Recently the Forrester Wave, one of the most prominent independent IT industry analyst reports, chose Ansible as a leader in its overview of automation solutions. While many IT professionals already know that Ansible is the favored tool for automating system and infrastructure configuration, application deployment, configuration management, and continuous delivery, it always makes it an easy sell to upper management and other users when an organization like Forrester weighs in. In the same spirit, it also helps to have some examples of why something is popular, beyond its industry reputation, to share.
In other words, what can you actually do with Ansible?
Here are ideas on how you might use Ansible and why you might recommend it to friends and colleagues.
As a computer geek, I tend to unintentionally collect computers. Sometimes they're computers I rescue from the rubbish bin, other times they're computers people give me as payment for helping them transfer their data to their newer computer, and still other times, it's a small fleet of machines I manage for charity organizations lacking finances for a "real IT guy." I can attest that anything from two to 200 computers is too many to set up and configure manually.
Ansible doesn't just automate day-to-day tasks; it can also bootstrap hardware. You can find out how to set this up in two articles:
- Ken Fallon explains how to Manage your Raspberry Pi fleet with Ansible.
- Mark Phillips creates a network and Ansible infrastructure in his Bootstrapping hardware article.
Automate the cloud
If bootstrapping bare-metal boxes seems arcane to you in the mythical "serverless" age, you might be more interested in managing containers with Ansible. Thanks to the Kubernetes (lovingly abbreviated as K8s) module, you can talk to your Kubernetes cluster through Ansible playbooks. Read more about it in my Ansible and K8s article.
Of course, Ansible doesn't talk only to K8s. There are many other cloud-related modules available, including ones for OpenShift, Atomic, Azure, Docker, Podman, and many other components of your open hybrid cloud (or, if you're not that lucky, your proprietary one).
What's the cloud without containers? Once you've got your cloud tasks automated, you'll be happy to know that Ansible also can help generate the containers you need when delivering your applications or spinning up services. Tomas Tomecek guides you through the process in his Building container images with the Ansible-bender tool article.
The truth of the matter is that there wouldn't be much to Ansible if it weren't for its excellent collection of modules. Like third-party libraries for Python or applications for your mobile phone, the technical driver of all the useful and surprisingly easy tricks Ansible is famous for are the parts that other people have already figured out for you.
A complete index of supported modules is available on the Ansible website, but there are a lot of them. If you're finding it difficult to know where to begin, read Shashank Hegde's 10 must-know Ansible modules for a thorough overview of the most essential.
Ansible for Windows
If you're an admin for Linux and Unix systems, Ansible is an easy and pretty natural fit. But when faced with Windows systems, you might be a little intimidated. At this point, Windows doesn't even ship with Python, much less OpenSSH, so there are obviously some adjustments you'll have to make.
Don't panic. Taz Brown and Abner Malivert step you through the setup process and some basic exercises to get you comfortable in Ansible for Windows admins.
If you're still very new to Ansible, you can download our free quickstart guide by Chris Short. It introduces you to the basic concepts of Ansible, the workflow, and how to get started with it. It's a great way to get familiar with a tool that's prominent in professional IT and a great tool for a hobbyist to maintain the results of those big weekend projects throughout the week.
It's that time of year again: AnsibleFest is happening October 13 and 14, and this year, it's virtual. If you need to learn Ansible for work or your own edification, AnsibleFest is a great way to immerse yourself in the technology. Take a look at the AnsibleFest conference agenda, and sign up to get to know the full potential of Ansible.