Using Ansible, Why not Ansible Tower
Ending 2020 on a high note… This year has been devastating for almost everyone and everything there is. The ecosystem for the IT industries would be and are changing drastically, especially due to this unprecedented situation. Most of the service providing companies are opting for minimum manual work which required human intervention and more automation in the complete pipeline. Thus DevOps will be one of the biggest things in the forthcoming years.
Let’s look at a single DevOps pipeline
DevOps would be a great discussion but, this article is centered vis-a-vis Ansible. The adjacent figure shows us where Ansible fits in a minimal DevOps pipeline.
Ansible is a Configuration Management Tool developed by Michael DeHaan and acquired by Red Hat in 2015. Ansible has a great market due to many reasons. One of the great features of Ansible is its agentless management. This means apart from some basic packages like python and ssh-client, there is no requirement for any other package to be installed on the nodes that are being managed by Ansible. Apart from just Configuration Management ansible is means business when it comes to Provisioning and Application deployment as well. Please NOTE that is article focus on the intermediate use of Ansible Tower for industries and not the basics of Ansible.
In the recent past, We had a great Session with the Ansible Tech-Heads at Arth, the School of Technology. It was a pleasure having a guided session with Mr. Arun Eapen (Director-APAC) and Mr. Sreejith Anujan (Principal instructor RedHat) discussing different use cases of Ansible. I extend my humble gratitude towards Mr. Vimal Daga and Linux Would for having this opportunity to get a peek into the industrial working and use cases of the Ansible. In the rest of the article, I’ll be sharing those use cases with you. The purpose of this article is to make you familiar with the areas Ansible can conquer and make your DevOps pipeline more efficient. Ansible is one of the prominent tools in its field, but one of the major gripes from Ansible users is that it didn’t have a proper GUI. To fix this problem Ansible problem, ‘Ansible Tower’ was introduced by RedHat.
Ansible Tower previously called the AWX project, is a comprehensive web-based UI for Ansible, containing the most important Ansible features, especially those that render better as graphical rather than text-based output, such as real-time node monitoring. Red Hat Ansible Tower is a web console and REST API for operationalizing Ansible across your team, organization, and enterprise. It’s designed to be the hub for all of your automation tasks. Ansible Tower gives you role-based access control, including control over the use of securely stored credentials for SSH and other services. You can sync your Ansible Tower inventory with a wide variety of cloud sources, and powerful multi-playbook workflows allow you to model complex processes.
Ansible Tower is a GUI wherein you could import the Playbooks and other resources. There is a separate section where you can set up your credentials for Cloud, Databases, etc., which you would require to authenticate while provisioning and managing. The Ansible Tower though is not a monitoring tool, it could be very well integrated with tools like Prometheus. Tasks like job scheduling could be down easily using Ansible Tower.
One of the great things about Ansible Tower is its Visual Inventory Management and Synchronization. Inventories are divided into groups and these groups contain the actual hosts. Groups may be sourced manually, by entering hostnames into Tower, or from one of Ansible Tower’s supported cloud providers. This provides some hassle-free flexibility to the Administrator as he does not have to go to the file to make changes to the inventory. The synchronization of the inventory is literally the easiest thing there can be. Green indicates successful syncs in the inventory, and red indicates failed syncs, that's it!. Clicking this icon displays the sync status for the last five inventory source syncs and source information if the inventory has sources that are able to sync.
Ansible Tower has a Built-in Notification System and Job-Prompting. You Can get Notifications of the running tasks as well as can approve or decline the next tasks in play using channel-based messaging applications like SLACK. Yes, Ansible even has modules for Slack too!
Ansible Tower has Multi-tenancy support, so the administrator can control who can run what tasks on what inventory. We can build multi-Playbook workflows right in Ansible Tower without having to create a new Playbook. After all, the goal of the Ansible Tower is to make the administration of the playbook simpler. The Administrator can Visualize the workflows in the pipeline intelligibly without working out the RC codes and the messages. The Ansible Tower allows the Administrator to create rollback nodes and pools right from the GUI.
Although Ansible is open-sourced, Ansible Tower is a paid product from Red Hat. Ansible Tower is free for usage for up to 10 nodes, and comes bundled with amazing support from Ansible, Inc. As you would expect, Tower is installed using Ansible playbooks! So overall, if you are using Ansible in your pipeline which you must be checked out the Tower. It will make your administration a lot easier.
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