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As Walter Bentley mentions in his webinar, when it comes to technology, a lot of the times we get caught up in details. Technology is actually pretty simple stuff; at a high level we’re dealing with a handful of large components like servers, clouds, virtual machines, storage, applications, and more.
It’s only when we start putting these individual pieces together that things become difficult, and pretty quickly too. Above all, all these individual components that collectively make up I.T. must ultimately be managed by a single entity. Even that becomes more complicated as the number of dependences and miscellaneous connections between your various components increases. Therefore, we must now consider automation in combination with management to be a necessity in order to deliver output to consumers in an agile and on demand manner.
Now, after you’ve read the above, your reaction might be something like, “Great. A continually building pyramid-scheme of technology. I need this like I need a root canal.” At least that’s what I’d be thinking right about now because I’m one of those people that imposes a heavy filter on themselves for the greater sake of humanity. Luckily for you, I’m not only behind a computer screen writing a thoroughly vetted blog post, but Red Hat offers automation baked into Red Hat CloudForms 4.6 so you don’t have to follow a proverbial pyramid-scheme of technology or buy any additional automation services to use with your CloudForms subscription.
If you’ve never heard, or don’t know what Red Hat CloudForms is, Red Hat CloudForms is considered a Cloud Management Platform. Although, as Walter Bentley astutely points out, CloudForms is really an overall management platform, period. CloudForms is meant to manage a multitude of different clouds and virtualization platforms in a single pane on a computer monitor where a user can handle everything from provisioning and life cycle management to gaining analytics about systems. One of the big advantages to CloudForms is that instead of having to run around and chase multiple dashboards, a user can have one singular control board for everything - you can think of CloudForms as the master switchboard in a factory. You can even run reports in CloudForms to see if you have wasted space that could be optimized, and have single place to for your compliance and governance needs.
That’s basically a 50,000-foot view of Red Hat CloudForms. If you would like more information, or would like to give CloudForms a test drive or get a proof of concept inside your organization with CloudForms. we encourage you to contact us to do so.
With the launch of CloudForms 4.5, a user now has the capability to leverage Ansible playbooks inside of CloudForms. Before the launch of CloudForms 4.5, any service catalog item may have had to be created in Ruby, but in CloudForms 4.5, an item can be created in CloudForms directly consisting of Ansible playbooks (of course you can still use Ruby, if you want, too). This enables an administrator of CloudForms to design and publish services more quickly for their users, and now in CloudForms 4.6 you can run a playbook as part of your provisioning workflow as well.
How do you design and publish services more quickly, aside from not having to write them from scratch in Ruby or having a prewritten reusable playbook? Funny you should ask because having Ansible automation baked into CloudForms gives you access to the Ansible community, known as Ansible Galaxy. Ansible Galaxy which countless pre-built roles which you can drop into a playbook and run in Red Hat CloudForms. Need a role to install Kubernetes? No problem, search it on Galaxy, download it with the $ ansible-galaxy command that comes baked into Ansible Automation, and run it in CloudForms as part of a playbook.
Playbooks can be used in CloudForms to provide and enforce specific governance models to a greater ecosystem that you mananage within CloudForms - like a specific group of virtual machines or clouds, to enforce security standards and optimize resources. Playbooks can also be used for ‘day 2’ operations like reconfiguration, patching, and the integration of new third party systems. Those actions can be included in post-configuration steps when you do you provisioning so you don’t have to individually kick off the actions when the time comes.
Nope, it’s not just the name of a Jack Johnson song, CloudForms and Ansible Automation are really better together; they form a more perfect union, if you will (okay, I’ll stop now). Traditionally, you’d have all the goodness of CloudForms, like the ability to have highly centralized management of all of you IT, the ability to be a leading driver of change throughout you datacenter, and the ability to govern and control your IT resources. Now with Ansible 4.5, you also have the abilities to complete complex tasks, like those ‘day 2’ operations, more easily and the ability to control and manage your automation. Since Ansible works across your enterprise, having Ansible automation baked into CloudForms is a also a great way to standardize on Ansible across your entire environment to help you realize your DevOps and Agile Transformation goals that require IT to move faster. I could blabber on and on about how this is cool and definitely a good idea for you to look into, but a pitch probably isn’t what you’re looking for, so let’s look into a real life customer of CloudForms to realize how they reaped the benefits of Ansible and CloudForms together.
Customer Success with Ansible and CloudForms
Our story begins with one of our customers in the energy sector in North America, who with the help of Red Hat Consulting, helped to relieve some major pain points. The customer decided that they wanted to start traveling down the path to automation and decided that Ansible was the tool for the job at hand. The customer was trying to reduce operational complexity. They were having a few challenges that are pretty normally experienced. Firstly, they had a slow manual, one-at-a-time, configuration process which drastically delayed deployment. As an outgrowth of their first issue, their IT was becoming increasingly brittle. Sprawling deployments, human error and “in-flight” changes at 3 o’clock in the morning created “snowflake” deployments¹ which were quickly becoming a normality across their organization.
Initially the customer was only interested in Ansible automation so Red Hat send automation consultants to their business to help them integrate Ansible into their ecosystem. The conversation quickly moved to using Ansible Tower as the customer was interested in integrating Ansible across their entire organization, having a GUI other more enhanced management features. Along the way, the customer decided to take a look at CloudForms, given their interest in moving to the cloud. As an extension of their automation journey, they began to think about provisioning platforms as well, particularly where visibility was concerned. To this end, Red Hat sent CloudForms consultants to their business to draft out how they could incorporate CloudForms into their ecosystem.
If this sounds like two different consulting teams to you, here's where that boundary blurs: with CloudForms having Ansible integration, these teams were able to unite together to bring one united strategy together, both working on elements from CloudForms and elements from Ansible. So it really isn’t separate.
¹“snowflakes” are essentially solutions that are duct taped together. One of the biggest issues with them is that they can’t be touched, otherwise they will fall down like a jenga tower).
At the end of the day, the customer was able to remedy their pain points by consolidating their management complexity while realizing enterprise grade automation and strategy - standardizing systems and automating provisioning to decrease delivery time. Here’s what’s really cool though, Red Hat consultants act as a mentor for your organization and this customer was no different. Red Hat consultants not only act as thought leaders on site, but mentor so stakeholders can continue on their journey even when the consultants are gone. Oh, and the “snowflakes” are gone due to predictability spurred by automation. No more duct-taped solutions.
Red Hat Consulting
So how can you do something like this? Whelp, here’s the story: Red Hat Consulting is a global services organization that can help you with everything from your initial strategy to hands-on-keyboard activity. Think of Red Hat Consulting as your mentor in your automation journey. Beginning with a Smart Start from Red Hat is a great first step to implementing Ansible. A Smart Start will summon Red Hat consultants to your job site to help you both install and implement Ansible for one of your processes (Y’know, so you can show your boss that it’s worth the company’s time and money).
Red Hat Consulting also offers a three-phase rollout for your Automation initiative that starts with a free personalized Discovery Session. A typical Red Hat Discovery Session starts with a focus on uses cases and identification of challenges. Along with Red Hat Consulting, you'll create an action plan together to address any opportunities for automation. Red Hat Consulting is a great way to see your automation transformation through from beginning to end, while being supported by the experts. Check out the Red Hat Consulting datasheet to learn more about Red Hat’s Discovery Sessions, and when you’re ready click here to talk to a Red Hat consultant.
As always, feel free to let us know your thoughts on automation, and any initiatives your organization might be involved in, in the comments section below.