Imagine you’re driving somewhere. And then you park, get out of your car to run your errand and return, only to find the vehicle won’t start. Turns out, its battery is over five years old and its alternator is also damaged — two problems that could have been avoided with preventative maintenance. You pay for a tow and subsequent repairs, instead of having paid less in the past for that maintenance.
In IT systems, something similar can play out with configuration management. Although configuration management has typically involved a degree of automation to prevent such breakdowns, some manual tasks have remained, at great cost and risk to organizations.
Fortunately, Red Hat Ansible has helped to curb the financial, technical and operational dangers of manual configuration management — and now it’s available on IBM Power Systems (AIX, i and Linux on Power). This integration between Ansible and IBM Power Systems lets you save time, money and effort on the configuration management of your Power environments across both the public and private cloud. Overall, IBM Power Systems can now be more easily incorporated into your enterprise-wide Ansible automation strategy.
Why use Red Hat Ansible on IBM Power Systems
Let’s return briefly to our example of a car breaking down after deferred maintenance. In that instance, a small headache early on (taking the vehicle in for regular service) could have prevented a bigger, costlier one later. With configuration management, using Ansible on your IBM Power System’s implementations can likewise spare you considerable complications down the line.
Without Ansible, you could face recurring issues including:
Time-consuming manual configuration management
An experienced engineer doing all of your configuration management by hand could cost you, conservatively, $35 an hour, per one security vendor’s estimate. Even at that rate, you’re looking at a protracted process that’s also prone to human error. And as more devices and nodes get added to your systems, the task becomes more difficult and less cost-effective.
Limited scalability, flexibility and consistency
Cloud environments are built for growth, and as such their resource usage and configurations will inevitably evolve to match your shifting business requirements. But it’s not practical to roll out bulk changes to your IBM Power Systems cloud infrastructure via a manual configuration management process. To avoid extra difficulty and complexity, you also don’t want to have siloed configuration management processes and teams for different platforms, e.g. inconsistent workflows for your IBM and non-IBM systems. Silos impede agility and limit collaboration.
Diminished visibility into change management
Someone, somewhere makes a change to one of your systems. How do you keep track of what exactly happened and determine its general impact? Answering this question becomes tougher as your IT environments grow more complex through the creation of hybrid cloud setups and the integration of multiple components from different vendors into complicated, interdependent systems. Without proper automation, there’s no way to ensure standardization of your changes, which in turn leads to unpredictable or unsatisfactory results.
Decreased reliability and lower business value
Here’s where subpar configuration management really hurts. If there’s no consistency and systematic automation to drive your processes, then dealing with events like system outages, security incidents and software updates becomes more challenging. The delays and setbacks can damage your financial position as well as your reputation with customers. In contrast, reliably automated configuration management lets you better adapt to change.
To that end, Ansible offers an open source, agentless architecture for essential uses, cases including managing configurations, deploying applications and provisioning virtual machines. It’s easy to set up and use. More importantly, it can immediately improve the consistency and transparency of your enterprise automation strategy by applying DevOps automation and unified workflow orchestration to IBM Power Systems.
How Ansible Works on IBM Power Systems
Operating system configuration management is the primary use case of Ansible for systems running AIX and IBM i. With Ansible, you can automate tasks such as patch management, backup, and virtualization on these platforms, using the exact same technology you likely already deploy elsewhere, for instance for Microsoft Windows-based systems or IBM z/OS (indeed, Ansible is one of the most popular configuration management tools across platforms).
Ansible revolves around the concept of modules, which are discrete units of code that may be executed directly by a remote host, or via an Ansible playbook that directs how each module will be used. For example, let’s say that you need to install a specific application within your IBM i environment, but to do so you first have to ensure that you have the most up-to-date version of the Node.js runtime in place.
An Ansible playbook could automatically perform the tasks of updating the runtime and installing the app, all while documenting each step performed along the way. It also would not break anything on subsequent runs, or in situations in which the configuration was already correct. That translates to far fewer errors and ensuing fixes that would drain your budget.
In this way, Ansible-driven automation cuts through complexity and unshackles the productivity for engineering teams. By bringing IBM Power Systems into your Ansible automation workflows, you can also:
- Set up consistent, scalable configuration management for complicated hybrid environments.
- Move toward Infrastructure as Code, to prevent environment drift and ensure consistent infrastructure for DevOps teams.
- Codify IT maintenance, to free up more time for strategic priorities.
- Leverage existing module libraries from IBM and apply Ansible and Python skills you already know.
Repetitive IBM Power Systems-related tasks that once required significant time, money, and effort can be turned into streamlined code in Ansible. Imagine if maintaining and fixing your car were as simple as selecting an existing software program, which you already used in other contexts, to perform those actions in the background — that’s the power of Ansible on IBM Power Systems.
As a recognized Red Hat and IBM partner, InfoSystems can help you get the most value from Ansible in your Power environments. Connect with our team, or check out our overview of Ansible automation to learn more!