Automation of IT processes – an unattainable vision for some companies, but a matter of course for initMAX clients. Even experienced IT crews are happy to take advantage of professional support for setting up processes and for selecting and installing advanced automation tools. Our favourite tool of choice is Ansible. An open-source solution that is one of the most popular in the automation field worldwide due to its power and simplicity. It has many uses, from configuration management of operating systems to various orchestration tasks across the entire infrastructure and cloud.
Automation saves both time and costs
Simplifying work on repetitive tasks
Error prevention and perfect overview
Benefits of automation
With automation, you can save time on repetitive tasks, save on staff costs, and make your entire organisation more competitive. The benefits of automating IT systems are manifold, making automation practically indispensable in today’s highly competitive environment. Certainly, your organization can put the valuable time of key IT professionals to better use than for repetitive tasks or correcting mistakes caused by human error.
Human error costs many companies a lot of money. Despite the best efforts of employees, it is very difficult to 100% prevent them. From time to time, the human factor simply fails.
An automated workflow in your IT infrastructure limits the possibility of such errors by reducing human interaction with tasks. This not only improves the quality of work, but also allows you to focus on core development and innovation instead of fixing mistakes.
In order for a company to grow, it is important to continuously improve work processes and increase efficiency. This requires you to closely monitor the state of IT infrastructure and operations, identify problems such as system failures, and implement technology solutions to keep systems running continuously.
However, the constant repetition of such tasks costs a lot of time that could instead be used for new developments and innovations. An infrastructure automation tool eliminates repetitive tasks and allows you to focus on innovations, new ideas and building competitive advantages.
Eliminating manual labour is just one aspect of automating your technology infrastructure. It not only helps to reduce tedious tasks and human error, but also to identify new opportunities to grow your business. Smart approaches to such automation allow individual elements of your infrastructure to learn, adapt and evolve over time.
With automation, individual parts of your IT infrastructure communicate with each other and make changes or adjust work processes to achieve desired results. A change can be a simple shift in the order of tasks in a daily workflow or a new way in which a technology solution is used to perform tasks.
Fast and reliable infrastructure operations are essential, especially when working in a digital or cloud environment. It helps your IT infrastructure to maintain uninterrupted services, so employees can carry out their daily tasks without problems.
Automation tools allow you to link IT infrastructure elements using codes – i.e., continuous integration. They quickly align components with relevant tasks, identify problems, and propose solutions to deal with problems and increase operational efficiency, which is reflected in the uninterrupted delivery of IT services to employees.
Ansible is a simple yet powerful open-source tool for comprehensive central and automated server management. It can be quickly deployed without the need to install anything on the IT device. Ansible allows you to prepare role-based task sets and use data of various kinds for your work.
With Ansible, you can easily set up a server, webserver or cluster via SSH and upload applications, updates and more. It has many uses, from configuration management of operating systems to various orchestration tasks across the entire infrastructure and cloud. It combines multi-node software deployment, configuration management and ad hoc tasks. For computer management, it uses SSH (Secure Shell) or PowerShell protocols. It has minimal requirements for installed software. It works with Python 2.4 or higher for Linux nodes and PowerShell 3.0 or higher for MS Windows nodes.
Ansible uses modules that work with JSON and have standard output. These can be written in any programming language. YAML is used for reusable node state descriptions.
You declare the resulting server and service state and Ansible takes care of the execution. You don’t have to worry about the current state of the server or application, Ansible will provide the desired result (using declarative syntax). All the configuration is versioned by Git. This way you always have an overview of what is deployed and where, and what stage the state of the systems is in. Ansible helps you deploy applications and manage servers faster and more securely.
Features of Ansible
Ansible features include:
- Minimalism. The management system should not require any additional software to be installed.
- Security. Ansible does not use agents in its nodes. The only thing it requires is OpenSSH, which is at an excellent security level and widely tested.
- Reliability. Unexpected side effects on managed systems are prevented by the carefully written Ansible playbook which is IPA idempotent.
- Flat learning curve. An easy-to-use description language based on YAML and Jinja templates is used for the playbooks.
Like most configuration management systems, Ansible can distinguish two different types of servers: the control machine and the nodes. Orchestration is managed by modules from a single central or control machine that uses the SSH (Secure Shell) protocol to access managed nodes. The managed nodes are described to the control machine by an inventory.
The orchestration modules are temporarily stored on the nodes and communicate with the control machine using JSON protocol on standard output.
A large number of frequently used configuration management systems (such as Chef, Puppet or CFEngine) use agents. For this type of systems, a daemon must be installed on each node to communicate with the control machine. Ansible uses an agentless architecture. This results in a lower network load because individual nodes do not communicate with the control machine independently.
In Ansible, modules are considered units of activity. Individual modules are usually self-contained and can be written in common scripting languages (Python, Perl, Ruby, bash, etc.). One of the basic characteristics of modules is their idempotence. This means that repeating an operation multiple times (e.g., when recovering from an outage) will put the system in the same (desired) state.
Inventory is a description of the nodes that can be accessed in Ansible. It is described by a configuration file in INI format whose implicit location is /etc/ansible/hosts. For each managed node, the configuration file contains either its IP address or hostname. Furthermore, the nodes can be grouped together.
In Ansible, the playbooks describe the configurations, software deployment and orchestration of individual elements. Playbooks are in YAML format. Each Ansible playbook assigns a set of roles to a node group. Individual roles are represented by task-specific calls.
Advantages of Ansible
- Imperative orchestration. In the case of imperative orchestration, there are no problems with resources, for example similar to Puppet or Chef.
- Simple implementation. Deploying Ansible is simple and it is possible to iterate with the playbook and roles.
- No agents. There is no need to use agents to manage nodes, which means Ansible saves IT systems power.
- Python. Unlike most other solutions, Ansible is written in Python. Thanks to this, it is it easier to run as the necessary libraries are included as standard in most Linux distributions.
- Configuration files. Configuration playbooks are written in YAML, making configuration management and automation more convenient. They are easy to read, support comments, and use anchors to link to other entries.