Red Hat Ansible on IBM Power Systems: Prime Use Cases & Advantages

Red Hat Ansible on IBM Power Systems: Prime Use Cases & Advantages

Red Hat Ansible is an agentless, open source IT automation platform, designed to streamline common tasks, ranging from configuration management to application deployment and enable infrastructure-as-code (IaC). Ansible is lightweight, highly secure and doesn’t require installing a database or daemons plus it can manage numerous remote machines from a single control node.

With the Ansible Automation Platform, it’s possible to realize consistent enterprise-wide automation across diverse, hybrid infrastructures and the applications that run on them including IBM Power Systems. The IBM Power Systems family includes enterprise servers running AIX, IBM i and Linux on Power and support use cases such as artificial intelligence and edge computing. The combination of Ansible on IBM Power Systems offers:

  • A hardware foundation for diverse workloads that is both resilient and scalable 
  • Transparent and powerful open source software
  • Complete visibility of automation processes across AIX, IBM i and Linux on Power environments
  • Seamless integration with Ansible instances running anywhere else in the enterprise

Let’s explore how Ansible works on IBM Power Systems and the ROI.

How Ansible Works on IBM Power Systems

Many enterprise automation strategies already incorporate Ansible, as it’s widely used on Linux, Microsoft Windows, Unix, and IBM z/OS. On IBM Power Systems, Ansible works similarly, with an architecture consisting of:

Ansible Engine

Ansible Engine is the control node where Ansible is installed. It includes the task engine, SSH and WinRM transports and YAML language. Between them, these components allow automation jobs to be described in something approaching English and then executed via small, temporary programs called modules, which may be run on the host’s command line or within an Ansible playbook. 

Ansible Endpoints

Ansible endpoints are the remote devices that communicate with the control node. Ansible can connect to endpoints on numerous operating systems, allowing for consistency across hybrid and multicloud setups. Ansible may also be used to interact with HTTP-driven APIs. For all endpoints, Ansible communicates without custom security infrastructure, file servers, daemons or databases.

Red Hat Ansible Tower

This Linux application offers a web-based UI and REST API for Ansible. While not strictly required, it greatly simplifies Ansible operations by providing a centralized dashboard, graphical inventory management and role-based access solutions.

An Ansible module targeting an IBM Power Systems endpoint might contain code for performing one or more tasks, with some of the most common use cases including:

  • Virtual machine (VM) provisioning
  • Software installation and lifecycle management
  • Patch management
  • Consolidated backup and recovery
  • Continuous delivery
  • Security upgrades

For example, let’s say an IBM i environment administrator wanted to install a web application, as well as the latest version of the Node.js back-end JavaScript runtime environment, on a specific group of IBM i servers. They could create an Ansible playbook for this task - or more conveniently, use a publicly available playbook from a vendor like IBM - and then run it to execute both the Node.js upgrade and the app installation. 

In AIX, a similar process could be used to provision a VM on Power Systems infrastructure using IBM PowerVC or to install a relational database. For maximum visibility, each Ansible playbook lists all of the modules it’s using and the tasks it’s performing in real-time. Ansible automation is very straightforward, requiring only an Ansible installation and a lightweight collection of supporting tools, namely a terminal, text editor and version control system. It’s true IaC, powered by streamlined code instead of physical configurations.

The Benefits of Ansible on IBM Power Systems

As hybrid and multicloud environments become fixtures of enterprise IT, consistent automation via Ansible continues to grow in value and importance, as a way to streamline the repetitive and error-prone tasks that would otherwise cause additional complexity. As of 2020, over half of IT organizations preferred hybrid and multi-cloud deployments, therefore the convenience, flexibility, transparency and cost-effectiveness of managing and automating such environments at scale is of critical value.

Convenience

Ansible is a breeze to set up and use. Users can deploy Ansible free of complicated custom infrastructure, and then immediately begin managing their entire automation inventory with a simple language and set of text files. An Ansible playbook enables fine-grained control of multiple layers of Power Systems infrastructure, while being easy to read and maintain.

Flexibility

Ansible can automate virtually anything. In addition to IBM Power Systems, it can connect to IBM Cloud and IBM PowerVC along with numerous other technology stacks and operating systems, IBM and otherwise. Modules can be created for any task, or drawn from pre-existing content collections, like the extensive one IBM itself has already published. More than 100 IBM-created Ansible modules were available on GitHub as of February 2021.

Transparency

With Ansible in place, it’s realistic to truly break down IT silos and shift entire organizations toward deeper, more productive DevOps collaboration. On a technical level, the same Ansible estate can be used to manage all AIX, IBM i and Linux on Power servers and realize comprehensive, enterprise-wide automation built on unified workflow orchestration. Instead of relying on numerous high-risk manual processes to sustain IBM Power Systems, Ansible playbooks can do all of the heavy lifting, whether that’s provisioning VMs or speedily applying patches for a known security issue.

Cost-Effectiveness

Ultimately, Ansible is a time and money saver. Whereas the routine maintenance and operation of AIX, IBM i and Linux on Power systems once required significant time and effort, now it can be codified via Ansible playbooks and modules. IaC becomes feasible, empowering DevOps teams to consistently describe, generate, and manage the exact environments they need and use them to test their IBM Power Systems applications early on in the devtest cycle and support continuous delivery.


Ansible brings proven automation, workflow orchestration and IaC to IBM Power Systems. Administrators, developers and QA testers can harness the power of Ansible for everyday tasks like VM provisioning and application patching, all without having to wrangle with any complex custom security components or dameons requiring their own extra layers of management.

As both a Red Hat Advanced Business Partner in North America and an IBM Platinum Business Partner, InfoSystems possesses the experience and technical expertise to guide the evolution of your IBM Power Systems environments, including the use of Ansible. Connect with our team to learn more about how we can chart the right path forward for your organization.

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