Sitting on my work-from-home desk, sipping black coffee, and watching the cool demos at AnsibleFest 2020 on demand—it all flashed back to me: The challenges of a few years ago when I was a Linux systems admin at another company. Back then, you strove to reduce the number of incidents, stabilized customer systems, put standard maintenance procedures in place, scripted the mundane tasks, documented everything well, and finally, ensured others could do your job, etc. You made yourself dispensable. The customers are happy and so is your manager, who says you put out a rock-solid delivery—so what's next?
Automation was a buzz
It was every IT organization's utopia. Four years ago, Ansible started to get traction, and we were running proofs of concept and conducting service improvements. So, I asked myself "Should I jump on the automation bandwagon?" I was struck by skepticism at first because of the challenges in the early stages of the automation projects. I decided to give Ansible a chance anyway. The rest is history and I do not ever want to go back to the old, manual ways of doing things.
Getting started with Ansible
It all started by checking out materials online, having fun playing in labs, and participating in service improvement plans utilizing Ansible. The pioneer automation team had coded the initial roles and playbooks to stand up standard RHEL OS VMs and databases as a proof of concept for one of our customers. It was great to be part of it as we dug deep and fixed issues in the early stages of development rather than later when everything became just a button-push away. All the work and initiatives paid off, as I got involved in some of the biggest automation projects yet.
[ You might also enjoy: Introducing the new Ansible Automation Hub ]
Key Automation Successes
At the time I was a part of a team that automated a legacy government system replacement project. It included complex multi-tiered applications with strict security protocols, high-availability, and automated wherever possible.
Ansible was the automation engine of choice for multitudes of reasons:
- Radically simple and easy to learn
- Proven benefits in executing repeatable tasks with consistency and speed
- Vendor agnostic, agentless
- Full immutability
Ansible Tower automated tasks. Use cases include:
- Server builds
- Application and component installation
- OS patching and upgrades
- Complex procedural restarts
- Disaster Recovery and Site Switch Procedures
- Business process and self-service jobs
Utilizing Ansible Tower helps us achieve:
- Efficient end-to-end automation
- Fool-proofing by adding intelligence and logic to workflows
- User-friendly outcomes via survey
- Role-based access + auditability
- Self-enablement for business users, reducing days of workflows to a few minutes of execution
More details from this Ansible Fest 2019 Breakout Session.
Cultural shift and catalyst for collaboration
It's not just about the tool but about how it can transform culture, bring a paradigm shift, and encourage collaboration. The best thing I enjoyed about Ansible is how it can remove the dreaded siloes if coupled with a proper automation adoption strategy.
- The universality and radical simplicity of Ansible enabled SMEs like me with varying levels of automation coding experience to speak a common language and translate their expertise to automated builds and operations
- It leveraged everyone's strengths and allowed them to share what they know through roles and playbooks, making it re-usable for all
- It encouraged cross-skilling through easily readable YAML codes. I was a Linux administrator, but through Ansible, I learned and executed database, security, network, and other related tasks
- Some of the walls were broken down, allowing openness and collaboration to flourish and permeate the workplace
Renewed passion at work and powerful enabler
I have heard inspiring stories wherein, through Ansible, systems administrators like me have been able to improve their work-life balance and access career growth opportunities in unexpected areas. One story tells of a mother who said she can now spend more time with her kids by automating time-intensive tasks. Many workmates have evolved to be well-rounded SMEs across technologies within their teams or new roles because of how Ansible enabled their automation skills. Happiness and renewed passion in the workplace because everyone is empowered, learning to be open, and collaborative. I am inspired by how Ansible Automation Platform has evolved in the last few years and all the interesting things I've heard from AnsibleFest 2020. I'm just happy and confident that my fellow sysadmins can forget about mundane tasks and spend more time working on exciting ones. They can sit back and enjoy another cup of coffee, feeling renewed and empowered.
[ Need more on Ansible? Take a free technical overview course from Red Hat. Ansible Essentials: Simplicity in Automation Technical Overview. ]