CI/CD / DevOps

Red Hat Expands Ansible into a Full IT Automation Platform with Collaboration, Analytics

24 Sep 2019 1:18pm, by

Red Hat is expanding its Ansible enterprise package to handle new demands that are coming from increased use of IT automation, as well as to address the possibilities of how programmable infrastructure could be used even further to speed operations.

At the company’s annual AnsibleFest, held in Atlanta this year, Red Hat unveiled the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, a collection of enterprise-ready integrated Ansible capabilities, due out in November. It builds on the Red Hat Ansible Automation package, with new components around collaboration and analytics. Much like HashiCorp built collaboration capabilities into its own Terraform Cloud service, announced a few weeks back, Red Hat is also addressing the new needs that have come about as a result of the increasing use of IT automation.

Red Hat has seen an explosion of IT automation around Ansible, explained Joe Fitzgerald, vice president of management at Red Hat, in an interview. Not only are the ways in which it is being used is crossing into new areas — such as security and networking — but the depth to which it is being used is growing as well. And what is being done now is only a fraction of what could be done, as Ansible-ites start to explore new uses of programmable infrastructure.

Red Hat Ansible’s Joe Fitzgerald.

During the keynotes for the conference,  J.P. Morgan’s Christopher Festa explained how the financial services giant has placed a high priority on automating many of the company’s routine tasks.  The company has 500 developers are working to automate business processes, an initiative that has led to, among other benefits, a 98% improvement in recovery times. “What used to take 6-8 hours [to recover] now takes 2-5 minutes,” he said.

Also during the keynotes, Microsoft network engineer Bart Dworak explained how the company is using Ansible for event-based auto-remediation (“self-healing”), which sets the state for leads to Desired State Configuration, where the ideal state of the system is declared and the system itself works to bring itself to that state. “Network engineers are becoming network developers,” he said.

This increased use brings its own challenges, which the platform seeks to address through “collaborative scalability,” Fitzgerald explained. “How can teams share content. Across a very large organization, there are probably 300 playbooks that deploy NGINX. Which one is everyone using? How can I tell people, ‘Don’t build one. I have one already.'”

“What we are trying to do with a platform is provide a set of services that help people manage the content at a larger scale, across teams, and across the organization,” he said.

Automate All the Things

As an automation engine, Ansible is prized for its ease-of-use and scalability, noted Red Hat Product Field Engineer Jake Jackson in a later technical session. It uses a simple declarative language based on YAML. Users can create modules to run against a specific set of resources, or groups of resources. Playbooks can be created to describe a set of policies that can be used against the inventory. Ansible can be used to manage deployments of anything that is network addressable.

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform includes the core Red Hat Ansible Engine, Red Hat Ansible Tower, and Red Hat Network Automation, all of which were in the previous Red Hat Ansible Automation package. The new capabilities include:

  • Content Collections is a new packaging format to streamline the management, distribution and consumption of Ansible content. The company hopes third-party software vendors and internal development teams use collection to aid in deployment of complex artifacts. A Collection can be made up of Ansible modules, plugins, roles and playbooks,  Collections will be stored in…
  • Automation Hub, a centralized repository for Red Hat-certified content, of sorts. Initial Collections have been seeded by Cisco, F5, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and NetApp, among others.
  • Automation Analytics, a service for displaying how specific automation actions perform in detail, including statistics and data around modules and resources.

The software also includes the latest version of the Ansible enterprise edition, Red Hat Ansible Tower. Version 3.6 supports Ansible Content Collections, as well as the ability (through Webhooks) to launch deployments based on source code pushes from GitHub/GitLab and other source control events.

In August, analyst firm Forrester highlighted Red Hat Ansible Automation in its roundup of infrastructure automation platforms, praising the company’s roadmap and the package’s compatibility with other automation tools.

Feature image: Red Hat Ansible Automation Product Manager Richard Henshall introducing the new automation capabilities at AnsibleFest.