Cloud 101 – Ansible Automation

Ansible is an open-source, simple, and robust IT automation tool, much like Chef. It helps automate repetitive tasks that save time, such as setting up AWS S3 buckets and much more. Ansible can also do configuration management, and it super easy to use.

Key Concepts

SSH (Secure Shell)

Ansible works by connecting several nodes/machines over SSH. SSH is a secure program that connects to a remote machine and runs commands on that machine. Furthermore, it encrypts all the communication between these machines. To connect to any machine, you will need the Username and IP Address of the remote machine.

Inventory

Once you install Ansible in your system, you will see the “hosts” file in the /etc/ansible directory. This text file or Inventory is a configuration file. First, it instructs Ansible about which hosts to connect to. Then, it applies specific configurations to a group of hosts you mention in the Inventory.

Modules

Ansible has 750+ modules to automate different tasks on your behalf. Most of its modules are in Python. Modules are already available, and you only have to use them. You can also write your module with your desired functionality. To write your modules, use any of your favorite Programming Language.

Module Utilities

Ansible uses module utilities to reduce maintenance and duplication. It creates module utilities for all those modules that use the same code. Of course, you can also write your module utilities using PowerShell or Python.

Adhoc Commands

You use Adhoc commands for single, minor and quick tasks. For example, you can use them to do any specific configuration. For example, you can use them to reboot machines, manage users and packages. In each Adhoc command, you specify a particular Ansible module along with the target hosts.

Playbooks

Playbooks are text files that you write using YAML or INI. Unlike Adhoc commands, you use Playbooks for lengthy and detailed tasks. For example, you may want to configure Apache Server on all the machines through a single Playbook. So, in short, a playbook consists of several automation tasks.

Why Use Ansible?

Here are some reasons why you should use Ansible:

  • Ansible is secure because it uses SSH to communicate with other machines.
  • There are about 750+ modules that Ansible uses to automate different tasks on your behalf. Most of its modules are in Python, but you can also write your modules using your favorite language.
  • It saves time and increases productivity. You can decrease the time of your tasks even from hours to minutes.
  • By using Ansible, you can remove repetitive tasks. As a result, you do not have to do the same task over and over again.
  • You are likely to make fewer mistakes and errors once you automate your tasks using Ansible.
  • The use of Ansible reduces complexity and makes your tasks simple.
  • This language describes the automation of your tasks. It uses a simple human-readable English-like language. You can either use the YAML or INI file to automate your tasks.
  • If you want to use Ansible, you don’t need to know to code. Everybody can use it because of its simplicity.
  • Ansible is an agentless tool. And it does not need any extra security infrastructure and, everyone can use it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does Ansible work?

The architecture of Ansible usually contains one controlling node. But, moreover, it contains one or more worker nodes. So, first, you install Ansible on the controlling node. Then, the controlling node connects to worker nodes using SSH. And, it pushes modules to worker nodes as well as specify target hosts to perform specific tasks. Which worker nodes to target depends on the inventory file.

What type of automation can you do using Ansible?

Using Ansible, you can deploy your applications, do configurations, and provision cloud. In addition, there are many other IT-related tasks you can automate.

How can you speed up Ansible Automation for Cloud Servers/Machines?

It is always a good practice that you do not manage your Cloud Machines from your local system. Instead, use one of the machines within the Cloud to manage other machines. This would help increase the Ansible speed.

Can you use Ansible using Graphical User Interface (GUI)?

Yes, Ansible Tower is a browser-based solution that makes it easy to use Ansible. You can manage up to 10 machines free of cost. It has a dashboard that shows the summary of all the hosts. It also helps watch configurations and do deployments. Using Tower, you can also control access to resources. Use Playbook to install Tower.

How does Ansible determine specific nodes/machines to apply configurations?

Ansible determines specific nodes based on the inventory file you use. You apply configurations on an individual node, or you can group them. If you write your inventory file, then you will need to specify its path.

Related Automation Tools

There are many related automation tools that you need to know. Every organization, small or large, need automation. Finding the right automation tool to meet your needs is essential.

Below is a full-list of the related automation tools covered by Anto Online:

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