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It's increasingly critical to minimize unexpected changes and correct misconfigurations before they cause significant outages and downtime. That's especially the case as you embrace new technologies, from servers to clouds and containers.  

Ansible provides a simple platform that enables you to address potential efficiency and productivity challenges across your IT infrastructure.  

What is Ansible?

Red Hat Ansible is an open-source automation platform that simplifies deploying and maintaining applications and systems. Ansible enables you to automate all stages of application development, including coding, cloud management, provisioning, and orchestration and network configuration.

Ansible's automation capabilities require written instruction to complete tasks, which is ideal for version control. This helps move you towards an "infrastructure as code" approach, ensuring client and server infrastructure is treated the same way as software development. As a result, the process is documented, proven and executable, regardless of changes to your organization and employees.

In addition to delivering processes like automation, DevOps and system administration, Ansible is simple to use. It provides information in easy-to-understand language using the Secure Shell Protocol (SSH) and isn't dependent on agent software or additional security infrastructure. Employees can easily configure entire networks and read all instructions without coding knowledge or programming skills.

How does Ansible work?

Ansible works by connecting nodes, such as clients or servers, on a network and sending a program known as an Ansible module to them. Ansible executes the modules via SSH and removes them when the process is complete.  

Ansible does this by utilizing two computer categories, as well as modules and playbooks.

  • Ansible control node: A computer that's responsible for running Ansible, which is often supported by backup control nodes.
  • Ansible managed nodes: Any device that's managed by the control node. The control node must contain login access to any managed nodes, typically through SSH keys and other authentication formats.
  • Ansible modules: An Ansible module is effectively a model of the state of the system you desire to be in place on any node. For example, if your system admin decides that all workstations need to have a specific version of software installed, they can use an Ansible module to complete the task across all your machines. This automated process enables all devices to be updated with software and avoid user disruption while keeping employees and their machines secure.
  • Ansible playbooks: Modules enable you to achieve a given task, but playbooks define how you do so. Playbooks are configuration files written in Yet Another Markup Language (YAML, also known as "YAML ain't markup language") that advise how to bring managed nodes to the desired state. They provide simple, readable information that ensures the process can be self-documented. Playbooks are also idempotent, which means they can run on any system at any time without causing any adverse effects.

Playbooks are often very brief and straightforward, allowing users to complete tasks like installing servers on any node. However, they can also be complex and contain multiple conditions and variables.

What are ansible Automation use cases?

Ansible enables you to create, share and manage automation across your teams, from network and security to development and operations. Your IT team can also provide guidelines for applying automation to ensure a more secure, stable foundation. Ansible automation use cases include:  

  • Applications: Ansible enables you to automate application deployments and make day-to-day installations, management and upgrades reliable and repeatable.
  • Cloud: The Ansible platform provides support modules to your instances, infrastructure and networks, ensuring your deployments work in private and public clouds.
  • Containers: With Ansible, you can automate and manage Kubernetes clusters, as well as scaling containerized applications for support from Kubernetes frameworks and operators.
  • Infrastructure: A key feature of Ansible is its ability to ensure IT automation across public and private cloud, container and virtual environments. As a result, you can build, manage and provision applications across all infrastructure.
  • Networks: Ansible modules allow you to manage processes across your cloud-based, physical and software-defined network environments.
  • Security: The Ansible automation platform enables you to orchestrate unique security systems through curated collections of modules, playbooks and roles. This process is crucial to investigating and responding to emerging security threats.

Crucially, anyone can learn Ansible at home or in a work setting. Users new to YAML should take time to learn how it works and write their first playbook, install Ansible on their laptop and let it manage a few home devices. It's also important to try different modules to get used to how they work and are configured.

How can WWT help with Ansible?

WWT provides technical training that helps you get the most out of your technology investments. This includes hands-on Ansible Automation training that allows you to close the gap between your infrastructure and automation teams and simplify your infrastructure configurations.

Discover how WWT helps you maximize your Ansible investment with our hands-on Ansible lab workshops.