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5 ways Red Hat Insights can improve your sysadmin life

Included with your Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription, Red Hat Insights can improve your life as a sysadmin.
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Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

The way we do things is changing fast. This has become necessary as our systems get more complex, our workloads evolve, and our deployments rapidly grow in size. Thanks to the innovations brought by openness and collaboration, we can develop tools and services to cope with these quickly evolving times.

[ Download now: A system administrator's guide to IT automation. ]

For us to reap the benefits of these advancements, we should open ourselves to carefully exploring how various tools suit our requirements and fit into or change our norms. By doing so, we may simplify a lot of our mundane tasks, reduce overhead, and address the major pain points in our operations.

Working as a sysadmin, I discovered many automation tools and services that have made my life easier. One of them is Red Hat Insights. In this article, I share five ways this service that is included with your Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) subscription can improve your life as an admin.

What is Red Hat Insights?

Insights is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering from Red Hat. To summarize, Insights is a collection of services that assesses your Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment to help you proactively identify and easily remediate threats. It enables you to avoid outages, unnecessary unplanned downtime, and risks to security and compliance.

Red Hat Insights is a single, consistent management solution across both your on-premises and hybrid cloud infrastructures to improve your operational efficiency and security risk management.

Red Hat Insights dashboard
Sample dashboard shows how Red Hat Insights provides operational efficiency and security risk management all in one place.

5 ways Red Hat Insights can improve your sysadmin life

Having experienced my own pain points in the past, these are some of the ways I think Red Hat Insights could change the lives of many other sysadmins.

1. Have more personal quality time to yourself: Let Insights do the proactive work for you

Imagine spending time on cool stuff rather than using your energy firefighting issues and outages. This was the main goal of Insights before it expanded to what it is now—to let you know the risks and problems in your systems and address them before they give you a headache on a relaxing summer weekend. It's almost like having an automated sysadmin buddy that checks your systems, identifies issues, and tells you the possible remediations you can take.

Through the Insights Advisor, Red Hat translated 20-plus years of knowledge in the areas of availability, stability, and performance alongside configuration best practices to efficiently help you:

  • Identify known configuration risks in your Linux operating system, the underlying infrastructure (whether on-premises or hybrid cloud), and even workloads that impact performance, stability, or security.
  • Prioritize and discuss your risks through organized dashboards and views based on system, risk type, severity, or impact of change.
  • Take measures using tailored guidance that suits all skill levels or create and use the available playbooks for resolution at scale, minimizing human error.
AWS EC2 analysis
Advisor quickly identifies affected systems relating to applications running on AWS EC2. It provides information including risks, systems involved, and Ansible playbooks to remediate.

2. Be good friends with the security team: Manage vulnerabilities and ensure continuous compliance monitoring

You will be best mates with your security team because of Insights. Before, when a critical security vulnerability was announced, we gathered information from all over, ran scripts across the fleet to check which systems were affected, and rolled out the fix. Now, these are all accomplished effortlessly in one view with Red Hat Insights.

Red Hat Insights dashboard displaying sudo vulnerability information
Sample sudo vulnerability shows all the information within your reach.

Take the sudo flaw vulnerability announced in January 2021 as an example. With Red Hat Insights, you and your security team will have access to all the information you need:

  • Brief summary of the vulnerability
  • Link to an expanded and detailed knowledge base
  • CVSS vectors score and breakdown
  • List of exposed systems

Insights also provides:

  • Ability to generate an Ansible playbook to roll out the fixes at scale
  • Ability to create various reports for quick reference
  • Settings to change the Status field to let everyone know that the vulnerability is being reviewed
  • Switch the view to per system or host instead of per vulnerability

With these features, you can efficiently triage and develop a trusted recommendation for your enterprise security in less time than it takes to manually gather data and check your systems. The Red Hat Insights team has done most of the work for you.

Similarly, the Insights Patch feature helps you review and manage your patching status by identifying which Red Hat advisories apply to your systems. It also provides the ability to apply the patches manually or by using the generated playbooks.

On the other hand, the Insights Compliance feature gives you the ability to identify and manage the level of compliance of your RHEL environments against OpenSCAP policies through a consolidated tool. The Compliance feature also allows you to generate reports for various audiences and review, prioritize, and apply necessary remediation. This is an excellent complement to your existing security tools.

[ You might also like: Introduction to Red Hat Insights ]

3. No more panicking: Troubleshoot issues faster with Drift and Policies

Remember those times when you tried to identify what was wrong with one of your hosts? Now you can easily compare system settings and configurations against your baseline or even across other hosts with Insights Drift. This is one of my favorite features. It gives me a clear view of the differences between the environments that I'm managing, including installed packages, enabled services, kernel modules, and configuration files, among other settings.

Red Hat Insights Drift dashboard
Sample sudo vulnerability dashboard has all the information within your reach.

The Insights Policies service complements Drift because it enables you to analyze your environment configurations to understand areas that aren't aligned and configure alerts for them. You can create and manage your own policies by defining certain conditions and triggers. These policies integrate well with your processes through webhook capabilities. It's a good combination for proactively implementing standardization in your systems.

Red Hat Insights Policy dashboard
Sample policy that checks that NTP/Chrony daemons are enabled and sends you an email when your system deviates from it.

4. Collaborate and make a good impression: Use Red Hat Insights Reports

Using a single tool like Red Hat Insights allows sysadmins to collaborate across teams and literally be on the same page, making our jobs easier and more efficient. Role-based granular access allows different user privileges to view and perform specific tasks. In addition, the built-in report generation features enable you to provide an executive summary and a very good snapshot of your system's status to your managers and stakeholders. This means no more painstaking tasks to create those pretty graphs and data summaries for different audiences.

Red Hat Insights sample reports
Sample reports generated on Red Hat Insights.

5. Decrease maintenance overhead: Integrate Insights easily with Red Hat Satellite and Ansible automation controller

Once you have registered your systems to Red Hat Insights, there's virtually no overhead in maintaining the system. You can register your hosts in two easy steps manually or roll registration out at scale with Red Hat Satellite or Ansible automation.

The good thing about it is that most enterprise organizations with RHEL subscriptions also have Red Hat Satellite and, better yet, Ansible Automation Platform. These features all work together to provide you with Smart Management of your RHEL fleet. You can take advantage of your Ansible automation controller to review and execute remediation playbooks across specific environments and inventory. You can even enable the ability to deploy remediation with the push of a button directly from Insights through the Satellite Cloud Connector.

[ Learn how to manage your Linux environment for success. ]

Final words

Customers and sysadmins worldwide are realizing the benefits of predictive analytics, automated expert assessment, and remediation through the rapid time to value service that Red Hat Insights offers. There are good discussions that need to happen across stakeholders pertaining to the security aspect of consuming this service over the cloud. Check out this good reference on how secure your data are, starting with full end-to-end encryption from data collection, transport, backend protection, and housekeeping. Insights is designed to work with minimal system metadata. Best of all, you have full control over what information you want to send to Red Hat for analysis.

There's no other way to see the benefits of Red Hat Insights for your organization but to try it for yourself. Begin with a proof of concept on a few hosts and see how it fits and complements your existing operations tooling. I'm excited to hear how Red Hat Insights can help you improve your life as a sysadmin.

To register your RHEL systems with Red Hat Insights, get started with our registration assistant.


Topics:   Linux   Insights  
Author’s photo

Joseph Tejal

Joseph is a Technical Account Manager at Red Hat based in Wellington, New Zealand. He currently supports and works with local government agencies and financial services institutions. More about me

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