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What is Ansible? Ansible Tutorial Guide for Beginners

This is my first blog for Ansible and I am sure you would like reading this blog from start to end. Ansible is an open source configuration management tool that can help you with task automation and quick application deployment. This is easy to setup, highly efficient, and powerful tool.

This is a free tool that can run on multiple operating systems like MAC, Linux, or BSD etc. Apart from the free version, there is one enterprise version too that is named as Ansible Tower and it is generally used to enjoy maximum benefits by industries. The main highlights of the blog include as shown below – Ansible Tutorial Guide

What is Ansible?

Ansible is a simple configuration management tool that automates IT orchestration, app deployment, or cloud provisioning etc. It promotes deployment because it does not use any complex security infrastructure or agents.

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In Ansible, playbooks are used to describe the automation tasks in a very simple programming language i.e. YAML. Ansible was programmed for multi-tier deployment that could manage multiple inter-related systems together.

Why is Ansible needed?

Before we go in depth of the topic, let us first understand why Ansible is needed by Companies?

Take a flashback to network computing age when server deployment and management were challenging tasks for Companies. Only the system administrator was responsible for software installation, configuration settings management, and all other administering services on different servers manually. With the voluminous data growth, this was almost impossible to manage workloads manually.

Read: What Is Devops Tools? Top 12 DevOps Automation Tools

One the one side where development team was releasing software products frequently, the operation engineers were not able to manage the configuration management load. This is the reason why automation tool was needed for configuration management and server provisioning. Here, the role of Ansible tool comes into the picture that makes the tedious routine of an administrator more exciting and easy.

Learn Ansible Online – What are the benefits?

1). Easy to Learn

Ansible tool is programmed in simple programming language i.e. YAML. YAML is a human-readable language that is good for the configuration files and it is utilized by various applications across industries. In other words, playbooks in Ansible can be quickly understood by IT guys and they can edit them accordingly. Ansible can be installed quickly with simple steps only. The simplicity of this automation tool ensures quick starting even by non-IT professionals.

2). Agentless Tool

The tool does not use any agents, so how it works exactly? Ansible works by connecting multiple nodes together and pushes out mini-programs that are named as ‘Ansible Modules’. The tool executes the module over ‘SSH’ and deletes them when finished. The modules can be stored on any machine and there is no need for databases, daemons, or servers etc.

What is Ansible and how it Works?

  • Ansible is agentless tool and it works by connecting multiple nodes together and execution of modules over ssh connection.
  • The beauty of the tool is that modules will be remove for memory optimization as soon as execution gets finished.

3). Highly Efficient

There is only limited IT resources are needed to manage the nodes and modules in Ansible, this is the reason why it is taken as an efficient tool by the industries. Ansible utilizes modules as basic blocks of the software and it can be customized or edited quickly. Take an example, if there is one module then send audio messages only then you can customize it to send the video messages too and much more.

4). Powerful features

Ansible is a powerful tool that helps you to model most complex IT workflows too. It has the capability to manage services, networks, operating systems, or infrastructure that you are already using with the help of Ansible modules. In brief, Ansible offers the complete IT orchestration instead of the environment it is deployed.

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Ansible Tutorial Guide – The Technical Benefits

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The usage of the tool is not just limited to application deployment and configuration management but it can be utilized for several other IT benefits too as described below – Ansible Tutorial Guide

Server Provisioning

Your apps need virtual machines or cloud instances for storage and Ansible tool helps to streamline this process. Take an example, if you need some software program to execute debug or run an application then Ansible makes sure that all software packages are installed in advance as required.

Configuration Management

The tool helps to configure and record detailed information of multiple software or hardware packages together across all the systems. Take an example, if you wanted to configure FTP server on all the machines together but the process is not easy if you go manually. The tool is the solution that helps you to configure FTP server across all the systems together in a single pass. You just have to program Ansible playbooks in simple language i.e. YAML and list out the IP address where you need the server installed with defined configuration settings.

Faster App Deployment 

The lifecycle of the entire application from designing to development and deployment, everything can be managed nicely with Ansible Tower. All you have to do is describe all the commands together in the playbook and execute them to accelerate the overall deployment rate of an application.

Security Compliance

The security policy or authentication details can be defined in the playbook and it can be integrated with other automated processes. In other words, you just have to define the security settings once and it can be applied to all the nodes automatically. And the best part is that all login credentials that are defined in the playbook cannot be retrieved by the third-party user in the plain text.

IT Orchestration 

Configuration management alone cannot complete your job but you should know how multiple configurations can interact together or how they are managed as a whole. With Ansible, you can manage complex configurations and provide orchestration to align the business processes with other IT resources like network, services, applications, data etc.

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What is Ansible Architecture?

The architecture of Ansible is easy to understand as shown in the figure. There is one automation engine that interacts with the user directly who writes playbook and executes them. It can also interact with the services hosted in cloud or configuration management tools or databases. The main components of automation engine include Inventories, Plug-ins, Modules, APIs, Networking, cloud, playbooks, hosts, or IT warehouse etc. Ansible Tutorial Guide

Ansible & DevOps – How well they fit together?

DevOps is used to integrate the development and operational tasks together and we all know how important the integration is for test-driven apps. Ansible fulfills this objective by providing a stable environment for integration that ultimately results in improved orchestration. Ansible in DevOps accelerates the development velocity and development and spend their time in other things like performance tuning, testing, experimenting etc. In this way, IT guys can fix other IT problems and integration process is much simplified than your expectations.

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You can also consider the real-life example of NASA how it was benefitted by using Ansible automation tool for their project.

Learn Ansible Terminologies

In the end, we will learn few terminologies related to the Ansible for a better understanding of the tool and its working.

  • Playbooks – They are written in YAML programming language with minimal syntax and it is generally used to automate the tasks when required.
  • Host – In Ansible, a host is a remote machine that is assigned to individual variables and they are further grouped together. Each host has a dedicated name or unique IP address to make its identification easy and quick. They can be given simple port number too if you don’t have to access them over SSH connection.
  • Task – Every instruction defined in the playbook is termed as the task that will be executed further to perform an action.
  • Facts – They are the inferred from the remote nodes automatically when executing modules on the remote nodes.
  • Group – This is a combination of hosts that are assigned to a pool and variables can also be shared together.
  • Inventory – Inventory is an important component of ansible remote engine that describes hosts, groups etc through IP address or port number etc. So, you can define all the hosts in a single file for easy access.
  • APIs – These are the transportation medium for different cloud services either private or public.
  • Modules – With the help of playbook, modules can be executed on remote nodes directly. Further, it can be used to manage services, resources, packages, files or commands etc. Modules are the main components that help to install packages, allow APIs to interact together and plan actions for system files too. There are a variety of modules in Ansible that are programmed to automate almost everything inside the tool.
  • Plug-ins – They are the special pieces of code that help to write code quickly. Plug-ins automate the development tasks and help to speed up the deployment work to the maximum level. Ansible is featured with various handy plug-ins that can be used when needed to make the things much easier for you.
  • Orchestration – This is a common term that is used in the technical world frequently. Why is this important in Ansible as well? For different software products, the meaning of orchestration could be different. Ansible is using it as a conductor to conduct the orchestra.

Final Words:

In this blog. We have discussed all the key concepts of Ansible that are helpful for the beginners for a kick start in their career. By understanding all these concepts deeply, this would be easy for you playing with Ansible. To know more about the tool and related products, join DevOps certification program at JanBask Training right away and explore the wider job opportunities for you.

Read: DevOps Engineer Learning Path

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