Thinking to adopt Ansible as a configuration management tool? Let’s understand the advantages of Ansible along with the disadvantages.
Any individual who has associations with IT can surely note the rising importance of Ansible. The attention on the advantages of ansible increases with every passing day. The use of Ansible is prominently visible in software automation applications for various organizations. More than 1000 companies such as Intel and Evernote using Ansible clearly show its potential in the present IT landscape.
DevOps skills include conducting the management of additional servers with more applications than before. Therefore, Ansible advantages help users to address these complicated tasks with their capabilities in configuration management. Configuration management is a crucial process in the DevOps model for supporting continuous integration. Configuration management tools are ideal for executing tasks on different servers at the same time.
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Furthermore, configuration management tools also help in the deployment of multiple apps with a single click. However, the choice of the right configuration management tool depends on your requirements and many other aspects. The following discussion would take you through the Ansible advantages and disadvantages to learn more about Ansible’s effectiveness as a configuration management tool.
What is Ansible?
Before an illustration of the advantages of Ansible, let us reflect on its definition, basic architecture, applications in DevOps, and reasons to use Ansible. Ansible’s definition suggests that it is an opensource tool for IT configuration management, deployment, and orchestration. Organizations could get massive improvements in productivity by resolving various automation challenges.
The simplicity of Ansible, along with its potential for automation of complex, multi-tier IT application environments, validate its popularity. The next important concern on our agenda in this discussion should be the reasons to use Ansible. The growth of data centers all over the world, resulting in the increasing complexity of hosted applications, created problems for administrators.
The scalability of manual systems management, according to the speed of enabling applications, became very difficult. As a result, the DevOps philosophy could not be realized completely as the IT operations team engaged constantly in system configuration. Therefore, the need for ideal server provisioning and configuration management tools became evident.
Uses of Ansible
Another important aspect under-emphasis before ansible advantages refers to the applications of ansible. The applications of Ansible can help in obtaining brief insights into their benefits for DevOps. The different applications of Ansible include provisioning, configuration management, deploying applications, security and compliance, and orchestration. The long list of applications clearly shows that Ansible is not just another configuration management tool. So, we can note that the advantages of Ansible come primarily from its applications.
Ansible in the DevOps Movement
The fit of Ansible in the DevOps lifecycle can also provide viable insight into the benefits of Ansible. Ansible provides support for integrating development and operations in contemporary test-driven application design. It provides a stable environment for the development and operations team, thereby leading to smooth orchestration. Ansible automation helps considerably with the representation of Infrastructure as Code (IAC).
IAC involves provisioning and management of computing infrastructure and related configuration through machine-processable definition files. Therefore, administrators could find opportunities to work in collaboration with developers that improves development speed. Also, the benefits of ansible help in focusing more on performance tuning and experimenting rather than fixing issues.
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Advantages of Ansible
With so many simplifications, Ansible can surely present many advantages. Let us have a closer look!
Simple to Learn
The foremost mention among advantages of Ansible refers to its simplicity. The simplicity is not only meant for professionals but also for beginners. It is easy to learn, and so, users could learn to use Ansible quickly along with better productivity. Ansible receives the support of comprehensive and easily interpretable documentation.
Therefore, you can learn the logic of Ansible operations and the workflow in a limited period. The lack of a dependency system could imply that Ansible tasks execute sequentially and stop when identifying an error. As a result, troubleshooting becomes a lot easier, even in the initial stages of learning about ansible.
Easily Understandable Python Language
One of the prominent advantages of Ansible also refers to the language in which it is written. Python is a human-readable language and serves as the basis for Ansible. It provides better facilities for getting up Ansible and running it due to the presence of Python libraries on the majority of Linux distributions by default.
Python is a highly ideal alternative for administration and scripting tasks implying higher popularity among engineers and system administrators. Another interesting aspect of Ansible is the facility of Ansible modules that can improve its functionality. The Ansible modules can be written in any language. However, the important concern, in this case, is that the module should return data in JSON format.
No Dependency on Agents
The next important addition among the benefits of Ansible refers to its agentless nature. Ansible manages all the master-agent communications through Standard SSH or Paramiko module. The Paramiko module is a Python implementation of SSH2 and is crucial for managing nodes. Therefore, Ansible does not require any form of agents installed on remote systems for ensuring management. As a result, maintenance overheads and performance degradations reduce considerably by huge margins with Ansible.
Playbooks are written in YAML
The use of Playbooks in Ansible is also another reason for the major advantages of Ansible. Playbooks are Ansible configuration files, and the language for writing them is YAML. The interesting factor, in this case, is that YAML is a better alternative for configuration management and automation.
The superiority of YAML over other formats like JSON makes Ansible better configuration management and automation tool. Ansible makes it easy to read and supports comments. Most important of all, it also includes the use of anchors to reference other items.
Another notable entry among advantages of Ansible refers to the Ansible Galaxy. Ansible Galaxy is a portal that acts as the central repository for locating, reusing, and sharing Ansible-related content. The best advantage of Ansible Galaxy is in the example of downloading reusable Roles for installing application or server configuration. The downloads are ideal for use in a particular user’s playbooks and can contribute substantially to an increase in deployment speed.
To be proficient with Ansible, one must be familiar with the Ansible modules. Here is the list of top Ansible Modules that you should learn.
Disadvantages of Ansible
After a clear reflection on different advantages of Ansible, let us focus on the setbacks you can encounter with it.
Insufficient User Interface
The first entry in the disadvantages of Ansible is the crude user interface. Ansible was initially a command-line only tool. The first effort of Ansible at making a user interface was with AWX graphical user interface. The other component in the UI was the REST endpoint that is meant for easier infrastructure management.
Subsequently, the AWX turned into the Ansible Tower, which is a web management UI. Ansible Tower offers visual management features and a team-based workflow instrument. However, the Ansible Tower requires considerable improvements. For example, almost 85% of tasks that could be completed through the command line can be achieved through the UI.
You could also come across another mention of Ansible disadvantages arising from its UI. The failure of synchronization between the GUI and the command line can lead to conflicting query results. On a general basis, Ansible Tower is still in the development stages and could not do everything like a command-line interface.
Lack of any Notion of State
Another prominent mention among the disadvantages of Ansible is the lack of any notion of state. Ansible does not have any notion of state like other automation tools such as Puppet. Ansible does not track dependencies and simply executes sequential tasks and stops when tasks finish, fail, or any error comes.
These traits are not ideal for users who want the automation tool to maintain a detailed catalog for ordering. The catalog can help in reaching a specific state without any influence of changes in environmental conditions. However, Ansible lacks it and presents a formidable disadvantage.
Limited Windows Support
The next prominent mention among Ansible disadvantages is the half-built Windows support. Ansible version 1.7 supports Windows as well as Linux/Unix nodes. In the case of Windows, Ansible employs a native PowerShell remoting rather than SSH. As a result, a Linux control machine is mandatory for the management of Windows hosts. The limited support for Windows in Ansible presents one of the formidable setbacks with the configuration management and automation tool.
Ansible does not have Experience
The lack of enterprise support experience also draws down the appeal of Ansible. Ansible does not have a full-fledged working experience with large enterprises like its competitors, such as Puppet and Chef. Even though Ansible claims the facility of enterprise-grade extended support options, limited practical experience reduces the accountability of Ansible.
Ansible is New to the Market
Finally, you can note one of the most common entries in Ansible advantages and disadvantages as a prominent setback of Ansible. Ansible is new to the market, unlike its renowned competitors. As a result, it does not have a large developer or user community. Furthermore, the new presence of Ansible on the market implies the possibilities of undiscovered bugs, software issues, and edge scenarios.
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On a final note, we can conclude that Ansible provides a simple and powerful package for configuration management and automation. However, Ansible is new to the market now and has to deal with competition from renowned sources. The limited amount of documentation related to Ansible can create formidable setbacks for learning Ansible.
On the other hand, the growing interest in Ansible due to the adoption of Ansible by renowned agencies such as NASA can also turn the tables. The diverse functionalities of Ansible, such as provisioning, orchestration, application deployment, and security and compliance, show its potential. These capabilities of Ansible can translate effectively into a comprehensive DevOps tool. The future course for Ansible would depend on strengthening the advantages of Ansible while working on the setbacks.
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