What is Ansible And How to Use Ansible In DevOps

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Apr 15, 2024

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What Is Ansible?

Ansible is a popular IT automation engine that automates tasks that are either cumbersome or repetitive or complex like configuration management, cloud provisioning, software deployment, and intra-service orchestration. 

Ansible is used for the multi-tier deployments and it models all of IT infrastructure into one deployment instead of handling each one separately. There are no agents and no custom security architecture is required to be used in the Ansible architecture. The deployment is simple plain English like language that is used in Ansible called YAML which stands for “YAML Ain’t Markup Language.” 

To work with Ansible is very easy; it pushes out small programs called “Ansible Modules” to your nodes to connect. It can deploy and connect using the SSH agent to execute the modules and then removes it when finished. There are no servers, daemons or databases required these modules can reside anywhere in the machines. You need to work with any text editor or terminal programs and along with a version control system to manage the changes in the content. Ansible has over 750 modules built into it.

In Ansible the passwords are supported, However, you can use SSH keys with the ssh-agents as one of the methods to work with Ansible. You can create any user account and the root user is required. To configure what machines can access which hosts there is a module called "authorized_key".

You can add machines to the Ansible in a simple text format and manage your inventory. It can use the inventory and variable information from other sources such as Rackspace, EC2, and Openstack, etc.

If you need to write your code then also you can use Ansible in languages such as Python, Ruby, and Bash, etc which return JSON. You can write your modules, API, and Plugins.

Playbooks are the simple and powerful automation language used to orchestrate multiple infrastructures in one goes. This can be done in Ansible.

Ansible for DevOps

Ansible is an open-source, cross-platform resource provisioning tool. Furthermore, it aids in the integration of internally developed applications into your programmes, making the DevOps process easier. It is one of the most used DevOps Tools for orchestrating, automating, configuring, and managing IT infrastructure. The tool makes deployment significantly faster, which increases team productivity. 

Ansible is the most preferred DevOps tool for orchestration, automation, configuration, and managing the IT Infrastructure. The benefits of Ansible in DevOps is to respond and scale in pace with the demand. The following are the benefits of Ansible in DevOps:

  • The feedback loop is accelerated at a faster rate
  • The bugs are found sooner and not wait till the end
  • Risk due to lack of sufficient knowledge is mitigated
  • The deployments are reliable
  • The IT infrastructure is coordinated
  • The deployments are faster
  • Need for automation
  • Version control and configuration management
  • Orchestration of the IT Infrastructure.

Benefits Of Ansible

As one of the top DevOps tools, Ansible offers many advantages for users. Let us explore more: 

  • Free of cost: It is a cost-effective choice for DevOps teams with limited resources because it is free. This means that it can be utilised effectively by businesses of any size. 
  • Simple to set up: Ansible's user interface is extremely simple, requiring no complicated processes or difficult configurations. It is user-friendly, making it easier for DevOps teams to swiftly put it up. It also offers extensive documentation, which makes it much easier for teams to grasp the implementation and automate procedures. 
  • Powerful tool: It is a powerful DevOps tool used to maintain the complex DevOps processes. It comes with built-in modules which help in maintaining various aspects of IT infrastructure. It is capable of maintaining large infrastructures with dynamic inventory which makes it an ideal tool for both small and large-scale organizations. 
  • Flexible: The tool makes it much easier to adapt to different environments. It can work with different operating systems including Linux, Windows and Unix. moreover, it supports multiple transport methods. It is also integrated with other DevOps tools as well. 
  • Agentless: This tool does not require any additional software or agents to be installed in order to use this tool. This makes the installation and maintenance of the tool much easier. 

Ansible Features

The tool is versatile with many features used to make the DevOps processes simpler and faster. Let us explore more: 

  1. Configuration management: It is one of the major features of the Ansible tool which helps in the management of IT infrastructure. With the configuration management, the DevOps teams can automate the deployment, reduce the risks of unintended changes, audit, track changes and provide better visibility. 
  2. Application Deployment: It is one of the prominent features of Ansible. With the pre-packaged modules, the deployment becomes much easier. It helps in streamlining and deploying applications. 
  3. Orchestration: Ansible allows the management of orchestrated workflows using its declarative language, helping to simplify complex processes. You can automate processes such as rolling updates, system configuration changes and application deployments. 
  4. Security and Compliance: Ansible offers multiple in-built security options which help in securing communication protocols, encryption and authentication methods. 
  5. Cloud provisioning: It facilitates the provisioning of cloud resources such as virtual computers, storage, and networking components. It also supports a variety of cloud providers such as AWS, Google, Azure, and many more. 

Why Ansible?

Ansible is very useful and you would appreciate it with the example when there are 4 or 5 web servers to be configured and deployed, and when there are more than 4 database servers to be configured and deployed. There are applications in the web servers and it connects the database servers at the backend. Now the traditional situation demands that you separately configure these servers and manage them.

However, these servers will have various application updates. Even a system admin cannot handle if there are more servers and their configurations will not be identical. These tasks are complex to do and to manage the number of servers without putting a lot of effort into system admin as well as by developers who are developing the applications. Just imagine other servers which the organization has such as DNS, NTP, AD, Email, etc 

This is where Ansible comes into the picture. Infrastructure automation and orchestrations can be done by Ansible. All the similar servers can be handled and managed in one go by Ansible.

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Uses of Ansible

The use cases of Ansible are listed below

  • Infrastructure Provisioning
  • Configuration Management
  • IT automation
  • Continuous deployment
  • Application Development
  • Network Automation
  • Security Automation
  • Infrastructure Orchestration 

What Ansible Can Do?

  • Configuration Management - The enterprise hardware and software information is recorded and updated in detail, thus maintaining the consistency of the product performance.
  • Application Deployment - The applications can be managed in Ansible from Development to Production when you define and manage the applications using Ansible.
  • Orchestration - To manage as a whole and how the configurations interact.
  • Security and Compliance - Wide security policy can be deployed across the infrastructure when the policy is defined in Ansible
  • Provisioning - Helps to automate and manage the process

Ansible Architecture 

The Ansible architecture is shown below in the diagram.

Ansible Architecture

Let’s discuss what are the components that make an Ansible architecture. 

Modules: These are the small programs that Ansible pushes from a controlled machine to all the nodes or remote hosts. They are executed with the help of playbooks and help in controlling things like services, packages and files. 

Plugins: Plugins are the extra pieces of code that are used to execute more functions in Ansible. The tool already comes with multiple plugins but you can always add yours in the system. 

Inventories: The control machines and nodes you are using for Ansible can be stored in these inventories. They can be stored in a simple text file consisting of IP addresses, databases, servers and so on. 

Playbooks: These playbooks for Ansible act as manuals which tell how a task can be performed easily. This makes tasks easier without users knowing or remembering any definite syntax.

APIs: With the help of these APIs, you can extend Ansible’s connection types, callbacks and many other things. 

What next?

Ansible is mainly used as a DevOps tool and can perform a lot of tasks that otherwise are time-consuming, complex, repetitive, and can make a lot of errors or issues. To learn Ansible we suggest that you go for online training with StarAgile. At StarAgile you can find a lot of technical training and you can choose DevOps Training where you can learn about the Ansible tool.

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