Introducing the Ansible configuration management tool

by Daniel Pham
Published: Updated:

In today’s article, I will introduce to you the Ansible configuration management tool. The current trend of automating IT systems (automation) requires the use of tools. Sysadmin or DevOps engineers must more or less know how to use these tools.

What is Ansible?

Affirmation:

Ansible is an open source tool (IaC – Infrastructure as Code) used for configuration management and automating server infrastructure deployment (server provisioning).

But I will briefly talk a little about the history of the Ansible tool.

Requirements from the market

If you are just starting out on the path to becoming a Sysadmin/DevOps engineer, you must learn about this industry. Previously, software products were mainly installed and operated by programmers (Developer or Dev for short).

But over time of development, the number of users gradually increases, and the scale of the system becomes larger and larger. Devs gradually cannot develop software and operate the system at the same time. So the result was the birth of Mr. Sysadmin/DevOps – a person who specializes in installing and operating the system.

But over time, the product continued to develop rapidly, and the system scale grew rapidly. One Sysadmin cannot manage it all because it is too much and prone to operational errors.

The solution in the past was to increase the size of the Sysadmin team. But it didn’t take long for the system to expand to tens, hundreds of thousands of servers. A Sysadmin team with manual methods cannot solve the problem.

And so Ansible was born. Automate the installation and operation of 100,000 servers just like 1 server.

History

Take a look at some Ansible timelines:

  • In 2012, Michael Dehaan released the first Ansible.
  • In 2013, Michael Dehaan, Tim Gerla and Saïd Ziouani founded Ansible, Inc.
  • And in 2015, Red Hat acquired Ansible, Inc and continued to develop it. Red Hat makes Ansible one of the most popular configuration management tools today.

Ansible usage context

Introducing the Ansible configuration management tool
Introducing the Ansible configuration management tool.

Through the history of Ansible, you can also guess what Ansible is used for, right? To know what Ansible is used for, try answering the following 3 questions:

  1. If you need to install Apache web server for 1000 servers, what will you do?
  2. If you work with a team of 10 people, how can you ensure that the whole team will use the same configuration for all servers?
  3. And if the manager or sysadmin team leaves, how can they inherit the previous configurations?

With the above 3 questions, you will understand what Ansible can solve.

  1. With Ansible, 1000 servers are grouped into 1 group. And you just need to write code to install Apache for this group. The 1000 servers will be installed identically with no configuration differences.
  2. With Ansible, all configurations are collectively managed and automatically deployed to servers. So the entire Sysadmin team can use the same configuration. Instead each of the 1000 servers can be configured differently by the Sysadmins in the team.
  3. Once every configuration is stored and managed centrally, deployment is automated, ensuring accuracy. Dependence on administrators will gradually decrease.

Advantages of Ansible

I will highlight some advantages of Ansible:

  • Clear, easy-to-use language: Ansible uses the YAML language structure, which is a simple language structure that is easy to learn and easy to use.
  • Fast: Ansible uses agentless mechanisms through the server’s default SSH. It does not need any additional software so installation and use are quick.
  • Efficiency: because Ansible uses no additional software, it saves server resources.
  • Module mechanism: Ansible operates on a module mechanism. You can extend it via JSON or write a separate module in Python.
  • Security: because Ansible uses SSH, no additional software is required. Therefore, it will not create any additional security holes.

Conclusion

Above is an article where I introduce to you what Ansible is and what this tool is used for. What effect does it have on us Sysadmins/DevOps? In upcoming articles, I will go into detail about using Ansible.

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