Automation is—and always has been—an important part of accelerating innovation, allowing people to do more with less in a repeatable and predictable way.
In the IT industry, software solutions are often provisioned, installed, configured, and maintained by means of a human operator, who logs in to manually perform tasks. It is now possible to automate these processes, according to instructions that an operator or developer programs using a CLI or more modern API. Building on this foundation of efficiency, the open source community has continually expanded the possibilities of automation software.
For over a decade, this automation-driven innovation has been informed by Ansible®. "Ansible" can refer to many things—including a project, community, or collection of applications—but all are dedicated to using a human-readable programming language, YAML, to create open source automation solutions. While Ansible is at the core of Red Hat® Ansible Automation Platform, there are many differences between the project and the product.
What is Ansible?
When people use the word “Ansible,” they may mean many different things depending on the context. “Ansible” could refer to:
A set of foundational open source command-line binary applications (also known and packaged as Ansible Core), as well as dozens of additional open source projects and integrated applications in the Ansible GitHub organization.
A company acquired by Red Hat in 2015 to augment its management portfolio with an IT automation solution that already had a modular architecture enabled by open source development.
An aggregated community package that includes all command-line binary applications (Ansible Core), and many popular Ansible content collections that are built, packaged, and released on a regular cadence.
A way to describe automation. Specifically, a human-readable data serialization language abstraction (YAML) that defines how automation tasks are written, built, and run.
Simply put, the word "Ansible" has different definitions for different audiences. Ansible has sustained community success largely because it:
- Is simple to install with a minimal learning curve so you can start automating quickly.
- Automates many endpoints quickly and in parallel.
- Does not require any custom agents and additional open ports by using the existing secure shell protocol (SSH) daemon.
- Describes infrastructure in a language that is human-readable.
- Focuses on security with straightforward auditing, reviewing, and rewriting of content.
- Allows for user-friendly platform enablement in any dynamic language.
Ansible is free to use, download, and modify—and the project benefits from the experience and intelligence of its thousands of contributors.
If you are experimenting with automation components to discover what best suits your or your organization’s needs, Ansible allows you to construct open source automation solutions quickly. If you are an individual who is looking to join an open source, community-focused project that wants to improve IT automation, then Ansible would welcome you as a contributor.
What is Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform?
Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is a paid product that, when combined with a subscription, provides full enterprise life cycle support for organizations looking to standardize, operationalize, and scale automation. Ansible Automation Platform is a hardened, tested, and trusted enterprise product that includes numerous upstream components, Red Hat Ansible Certified Content Collections from 60+ partners, and as-a-service return on investment (ROI) tools that take the guesswork out of installing, configuring, and supporting automation in your organization. Ansible Automation Platform creates an end-to-end automation experience aimed at cross-functional teams while providing a plug-and-play experience between automation developers, engineers, and operations teams.
Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform’s features—like Red Hat Insights and automation analytics—provide accessible information on the performance of your automation, allowing you to measure your impacts and monitor or resolve issues with greater precision. Automation mesh lets you scale control and execution capacity independently, delivering automation closer to the endpoints that need it, with little or no downtime.
How are Ansible upstream projects and Ansible Automation Platform related?
Similar to other Red Hat products, Ansible Automation Platform uses the open source development model of the Ansible project to create an experience tailored to enterprise automation use cases. With over a dozen open source Ansible projects in the community, Ansible Automation Platform simplifies packaging and distribution while providing tested and trusted interoperability between all the components—as well as Red Hat Ansible Certified Content Collections—combined with an 18-month support life cycle. Ansible Automation Platform takes the complexity, uncertainty, and guesswork out of using upstream open source tools, an important benefit especially if it is being used for business-critical IT workflows.
A key difference between Ansible upstream open source projects and Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is the intended audience. As a collection of open source community projects (over a dozen and counting), Ansible requires individual users to assemble open source components, create documentation, and build a working automation system that suits their individual needs. Ansible Automation Platform is a fully functioning, hardened platform that addresses the expansive needs of larger organizations and the aggregation of distributed teams.
What about Ansible Tower and Ansible Galaxy?
Now known as automation controller, Ansible Tower was a legacy component of Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform’s first major release as a graphical interface. It allowed users to engage with Ansible’s command line tool without having previous knowledge of command line tools. Aspects of Ansible Tower have remained as important parts of Ansible Automation Platform’s second major release, though its name has since been dropped as a component of the product. The upstream project for this specific component is called AWX.
Ansible Galaxy is an online marketplace for open source Ansible Content Collections. This marketplace is itself open source, but requires use of the ansible-galaxy command line tool that is bundled with all community and product distributions. You can use it to install collections and roles from Galaxy or directly from a git-based source code management system (SCM). For Ansible Automation Platform, Ansible automation hub serves as the enterprise open source marketplace for their users, with content certified and supported by Red Hat.
What about other automation platforms?
Terraform is an open source, Infrastructure-as-Code provisioning tool that stores cloud infrastructure setup as codes. It uses HashiCorp configuration language (HCL), and is used for server orchestration. Ansible can also automate Terraform with community modules.
Chef is a configuration management tool based in Ruby that uses a declarative, agent-based model. It refers to the Chef automation instruction as recipes (groups of which are called cookbooks).
Puppet is an agent-based open source community project. Puppet Enterprise is an open source product. Both are automation tools that manage and automate server configuration. Both are written in Ruby and use Puppet manifests for automation instruction.
The Salt project is an open source project sponsored by VMware. SaltStack is the open source product owned by VMware. Built on Python, both use YAML and event-driven automation to deploy and configure complex IT systems.
Why Red Hat?
We believe that automation is a strategic and foundational component of IT modernization and digital transformation. Our solutions, services, and training give you the control you need to automate your business so you can focus on innovation and moving forward.
Creating an enterprise-wide approach to automation lets you automate not only IT processes, but also entire technologies, teams, and organizations. With life cycle support as a full platform experience—including technical support, certified and supported content, hosted management services, and risk mitigation—Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform supports enterprises as they create, manage, and scale their automation endeavors.
So whether you’re just getting started with automation or want to expand across new use cases, Red Hat’s solutions can help you to scale automation across your business.