Red Hat Launches Open-Source Ansible Tower AWX Automation Project

Nearly two years after Red Hat acquired Ansible, the flagship Ansible Tower technology is going open source.

Red Hat Ansible

Red Hat announced a series of updates for its Ansible automation platform technologies on Sept. 7, including version 3.2 of Ansible Tower and a new open-source project that will help power DevOps configuration management.

The new open-source AWX Project is the foundation upon which Ansible Tower, with the 3.2 update, is now built. Ansible Tower is an enterprise-grade automation platform and until now had not been an open-source project itself. Red Hat acquired Ansible in October 2015 and had publicly committed to making Ansible Tower an open-source project.

The core open-source Ansible configuration management platform is now also being extended with the new Ansible Engine product, which will provide additional support capabilities to enterprises.

Red Hat has long had a history of being an open-source-first company, where it builds open-source community projects that lead into enterprise-supported products. For example, the community Fedora Linux project helps to enable the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system.

"Ansible Tower was proprietary licensed up until now," Justin Nemmers, general manager for Ansible at Red Hat, told eWEEK. "AWX is to Ansible Tower as Fedora is to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, as Wildfly is to JBoss EAP and as OpenShift Origin is to Red Hat OpenShift."

While the AWX open-source project is new, the name "AWX" is not. Until version 1.4 in 2014, Ansible Tower was commercially branded and sold as AWX. Nemmers said the decision to name the new open-source project AWX was both an intentional callback to Ansible's history and also represented a lower engineering risk. As it turns out, although the commercial product had been branded as Ansible Tower since 2014, the codebase still referred to the technology as AWX.

The new Ansible Tower 3.2 update is the first to be based on the AWX open source code, as the previous Ansible Tower 3.1 release, which debuted on Feb. 28, was released as a proprietary product. Among the new features in Ansible Tower 3.2 is support for pluggable security credentials. With the credential model in Ansible Tower 3.2, organizations can now make use of third-party credential storage as well as define their own custom credential types.

Ansible Tower 3.2 also builds on the Tower clustering feature that first debuted in the Ansible Tower 3.1 release. The basic idea with Tower clusters is that organizations can pool multiple Ansible Tower servers together for higher availability and improved scale. In Ansible Tower 3.2, Red Hat has added Ansible Tower Instance Groups to enhance what organizations can do with the cluster of Ansible servers.

"With Instance Groups, you can organize your Ansible Tower nodes into any number of groups," Bill Nottingham, Red Had product manager for Ansible, wrote in a blog post. "These groups can be dedicated to only serve particular organizations, inventories, and job templates."

Ansible Engine

In addition to the Ansible Tower update, Red Hat announced Ansible Engine, which in time will provide additional support and capabilities on top of the open-source Ansible configuration management project.

"Ansible Engine will continue to derive from the upstream Ansible project," Nemmers said. 

At launch, Ansible Engine will be virtually identical to the open-source Ansible project, according to Nemmers. He added that Ansible Engine will be provided with the classic enterprise values that Red Hat offers for all of its products, such as technical knowledge, certifications, open-source assurance, product security and support. Over time, Red Hat plans to extend Ansible Engine into new areas, Nemmers said. 

"Lastly, for those already running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Ansible Engine will be made available via the Red Hat Customer Portal and enabled via Red Hat Subscription Manager for seamless integration of Ansible with other Red Hat products," he said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.