What Is Ansible? | How Ansible Works? | Advantages | Best Practises

Suppose you have created a hit app and are getting millions of hits everyday & now your application gets down. After root cause analysis, you got to know that it's because of the current infrastructure configuration. Now you have decided to update the infrastructure because the current configuration could not handle the workload. You thought of provisioning server/Infrastructure to make your application make the user experience better & while configuring infrastructure, you want to make sure provisioning is fast & the same configuration is done on the other host servers. The manual configuration will be slow and error-prone. 

To make configuration done in an efficient manner Infrastructure as code in the picture. Infrastructure as code (IaC) is the key that will provision the infra and make infrastructure configuration & orchestration easy for you in an effective way.

In this blog, we will dive into Ansible, an IaC tool. You will get to know what is Ansible, how it works to get better clarity on how it can help you in your infrastructure handling & provisioning?


What is Ansible?

Ansible is an open-source configuration management tool that helps you get a desired state of infrastructure and crush the complexity of infrastructure scaling and automate the whole process of infrastructure provisioning & configuration by handling all this with the help of code.

It can handle any scale of infrastructure, as small as defining a package that needs to be installed on a system & as large as setting up a multi-tier orchestration.

It helps you not only in the setup of infrastructure but also define infrastructure configuration to be implemented. 


Why is Ansible Important?

Ansible is very useful when you have  as the server's manual configuration will be a tedious task. Through Ansible, we can ensure the configuration is precisely done. Not just that, It helps you in many ways stated ahead:

  1. Configuration Management: It provides you control at a granular level which is required Handel enterprise-level infra where H/W & S/W information is recorded in detail, and consistency in configuration management is crucial.

  2. Application Deployment: It can manage application management from development to production in the simplest manner with very few changes.

  3. Orchestration: with the help of Ansible, we can define how infra configuration is to be done as a whole, not just restricted to a single server.

  4. Security & Compliance: Wide security policy can be deployed with the help of Ansible to ensure the server's best practices and hardening.

What are the Advantage of using Ansible?


Ansible models the infrastructure by describing how your infrastructure is interrelated rather than just managing the system. It doesn't need an agent to be installed on the node machine to configure them. The best part is it uses YAML syntax for the configuration of infra.

There are many advantages of Ansible that makes it a top choice for infrastructure orchestration & setup, like:

  1. Infrastructure Scaling: when you are handling a large number of servers for configuration and want to make sure that configuration is precisely done & fast too.

  2. Agentless: There is no requirement for the agent to be installed on the server to work with Ansible. It uses ssh and python to establish connections with the server.

  3. Modular: It uses modules for configuration management, and there are more than 750 built-in modules available, making it easy to handle configure management.

  4. Performance: It has very little latency that enhances the performance.

  5. Low Overheads: There is no requirement of agents and tools that leads to saving a lot of space and low overhead in terms of deployment.

  6. Simple: as it uses Yaml, which is an English-like language & easily understandable.


How Ansible works?

Before understanding Ansible working, let's get familiar with the terminology used in Ansible.

  1. Controller Machine: Machine where Ansible is installed.

  2. Ansible Tasks: Procedure to be executed by Ansible.

  3. Ansible Inventory: Information of servers(IP address and alias) to be managed. 

  4. Ansible Play: Mapping of groups of hosts in the inventory and tasks to perform.

  5. Ansible Playbook: State is defined you want the system to have. It consists of all plays to be executed of inventory.

  6. Ansible Roles: It lets you automatically load related vars_files, tasks, and Ansible artifacts based on a known file structure. Once you group your content into roles, It gets easy to share and reusable.

  7. Module: Predefined commands executed directly on remote hosts

Ansible is written in python. It works by connecting remote hosts via ssh mentioned in the inventory file. It uses a push mechanism to connect to the host and push out the small programs known as ansible modules that run the plays & tasks defined in the client's playbook over ssh.

The node on Which Ansible is installed is the controlling node, also known as the Ansible management node, which controls the entire playbooks' execution. After installation, it removes modules used.


What are the Best Practises for Ansible?

While getting started with Ansible, it's better to keep these best practices in mind. It will lead you to manage the infra effectively.

  1. Always Name Tasks: The naming task is optional, but it's essential to name the task as in output. It shows each task it runs.

  2. Use Comments: Commenting makes the code understandable to the user reading it.

  3. Use Version Control: Keep your variables, roles & inventory in version control as it gives an audit trail when and who changed the code.

  4. Use modules: Ansible has more than 750+ modules that can help you manage your infra in an efficient & easy way.

  5. Test, Rinse, Repeat: Test changes done by you, and test them often whenever you change things as it gives an insight into how the configuration is being implemented at the end.


Conclusion

Ansible is a game-changer in how you manage the infrastructure. It not only helps you in managing infra but in a fast, efficient, and easy way. It also ensures a single source of truth as all the configuration can be managed as text which is handled with VCS for the audit trail.

With Ansible, we can not just do a server setup but also configuration management and orchestration & a lot more in an automated manner.

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