Ansible strengthens automation and networking solutions with announcements at AnsibleFest 2017

One of the most anticipated announcements in the Ansible ecosystem finally occurred at AnsibleFest 2017 in San Francisco. Since Red Hat purchased Ansible in 2015, the questions around an open source version of Ansible Tower, the web-based GUI that allows for the easier consumption of Ansible, have been non-stop. Ansible finally answered those questions with the announcement of the AWX Project (AWX for short) which is the open source, upstream version of Ansible Tower.

Similar to the Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) relationship, Ansible notes AWX is “designed to be a frequently released, fast-moving project where all new development happens.” Ansible Tower will then be based off specific AWX releases with the goal of adding long term supportability.

Updates from AnsibleFest 2017 1

To help draw a clear line of distinction between community and enterprise support, Ansible has also rebranded what has traditionally been known as Ansible Core into two separate offerings: Ansible Project and Red Hat Ansible Engine. Ansible Project is the open source, community supported version of Ansible that most people are familiar with today. Red Hat Ansible Engine builds upon Ansible Project and will be developed with a specific focus on building an enterprise-grade IT system with full support from Red Hat.

Another major portion of the AnsibleFest keynote evolved around networking. The version 2.4 release of Ansible Project will bring the total number of networking-related modules to over 450, covering 33 separate networking platforms.

Updates from AnsibleFest 2017 2

More important than the total number of networking modules is an updated module architecture that drastically simplifies the creation of playbooks. Traditionally, the networking modules and associated playbooks have been tied directly to the CLI commands and configuration files found in the manual management of networks. With the new architecture, modules can better abstract the exact commands needed to achieve a desired state, allowing network administrators to focus on running their networks instead of defining CLI command after CLI command.

The new architecture also allows for the verification of a given configuration directly in the same play that pushed the configuration. Instead of only being able to tell a play to “configure this interface with a new IP address” we are now able to tell the play to “configure this interface with a new IP address and verify these are the interface’s neighbors.”

The last major announcement around networking was the Red Hat Ansible Engine Networking Add-On which provides full Red Hat owned support for networking modules. Specifically, Cisco, Juniper, Open vSwitch, Arista and VyOS modules will be supported with the initial offering.

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The updates and announcements at this year’s AnsibleFest continued to highlight the strengths of Ansible as an automation platform, and in the context of networking, allowed Ansible to continue to distance itself from its competitors in the marketplace. With networking having a solid foundation, I suspect that AnsibleFest 2018 will include announcements around additional infrastructure-related disciplines.

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