Automation plays a huge role in our digital transformation.
IT sectors usually come across the tasks that are sometimes quite complex, tedious and sometimes too repetitive to lose interest in performing it. Not only this, they’re also more prone to errors. In such situations, it would be overwhelming to introduce a technique that is more productive, reduce errors, improve collaboration, and free up time that can be spent on more meaningful, thoughtful work.
Automation, application of programs to do the tasks once performed by human beings or, increasingly, the tasks that would otherwise be impossible. It helps to get rid of performing repetitive tasks and manual processes.
The term automation can be defined as a technology concerned with performing a process by means of programmed commands combined with automatic feedback control to ensure proper execution of the instructions, resulting in a system that is capable of operating without human intervention.
IT Automation and its tools
IT Automation, sometimes referred as infrastructure automation, is the use of software to create repeatable instructions and processes to replace or reduce human interaction with IT systems. Automation software works within the confines of those instructions, tools, and frameworks to carry out the tasks with little to no human intervention.
Automation can be integrated with and applied to almost all IT tasks, be it network automation or infrastructure, cloud provisioning, SOEs(standard operating environments), or application deployment and configuration management.
Automation capabilities and applications can extend further into specific technologies, like containers, to methodologies, like DevOps, and into broader areas, such as cloud, edge computing, security, testing, and monitoring/alerting.
Although there are currently many infrastructure automation tools in the market like Puppet, Selenium, Chef etc, Ansible is the most popular one.
Ansible has become no.1 choice for software automation in industry and becoming the top configuration Management tool to use in this space. Here are the most popular configuration tools used by both enterprises and SMBs, according to the report:
- Ansible 41%
- Chef 37%
- Puppet 37%
- Terraform 31%
- Salt 18%
Now, question arises, why ansible has gained so much popularity in industry??
Let’s delve into it know about one of the most used automation tool of the industry and the reason behind its popularity.
What is Ansible??
Ansible is an open-source automation tool, or platform, used to perform IT tasks such as configuration management, intra-service orchestration, application deployment, and provisioning. It not only automates complex tasks but also workflow. Automation is crucial these days, with IT environments that are too complex and often need to scale too quickly for system administrators and developers to keep up if they had to do everything manually. Automation simplifies complex tasks, not just making developers’ jobs more manageable but allowing them to focus attention on other tasks that add value to an organization. In other words, it frees up time and increases efficiency.
Ansible-the simple yet powerful IT automation tool; a declarative approach to solve major unsolved IT challenges such as clear orchestration of complex multi- tier workflows and cleanly unifying OS configuration and application software deployment under a single banner.
No one likes repetitive tasks. With Ansible, IT admins can begin automating away the drudgery from their daily tasks. Automation frees admins up to focus on efforts that help deliver more value to the business by speeding time to application delivery, and building on a culture of success. Ultimately, Ansible gives teams the one thing they can never get enough of: time. Allowing smart people to focus on smart things.
Ansible is a simple automation language that can perfectly describe an IT application infrastructure. It’s easy-to-learn, self-documenting, and doesn’t require a grad-level computer science degree to read. Automation shouldn’t be more complex than the tasks it’s replacing.
“Using Ansible, we’ve been able to cut down certain processes from 17 hours to 3 minutes.”
— BRANDEN FAULLS
Ansible is designed to be minimal in nature, consistent, secure, and highly reliable, with an extremely low learning curve for administrators, developers, and IT managers. Ansible is
Human readable automation
No special coding skills needed
Tasks executed in order
Get productive quickly
Orchestrate the app lifecycle
Uses OpenSSH and WinRM
No agents to exploit or update
Predictable, reliable and secure
Ansible has become a popular tool to use in recent years as it is able to manage a large number of servers by allowing users to create flexible, automated tasks that can be run from a centralised server and push changes out to remove hosts.
How does Ansible work??
Ansible works by connecting to your nodes and pushing out small programs, called “ modules” to them.
Modules are used to accomplish automation tasks in Ansible. These programs are written to be resource models of the desired state of the system. Ansible then executes these modules and removes them when finished.
Without modules, you’d have to rely on ad-hoc commands and scripting to accomplish tasks.
Ansible is agentless, which means the nodes it manages do not require any software to be installed on them. Your library of modules can reside on any machine, and there are no servers, daemons, or databases required.
Ansible reads information about which machines you want to manage from your inventory. Ansible has a default inventory file, but you can create your own and define which servers you want Ansible to manage.
You can also put all of your managed machines in groups of your own choosing. To add new machines, there is no additional SSL signing server involved, so there’s never any hassle deciding why a particular machine didn’t get linked up due to obscure NTP or DNS issues.
Ansible uses SSH protocol to connect to servers and run tasks. By default, Ansible uses SSH keys with ssh-agent and connects to remote machines using your current user name. Root logins are not required. You can login as any user, and then su or sudo to any user.
Once it has connected, Ansible transfers the modules required by your command or playbook to the remote machine(s) for execution.
Using ansible ad-hoc commands
You can use Ansible to run ad-hoc commands. To do this, you will need to run a command or call a module directly from the command line. No playbook is used.This is fine for a one time task, but anything more complex will require the use of an Ansible Playbook.
A playbook is a YAML file containing 1 or more plays, and is used to define the desired state of a system. Ansible uses human-readable YAML templates so users can program repetitive tasks to happen automatically without having to learn an advanced programming language. Ansible contains built-in modules that you can use to automate tasks, or you can write your own.
Ansible modules can be written in any language that can return JSON (Ruby, Python, bash, etc).Windows automation modules are even written in Powershell. Inventory can also plug in to any datasource by writing a program that speaks to that datasource and returns JSON. There’s also various Python APIs for extending Ansible’s connection types (SSH is not the only transport possible), callbacks (how Ansible logs, etc), and even for adding new server side behaviors.
Ansible Use Cases
Ansible seamlessly unites workflow orchestration with configuration management, provisioning, and application deployment in one easy-to-use and deploy platform.
Regardless of where you start with Ansible, you’ll find our simple, powerful and agentless automation platform has the capabilities to solve your most challenging problems.
Configuration management is a process for maintaining computer systems, servers, and software in a desired, consistent state. It’s a way to make sure that a system performs as it’s expected to as changes are made over time.
Traditionally, this was handled manually or with custom scripting by system administrators. Automation is the use of software to perform tasks, such as configuration management, in order to reduce cost, complexity, and errors.
Your configuration management tools can help you to keep track of the state of your resources, and keep you from repeating tasks, like installing the same package twice. They also help you to run an audit of your system so you can more quickly identify where the problem is coming from.
It’s difficult to track changes and control versions, and avoid errors and inconsistencies when provisioning is managed manually for each deployment. Automating the provisioning of any infrastructure is the first step in automating the operational life cycle of your applications.
Ansible can be used to provision the underlying infrastructure of your environment, virtualized hosts and hypervisors, network devices, and bare metal servers. It can also install services, add compute hosts, and provision resources, services, and applications inside of your cloud.You can use an Ansible Playbook to describe the desired state of your infrastructure and then have Ansible provision it.
When you define your application with Ansible, and manage the deployment with Ansible Tower, teams are able to effectively manage the entire application lifecycle from development to production.
Deployment automation provides the ability to move your software between testing and production environments by using automated processes. This leads to repeatable and reliable deployments across the software delivery cycle.
A deployment pipeline typically follows 3 main steps (though you may also have more): build, test, deploy. This is the pipeline that supports your ability to automate the deployment process and ensures that code moves from being committed to deployment quickly.
Ansible allows you to deploy multi-tier applications reliably and consistently, all from one common framework. You can configure needed services as well as push application artifacts using playbooks.
Orchestration with Ansible
In general, automation refers to automating a single task. This is different from orchestration, which is how you can automate a process or workflow that involves many steps across multiple disparate systems.
Cloud Orchestration can be used to provision or deploy servers, assign storage capacity, create virtual machines, and manage networking, among other tasks. There are many different orchestration tools that can help you with cloud orchestration. Ansible is one option.
Server configuration and management and application deployments can also be orchestrated with a tool like Ansible.
Security automation uses automation technology to perform tasks with reduced human assistance in order to integrate security processes, applications, and infrastructure.
Automation can help you streamline daily operations as well as integrate security into processes, applications, and infrastructure from the start. Fully deploying security automation can even reduce the average cost of a breach by 95%.
Applying automation to your security processes can help you identify, validate, and escalate threats faster without manual intervention. If a security incident should occur, security teams can use Ansible to rapidly apply remediation to affected systems across your environment concurrently and respond to incidents faster.
Microsoft and IT Automation
Using Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform and working closely with Red Hat Consulting, Microsoft created a standardized, centralized network automation environment that reduces routine, repeatable tasks and complexity, while also allowing for production code to be verified and reused.
By establishing a DevOps culture, teams across the company can now focus on sharing knowledge, building skills, and creating innovative technology solutions.
“Digital transformation is really changing the way that we think about how we solve problems. In the past, we had to manually do the same deployment again and again. With Ansible, we can create blueprints to deploy it multiple times. And every time we deploy, it’s exactly the same.”
— Bart Dworak
Software Engineering Manager,
The future of IT automation
Knowing the future is — of course — impossible, but there are things we’re starting to see coming together for automation. Certainly there will be greater autonomy and, subsequently, greater intelligence built into these systems.
They’ll expand to cover more parts of the IT software stack — think about automation built from bare metal to middleware, apps, security, updating, notifications, failover, predictive analytics and decisions being made with no direct oversight.