A key point made by Bart Dworak (Microsoft) was the traditional network engineer is now becoming a network developer. This team approach, combining engineers with varying skills, promotes collaboration and learning within teams, which spreads across the organization.

Industry adoption

Ansible has reached a state of broad adoption within the industry and has become the de-facto standard for configuration management of compute, cloud, network and storage. This wide-spread adoption has created a challenge in that it has become too big to include all the batteries. Including all community-contributed modules within the Ansible engine has become a bottleneck. Ansible Content Collections is the means to address that challenge.

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform

Red Hat announced the release of the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform. This platform is an offering that adds new capabilities that many companies have been looking for as they continue to break down the silos inside of their organizations and drive a true enterprise-wide automation solution.

In a single subscription, the Ansible Automation Platform brings together products that many companies are already using, including Red Hat Ansible Engine, Red Hat Ansible Tower and Red Hat Ansible Network Automation. But it also layers on new capabilities, including Certified Content Collections, the Automation Hub, a rich Automation Analytics package and more.

Ansible Content Collections

The release cycle of Ansible Engine is designed to increase stability, which has led to an increase in the time to review and accept pull requests from community contributors.

To solve this problem, Red Hat has announced Ansible Content Collections, a new packaging format for managing and consuming modules, plugins, roles, documentation and playbooks. This new package format, which leverages Ansible Galaxy, makes it easier for the community to consume this content without waiting for the next Ansible release.

Automation Hub

The Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform includes the announced Automation Hub. The Automation Hub is a repository for the community to discover certified and supported Ansible Content collections. These certified collections will allow customers to use content that is not only easy to access, but fully supported by Red Hat, thus eliminating any unacceptable risk that may have been introduced by using community-provided content in the past.

Automation Analytics

The last major component announced as part of the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform was support for Automation Analytics. This new analytics package provides insight into the health and performance of the playbooks running in Ansible Tower within an organization. The goal is to provide specifics on which modules and resources are used most often and how the automation environment is performing.

Looking Forward

AnsibleFest 2018 saw the announcement of an increased focus on Security Automation. This emphasis was evident at AnsibleFest 2019 with a number of breakout sessions addressing security automation and compliance — including more than 15 sessions focused on security, with products like CyberArk, F5, IBM and Check Point being represented.

For those interested in SecOps, contributions are encouraged by joining the security automation working group.

For some suggestions about how to develop Ansible modules, check out this article by my colleague Chris Nugent.