What Is Ansible?: Uses, Benefits, Architecture

by StarAgile

July 28, 2020
Category DevOps

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 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.

Do we need Ansible? Why

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.

DevOps Training

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 

Top 10 benefits of using Ansible

  1. Agentless –There are no agents or software deployed on the clients/servers to work with Ansible. The connection can be done through the SSH or using the Python.
  2. English Like Language – To use the Ansible, configure, and deploy the infrastructure is very simple and it is English like the language used called YAML.
  3. Modular – The Ansible uses modules to automate, configure, deploy, and orchestrate the IT Infrastructure. There are around 750 + modules built-in Ansible.
  4. Efficient – There are no servers, daemons, or databases required for Ansible to work.
  5. Features – Ansible comes with a whole lot of features and can be used to manage the Operating systems, IT Infrastructure, the networks, the servers, and services in very less time.
  6. Secure and consistent – Since the Ansible uses SSH and Python it is very secure and the operations are flawless.
  7. Reliable – The Ansible Playbook can be used to write programs or the modules and can be used to manage the IT without any downside.
  8. Performance- The Ansible’s performance is excellent and has very little latency.
  9. Low Overhead – As it is agentless and does not require any servers, daemons, or databases it can provide a lot of space in the systems and has low overhead in terms of deployment.
  10. Simple – It is very simple to use and is supported by YAML 

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 an overview

The Ansible architecture is shown below in the diagram.

The Ansible Orchestration engine is the center of the Ansible tool. 

  • It consists of an Inventory table, API, Plugins, and modules written to configure, manage, automate, and orchestrate the process. 
  • It can get the inputs from the Playbook software, public/private cloud, and configuration management databases to do the networking manage the hosts or the servers, operating systems, and manage security.

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.