Red Hat Expands Ansible With Broader Container, Microsoft Support

The open-source DevOps automation technology takes a step forward with enhanced support for containers and Microsoft technologies.

Red Hat

Red Hat updated its recently acquired Ansible technology May 25 with a new version that provides enhanced support for Docker container deployment as well as Microsoft technologies.

Red Hat acquired Ansible in October 2015, adding DevOps IT automation technologies into its product portfolio.

The new Ansible 2.1 update is actually the second incremental update since Red Hat acquired the company. Ansible 2.0 was released in January, providing a cleaner code architecture. Among the big changes in Ansible 2.1 is broader support for Microsoft Azure and Windows.

"Ansible had some Microsoft modules and a few older Azure modules previously," Todd Barr, general manager of Ansible at Red Hat, told eWEEK. "With this release, however, we are now officially supporting Windows as a platform on par with Linux and have covered most of the major Azure use cases."

The Microsoft support, according to Barr, makes Ansible truly cross-platform and hybrid cloud-ready.

Ansible 2.1 also provides enhanced Docker container capabilities, enabling organizations to build, deploy and manage container applications. The new Docker-service module allows an administrator to either copy and paste or reference Docker Compose files in an Ansible playbook, Barr said. Docker Compose is an open-source tool that enables developers to define and group multiple containers that work together as a single application. The Ansible playbook is a configuration management definition for deployment of an application or service.

"If you already have Docker Compose files that you have built, you can now wrap them in Ansible playbooks in order to extend the functionality of Docker Compose," Barr said. "The truth is that if you compare Docker Compose to Ansible, it is largely the same structure, so we've just made it easy to embed Docker Compose into Ansible."

Ansible 2.1 also provides some additional functionality that an organization might want in enterprise container deployments, such as set SE (Security Enhanced) Linux security policy or do validation steps at the end of a deploy phase to make sure that containers are running, he said. Barr noted that Docker Compose can't do those things, so it's really a best-of-both-worlds idea.

With a DevOps workflow, the basic idea is to automate as much of the process as possible by making using of configuration management as well as continuous integration (CI), continuous deployment (CD) technology. If an organization has developers building containers, with an operations team that manages the infrastructure using Ansible playbooks, those approaches can now all be linked together.

"You can now stitch those workflows together for a comprehensive CI/CD workflow across your infrastructures—deploying traditional apps alongside container apps, etc.," Barr said. "In general, Ansible's Docker modules simply enable you to access the Docker APIs from Ansible playbooks, so it's like using Docker from inside of Ansible."

As such, Barr added that when it comes to networking, security and other functions, an administrator is simply using Ansible to access the Docker functions.

Beyond just containers, Ansible 2.1 expands support for networking, though Barr said more work is under way with additional features for the Ansible 2.2 update.

"Ansible 2.1 has been about automating the underlay network," he said. "Ansible 2.2 will introduce overlay network automation as well. We are working on both VMware NSX [and] Juniper Open Contrail, as well as Cisco ACI and Nuage. Stay tuned for more on this."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and 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.