Automation is crucial these days as IT environments are too complex. It not just makes developers’ jobs more manageable but allows them to pay attention to other tasks as well to add value to an organization's efficiency. Configuration management tools help you to run an audit of your system to quickly identify where the problem is coming from. If a server goes down for an unknown reason, you can deploy a new one quickly and have a record of any changes or updates that occurred so you can identify the source of the problem. 

If you want to become a Certified Ansible Specialist, then visit Mindmajix - A Global online training platform: “Ansible Certification Training”.  This course will help you to achieve excellence in this domain.

Ansible is rapidly rising to the top in the world of configuration management automation tools. So, stay tuned with us to find out what is Ansible, why to use it and why it is so popular.    

What is Ansible Tower?

Ansible is an open-source automation tool used for IT tasks such as application deployment,  configuration management, intraservice orchestration, and provisioning.  It is very simple to set up and no special coding skills are needed to use it. There is no need to install any firewall or software on the client systems you want to automate. You can customize and orchestrate the entire application environment irrespective of its deployment.

Ansible Tower Features and Capabilities 

  • Automation Dashboard

It shows a heads-up NOC-style automation dashboard that contains information about everything going on in your Ansible environment.

  • Delegation and Self-Service

It imports users, teams, and organizations from your SAML, AD, or LDAP directory, and delegates push-button access to automation with easy question and answer configuration, automatic scheduling, and more.

  • Scale-out Clustering

Connect multiple Tower nodes into a Tower cluster to add redundancy and capacity to your automation platform, including reserved capacity and remote execution points of presence. Add push-button deployment and scaling when running in Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.

  • Role-Based Access Control

Creates the necessary separation and isolation of users and resources.  Users can safely use Ansible Tower to work only on the systems in the environments to which they have access.

  • Create automation workflows

Ansible Tower workflows allow you to chain together different automation tasks to create workflows. Model your processes and deployments natively in Tower, including recovery from failures, chained workflows, and more.

  • Auditing and Logging

All automation is securely logged and stored, with a full audit trail. Send logs to external logging and analytics platforms for detailed analysis and correlations with other alerting and management systems.

  • Inventory Management

Sync inventory from all major cloud and virtualization providers, or add custom inventory. Integrate with Red Hat Insights to view Insights Alerts and perform playbook remediation.

  • Comprehensive REST API and integrations

Stay informed of your automation status via integrated notifications, and use the REST API to connect automation to source control, continuous delivery systems, ticketing systems, and more.

Check Out Ansible Tutorials

Prerequisites to Install Ansible Tower

Ansible Installation in Linux

Let's go step by step and find out Ansible installation in different Linux distributions. 

Prerequisites

PyYAML: a YAML parser and emitter.

parmiko: native python SSHv2 protocol library.

Httplib2: a comprehensive HTTP client library.

sshpass: a non-interactive ssh password authentication.

Distro: RHEL/ CentOS/ Debian/ Ubuntu Linux.

Jinja2: a templating language for python.

Install Ansible on RedHat/Centos systems

Step 1: Install the EPEL repo

[root@ansible-server ~]# sudo yum install epel-release 

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Step 2: After that, install the Ansible package.

[root@ansible-server ~]# sudo yum install -y ansible  

Install Ansible on Debian/Ubuntu systems

Step 1: First perform an update to the packages

$ sudo apt update  

Step 2: Then install the software properties common package.

$ sudo apt install software-properties-common  

Step 3: And install the Ansible personal package archive.

$ sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ansible/ansible  

Step 4: Install the Ansible.

$ sudo apt update  

$ sudo apt install ansible  

Install Ansible using pip

The pip command is a tool for installing and managing python packages.

Step 1: This given method works on the Linux and UNIX like systems.

$ sudo pip install ansible   

Install the latest version of Ansible

Using Portage (Gentoo)

$ emerge -av app-admin/ansible  

To install the latest version, you need to unmask the Ansible package prior to emerging:

$ echo 'app-admin/ansible' >> /etc/portage/package.accept_keywords  

Using pkg (FreeBSD)

Ansible works with both python 2 and 3 versions, FreeBSD has different packages for each python version. To install you can use:

$ sudo pkg install py27-ansible  

Or

$ sudo pkg install py36-ansible  

You can also to install from ports:

$ sudo make -C /usr/ports/sysutils/ansible install  

Using OpenCSW (Solaris)

The Ansible is available for Solaris as SysV package from openCSW:

# pkgadd -d http://get.opencsw.org/now  

# /opt/csw/bin/pkgutil -i ansible  

Using Pacman (Arch Linux)

Ansible is available in the community repository:

$ pacman -S ansible  

Using sbopkg (Slackware Linux)

Ansible build script is available in the SlackBuilds.org repository. Also can be built and installed using sbopkg.

Step 1: Create a queue with Ansible and all dependencies.

# sqg -p ansible  

Step 2: Build and install packages from the created queue file.

# sbopkg -k -i ansible 

Using swupd (Clear Linux)

Step 1: Ansible and its dependencies are available as part of the sysadmin host management bundle.

$ sudo swupd bundle-add sysadmin-hostmgmt  

Step 2: And update of the software will be managed by the swupd tool.

$ sudo swupd update 

Installing

By using yum

On Fedora:

$ sudo dnf install python-argcomplete  

On RHEL and CentOS:

$ sudo yum install epel-release  

$ sudo yum install python-argcomplete  

By using apt

$ sudo apt install python-argcomplete  

By using pip

$ pip install argcomplete  

Ansible Tower Editions

Ansible tower has three different editions as follows - self support, standard and the premium edition. They differ from each other on the basis of capabilities they offer. Let us have a look at the capabilities they possess.

 
  Self-Support Standard Premium
Workflows No Yes Yes
Built-in Notifications Yes Yes Yes
Ansible Tower Dashboard Yes Yes Yes
Real-time Job Outputs Yes Yes Yes
Remote Command Execution Yes Yes Yes
Scale-Out Clustering No Yes Yes
Documented API &  Tower CLI Yes Yes Yes
24*7 Support No No Yes
Role-based Access Control Yes Yes Yes
Logging and Analytics Integration No Yes Yes
Job Scheduling Yes Yes Yes

Is Ansible better than puppet?

Ansible Puppet
Ansible platform is written in Python and supports YAML commands scripts. Puppet platform is written in Ruby and also supports Domain Specific Language (DSL) and Embedded Ruby (ERB).
This system is based on a single active node.  It is based on master-slave architecture
It uses SSH (secure shell) running system to configure nodes which you want to Due to master-slave configuration, puppet client can configure client machine and puppet server can configure for master machine.
Its price is much lower than Puppet. You can spend $10000/year for up to 100 nodes. It is expensive as you will have to spend $ 11200-$19900 / year for up to 100 nodes.
It is a highly secured tool with ssh Not so secure system
It focuses on computer automation systems over configuration management. It focuses on the progress of Puppet DSL over the pure Ruby version.
With the help of the pull and push process, it distributes configuration to the nodes and makes a faster communication. It only supports the push process so the communication system is much slower as compared to Ansible.
Its initial setup is very easy to install Installation process is difficult
It uses YAML language which is closer to English and makes it easy to master and manage the configuration Puppet is configured with Puppet DSL only, therefore, you have to be a programmer to manage the configuration

Ansible Tower Pricing

Is Ansible Tower free? As mentioned earlier, Ansible tower has three different editions. The first edition - self-support is a free trial version but to use the other two versions you need to pay for it. Let us see how much.

For standard edition - $10,000/year for upto 100 nodes

Premium edition - $14,000/year for upto 100 nodes

Frequently Asked Ansible Interview Questions & Answers

Ansible Tower Architecture

Ansible is a simple IT automation engine used to automate configuration management, application management, cloud provisioning and many other IT needs. It requires no agents and additional custom security infrastructure and therefore, it is very easy to install. 

Inventory

Inventory contains the list of nodes or hosts with IP addresses, databases, servers, etc.

API's

It works as the transport for the private and public private cloud services.

Modules

Ansible connects all the nodes and divides them into small modules programs. It executes the modules and removes them after they are finished. These modules can reside on any machine; no database or servers are required here. You can work with the chosen text editor or a terminal or version control system to keep track of the changes in the content.

Plugins

Plugins is a piece of code that expends the core functionality of Ansible. There are many useful plugins, and you also can write your own.

Playbooks

Playbooks consist of your written code, and they are written in YAML format, which describes the tasks and executes through the Ansible. Also, you can launch the tasks synchronously and asynchronously with playbooks.

Hosts

In the Ansible architecture, hosts are the node systems, which are automated by Ansible, and any machine such as RedHat, Linux, Windows, etc.

Networking

Ansible is used to automate different networks, and it uses the simple, secure, and powerful agentless automation framework for IT operations and development. It uses a type of data model which is separated from the Ansible automation engine that spans the different hardware quite easily.

Cloud

A cloud is a network of remote servers on which you can store, manage, and process the data. These servers are hosted on the internet and storing the data remotely rather than the local server. It just launches the resources and instances on the cloud, connects them to the servers, and you have good knowledge of operating your tasks remotely.

CMDB

CMDB is a type of repository which acts as a data warehouse for the IT installations.

Pros and Cons of Ansible

Pros

  • Simple implementation by using readable yaml playbooks.
  • Natively has many modules that integrate with various software and technologies.
  • Automates deployment process
  • Great for sending out consistent changes to the group of servers
  • Agentless

Cons

  • There are still some modules that should be native but are not (MSSQL, Vault, etc).
  • Creating extensive logic in the playbooks is not as straightforward as other scripting languages.
  • Enterprise support is not that good