Chapter 3. Ansible

Ansible is a powerful configuration management and orchestration tool, which can be used to automate complicated infrastructure or application deployment tasks.

At it’s core, ansible ships with hundreds of modules to manage different host types and software. These hosts can be traditional servers running Red Hat Entperise Linux and other operating systems, as well as an impressive count of network switches and storage arrays. Modules are also included to interact with APIs (application program interface) directly, or wrapped up in a separate module to present a standard set of arguments. For example, the openstack (os_) modules are provided to orchestrate an OpenStack cloud.

An ansible playbook is built by defining tasks. A given task will call a module with the desired set of arguments. The playbook is then run against an inventory which specifies the hosts to run those tasks.

Ansible Tower takes those ansible constructs, and presents them in a clean, modern web GUI. This reference architecture used Ansible Tower by Red Hat version 3.1.1 to orchestrate the provisioning of HPE baremetal ProLiant DL servers, integration with HPE OneView 3.1, installation of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.3, and deployment of Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform 3.5 with Container-native storage. This was accomplished using Ansible Tower inventory, templates, roles, tasks,and workflows, to execute the multiple ansible playbooks required for this reference architecture. The installation of Ansible Tower is beyond the scope of this reference architecture. Refer to the Ansible Tower by Red Hat documentation at http://docs.ansible.com/ansible-tower/index.html for complete instructions on the installation and configuration of Ansible Tower by Red Hat.

Dashboard

Ansible Tower Dashboard

Figure 3: Ansible Tower Dashboard

Inventory

Ansible Tower Inventory

Figure 4: Ansible Tower Inventory

An inventory is a list of targets to run a given playbook against. Inventories can be statically defined, or leverage dynamic inventories. A dynamic inventory allows the operator to point Ansible Tower at a source which can change over time, such as a public or private cloud, to generate a list of targets.

Projects

A project refers to a software repository (typically git) where playbooks are stored.

Templates

Ansible Tower Templates

Figure 5: Ansible Tower Templates

Templates tie inventory and projects together. A template will specific which playbook to run from a given project, and execute it against a specific set of hosts from an inventory.

Workflows

Ansible Tower Workflow

Figure 6: Ansible Tower Workflow

Workflows are a way to chain multiple ansible playbooks together. Different actions can be taken whether a given playbook has succeeded or failed.

A collection of ansible playbooks were created for this reference architecture and synced to Ansible Tower. These playbooks are detailed in a later chapter and available in a github repo.

In addition, the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform installer is based on Ansible, and an advanced install exposes this to a systems administrator. Inventory and variables can be configured and the playbook run using the standard ansible-playbook command. The use of these playbooks is well documented on the linked web site. This reference architecture only covers integrating and running those playbooks in Tower.