Ansible automation for IBM Power Systems

The IBM® Power Systems™ platform is rapidly evolving, with major advances being made across IBM AIX®, IBM i, and Linux on Power. Hybrid multicloud demands consistency and agility from all of these platforms. Today’s IT administrators, developers, and QA engineers want to streamline anything they can to save time and increase reliability.

That’s why we’re pleased to share that we’re fully enabling Ansible automation for the Power Systems platform—inclusive of automation across AIX, IBM i, Linux® and our private and public cloud infrastructures. Now Power Systems users will be able to automate just about anything they can imagine using the same industry-leading enterprise automation technology—Ansible. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s more! If enterprises are already using Ansible in other parts of the data center (for example x86 and/or IBM Z® environments)—yes, IBM POWER® can be seamlessly integrated into existing Ansible estates!

So, what exactly is Ansible?

Ansible is a widely popular IT automation technology used in enterprises across the globe. Because Ansible doesn’t require installing any special software in your managed operating system endpoints that is, it is an agentless technology), it is extremely easy to get started with.

Ansible’s key use cases include provisioning (for example, on-premises or in the public cloud), operating system configuration management, application deployment, orchestration, continuous delivery, security automation, and much more. Given its popularity and pervasiveness across the industry, there are thousands of Ansible modules (more on these later…) available that allow just about anything to be automated. And it is highly extensible too, so the automation capabilities can be easily extended if needed.

At its core, Ansible is based on open source technology with an extremely vibrant community that is constantly innovating and delivering new capabilities to extend its reach within the data center. For users who require enterprise-level support, there is also a set of commercial Ansible offerings from Red Hat available.

Ansible architecture

As mentioned earlier, one of Ansible’s key strengths is that it is simple to get started with. To that end, it has a very clean architecture with a few principle components that are important to understand:

  • Ansible Endpoints – endpoint operating systems on which Ansible modules run; from an IBM Power Systems perspective, these include AIX, IBM i and Linux on Power, but also includes other operating systems (such as Microsoft® Windows® and IBM z/OS®) as well for a consistent Ansible management experience across the entire data center

  • Ansible Engine – the engine (control node) is the system on which Ansible is installed and used to run playbooks (that is, the files where Ansible code is written and used to tell Ansible what to execute); this runs on x86 Linux

  • Red Hat Ansible Tower – the commercial form of Ansible AWX (that is, the open source version), Red Hat® Ansible Tower provides a GUI to scale Ansible across the entire enterprise from a highly consumable and convenient interface and runs; this runs on x86 Linux

These concepts are further illustrated in the following architectural diagram.

diagram

Ansible content

In addition to its simplicity to use, another key contributor to Ansible’s widespread use is the breadth of modules available; a module is a unit of code that Ansible executes—for example, installing a software package, starting an operating system service, deploying a virtual machine using IBM PowerVC, and so on. As mentioned earlier, there are thousands of modules that exist that allow just about anything to be automated through Ansible, which means less time that engineers need to spend writing boilerplate code and instead providing more time to focus on strategic initiatives. To that end, we’ve been hard at work to ensure that the Power Systems community has a robust set of modules available (and growing) for key use cases.

Operating systems

Because operating system configuration management is the heart and soul of Ansible, we fully recognize that users demand a rich set of modules available for their operating systems of choice. To that end, we’re enabling several Ansible modules for AIX and IBM i to automate operations such as patching (for example, service packs and PTFs), user and group management, boot management, running commands and SQL queries, managing object authority and much more!

Private cloud: IBM PowerVC

IBM PowerVC is the strategic infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and virtualization management solution for on-premises Power Systems IT estates. In addition to all the great capabilities the product itself provides, it also opens several complementary opportunities for Power Systems to be integrated with broader cloud and automation technologies. One of those technologies is Ansible! Because PowerVC is built on OpenStack, a subset of the community-provided (that is, no enterprise support available) OpenStack Ansible modules can be used to complement and automate several PowerVC operations (such as deploying a virtual machine, creating networks, storage volumes, working with flavors, and so on). You can check out some examples of how to get started on our IBM Developer website.

Public cloud: IBM Cloud

One of the key tenets to an effective public cloud solution is automation at scale. Meaning, long gone are the days of someone submitting a help ticket to provision resources, wait a few days (or weeks) and then finally gain access to the IT resources. Instead, immediate access is expected—and as streamlined as possible. That is why IBM has released a set of community-enabled IBM Cloud® modules (that is, no enterprise support available) that allow any resource in IBM Cloud to be provisioned through Ansible, including IBM Power Systems virtual servers in IBM Cloud. So now you can automate all your public cloud operations using Ansible! Check out this example to get started.

Wrapping up

As described above, Ansible is an extremely powerful automation platform—and we’ve fully enabled it for use with IBM Power Systems. Ansible simplifies and automates management operations with a consistent set of skills and processes across your entire IT landscape. Now you can provision infrastructure faster, automate operating system tasks like patch management and reduce risk of tribal knowledge—all enabled by leveraging industry-standard automation technology with Ansible.

To learn more, check out this short trailer video and reach out to your IBM representative or IBM Systems Lab Services for more details.