Dan's Take

Red Hat Positions Ansible as the Automation Platform for the Enterprise

But is there a place for legacy systems?

Red Hat recently acquired Ansible, and Red Hat's Joe Fitzgerald discussed why his company believes that Ansible can and will be the foundation for enterprise-wide automation.

Here's how Ansible describes its technology:

"Ansible was founded to provide a new way to think about managing systems and applications that better fit this new world. Historically, management vendors and home-grown scripting solutions were created to manage stacks of software on servers. In contrast, Ansible was created to orchestrate multi-tier applications across clouds. From configuration to deployment to zero-downtime rolling upgrades, Ansible is a single framework that can fully automate today's modern enteprise apps."

Ansible utilizes secure shell (SSH) on either Linux or UNIX and Windows Remote Management or PowerShell for Windows systems. Ansible relies on tools provided with the operating system so that it doesn't require an agent to do its magic. It can also deploy applications and orchestrate complex tasks, as well as provide configuration management functions.

Dan's Take: Charging Into the Future, Ignoring the Past
After a discussion with Fitzgerald, it's clear that Red Hat doesn't mean "The Enterprise" when talking about the enterprise; the company means current and future systems and workloads, rather than systems from the past.

Fitzgerald would point out that mainframes and single-vendor systems are often best managed by their own tools, and that interfacing with those tools is the best approach. He also said that Red Hat and its customers have developed 2,500 "playbooks," allowing many enterprise datacenter citizens to be monitored and orchestrated using Ansible. The community is reaching out to many third parties to bring their products into the Ansible fold.

Red Hat fully understands that "the enterprise" datacenter looks like a computer museum. Today's workloads are built on the foundation of those built 10 years ago. Those workloads are, in turn, built on the foundation of those acquired or developed before that. If one wanders through the racks of many enterprise datacenters, one is likely to find:

  • Mainframe applications acquired or developed in the 1960s through today
  • UNIX applications executing on systems from IBM, Sun (Oracle), HPE (DEC, Tandem, HP), Hitachi, NEC, and many more
  • Single-vendor environments, such as IBM I (successor or System 3, System 34, System 36 and so on)
  • Industry standard x86 systems running Windows, Linux, Netware and who knows what else
  • Intelligent networking equipment from a host of suppliers
  • Intelligent storage equipment from a host of suppliers
  • Intelligent power management equipment
  • Intelligent cooling equipment
  • An amazing array of other things such as facilities security, telephone systems and so on

Fitzgerald presents a glowing picture of Red Hat, its community and many third parties joining together to unify the management and automation of industry-standard workloads, workloads on midrange UNIX systems, workloads on single vendor computing environments such as IBM i, and many mainframe workloads. While his description appears comprehensive, the industry will have to watch and see if really obscure, but important, workloads and systems will be at the Ansible party that Red Hat envisions.

After listening to Fitzgerald, though, I was impressed with how far the party has already gone and how rapidly newcomers are appearing.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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