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Automation at the edge with Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform

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Automation at the edge with Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform takes workloads out of the datacenter and moves them closer to the edge devices that rely on them. Automating edge workloads can simplify IT tasks, lower operational expenses, and deliver smoother customer experiences across highly distributed edge architectures.

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform provides the flexibility to meet the often limited physical space and power requirements of edge deployments. It offers a single, consistent view—from edge locations to core datacenters and cloud environments—that allows operations teams to reliably manage hundreds to thousands of sites, network devices, and clusters.

Edge computing moves processing power closer to data sources—often across many locations—allowing companies to improve IT performance and deliver a better user experience. This strategy allows organizations to deploy latency-sensitive applications, gather data from IoT devices, and create resilient sites that can operate even when a connection to the datacenter or cloud is lost.

For all of its benefits, edge computing scales the level of operation across multiple environments, creating the following challenges:

  • Scalability: Edge deployments often need to be managed in locations where there may be minimal IT staff.
  • Interoperability: Edge deployments often rely on a range of hardware and software technologies, which don’t always work well together. Edge architectures also may need to interact with multiple public cloud offerings, as more organizations use a multicloud approach to data storage.
  • Variability: Edge sites can vary in size, network connectivity, and energy use, even within the same organization.

To manage large numbers of edge computing sites and the data streams they generate, organizations are turning to automation to facilitate easier scalability, provisioning, and infrastructure management.

IT automation (sometimes referred to as infrastructure automation) uses software to create repeatable instructions and processes that reduce human interaction with IT systems. The right automation platform—installed and running in the right location—can improve IT provisioning, configuration management, patching, app orchestration, security, and compliance.

These benefits of automation are more noticeable when the automation software is running as close as possible to the thing it's automating. Automation tasks starting in a U.S. datacenter are going to execute slower in Japan than in the same U.S.-based building. The closer the automation software is to the physical execution location—the same building, room, rack, or row—the faster the automation will be. 

When automation is rolled out to the edges of a network, it can speed up transactions. And while the acceleration enabled by automating a single transaction is measured by just seconds (sometimes even microseconds or even nanoseconds), those seconds add up. 

For example, theme parks are increasingly using smart bands. These bands allow visitors to access park transportation, food, retail, and even save their place in line—all in the name of enhancing the visitor experience. But those benefits are only possible by scanning the band, which traces back to edge hardware, upon which automation software can run. The operational management, patching, and orchestration that was once performed manually, one device at a time, can be automated, saving resources and delivering a more seamless customer experience.

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform automates edge workloads just as it automates database and server-side workloads. And since both Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® and Red Hat® OpenShift® are optimized for edge deployments, Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform can run as a fully supported solution on top of our Linux® operating system (OS) or container orchestration engine at your network’s edge.

Ansible Automation Platform uses blueprints of automation tasks called playbooks. Ansible playbooks are frameworks that can program edge applications, services, and server nodes.  Ansible Automation Platform always runs as the control node—the location at which automation tasks execute—so that IT teams can automate points of sale, WiFi access points, networking routers, ticketing systems, IoT devices, or anything with a programmatic application programming interface (API) or Linux OS. 

Ansible Automation Platform scales automation to the edge with its automation mesh—a multi-directional, multi-hopped overlay network that distributes automation across constrained networks, such as DMZs and VPCs, to remote endpoints not directly connected to the platform. Automation mesh:

  • Scales control and execution capacity independently, delivering automation closer to the endpoints that need it, with little or no downtime.
  • Reduces the overall platform footprint and overhead associated with managing multiple, isolated clusters.
  • Includes native features, like hop nodes, that lessen dependencies on external tools.
  • Performs health checks on nodes and, if the node is in an unhealthy state, will reroute automation jobs to healthy nodes.
  • Includes security features, like Access Control Lists (ACL) and TLS authentication and encryption.

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform provides the flexibility to meet the often limited physical space and power requirements of edge sites, while also managing on-premises and cloud environments. This allows organizations to not only manage today’s most demanding workloads, but to evolve, as business strategy changes, to meet tomorrow’s needs.

From core datacenters and cloud deployments to edge locations, each deployment is unique. With enterprise-grade services and support, Red Hat’s open approach provides the capabilities, flexibility, and expertise needed to overcome operational challenges at edge sites and bring edge use cases to life.

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