ansible for devops

AnsibleFest 2016 Review and Ansible Roles for Fun and Profit video online!

It's been a few weeks since AnsibleFest San Francisco, and Ansible just posted the video recordings of all the sessions from AnsibleFest SF 2016! I was honored to be able to speak about Ansible Roles at this year's west coast AnsibleFest, and I also arrived a little early so I could participate in the Ansible Contributor Conference on July 27.

Ansible Roles - Jeff Geerling presenting at AnsibleFest SF 2016
Picture from my session courtesy of The Appnel Group.

Reintroducing the sanity of CM to container management

Recently, Ansible introduced Ansible Container, a tool that builds and orchestrates Docker containers.

While tools that build and orchestrate Docker containers are a dime a dozen these days (seriously... Kubernetes, Mesos, Rancher, Fleet, Swarm, Deis, Kontena, Flynn, Serf, Clocker, Paz, Docker 1.12+ built-in, not to mention dozens of PaaSes), many are built in the weirdly-isolated world of "I only manage containers, and don't manage other infrastructure tasks."

The cool thing about using Ansible to do your container builds and orchestration is that Ansible can also do your networking configuration. And your infrastructure provisioning. And your legacy infrastructure configuration. And on top of that, Ansible is, IMO, the best-in-class configuration management tool—easy for developers and sysadmins to learn and use effectively, and as efficient/terse as (but much more powerful than) shell scripts.

From Ansible Container's own README:

Ansible for DevOps - available now!

Ansible is a simple, but powerful, server and configuration management tool. Ansible for Devops is a book I wrote to teach you to use Ansible effectively, whether you manage one server—or thousands.

Ansible for DevOps cover - Book by Jeff Geerling

I've spent a lot of time working with Ansible and Drupal over the past couple years, culminating in projects like Drupal VM (a VM for local Drupal development) and the Raspberry Pi Dramble (a cluster of Raspberry Pi computers running Drupal 8, powering http://www.pidramble.com/). I've also given multiple presentations on Ansible and Drupal, like a session at DrupalCon Austin, a session at MidCamp earlier this year, and a BoF at DrupalCon LA.

$25K in book sales, and I'm almost ready to publish

I started writing my first book almost two years ago. At the beginning of the project, I set an ambitious goal: Write a 90-page introductory-level technical book on some relatively new software, and sell 200 copies.

As a developer and dabbling entrepreneur, I calculated that if I sold the book for around $10-20, and wrote the book based on real-world scenarios I'd already encountered (meaning very little extra research/discovery required), I could make enough money to keep things interesting while helping a few hundred developers pick up the new software more quickly.

Almost two years later, Ansible for DevOps is almost 400 pages long and has sold over 2,000 copies—and I haven't yet published the book.

Books sold per month

What follows is an analysis of what led to this success, and some cautions for those considering writing a book.

Simple GlusterFS Setup with Ansible

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Ansible for DevOps, a book on Ansible by Jeff Geerling.

Modern infrastructure often involves some amount of horizontal scaling; instead of having one giant server, with one storage volume, one database, one application instance, etc., most apps use two, four, ten, or dozens of servers.

GlusterFS Architecture Diagram

Many applications can be scaled horizontally with ease, but what happens when you need shared resources, like files, application code, or other transient data, to be shared on all the servers? And how do you have this data scale out with your infrastructure, in a fast but reliable way? There are many different approaches to synchronizing or distributing files across servers:

Creating custom dynamic inventories for Ansible

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of Ansible for DevOps, a book on Ansible by Jeff Geerling.

Most infrastructure can be managed with a custom inventory file or an off-the-shelf cloud inventory script, but there are many situations where more control is needed. Ansible will accept any kind of executable file as an inventory file, so you can build your own dynamic inventory however you like, as long as you can pass it to Ansible as JSON.

You could create an executable binary, a script, or anything else that can be run and will output JSON to stdout, and Ansible will call it with the argument --list when you run, as an example, ansible all -i my-inventory-script -m ping.

Let's start working our own custom dynamic inventory script by outlining the basic JSON format Ansible expects:

Automating Your Automation with Ansible Tower

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of Ansible for DevOps, a book on Ansible by Jeff Geerling. The example highlights the effectiveness of Ansible Tower for automating infrastructure operations, especially in a team environment.

Throughout this book, all the examples use Ansible's CLI to run playbooks and report back the results. For smaller teams, especially when everyone on the team is well-versed in how to use Ansible, YAML syntax, and follows security best practices with playbooks and variables files, using the CLI can be a sustainable approach.

But for many organizations, there are needs that stretch basic CLI use too far:

Setting up GlusterFS with Ansible

NOTE: This blog post was written prior to Ansible including the gluster_volume module, and is out of date; the examples still work, but Ansible for DevOps has been since updated with a more relevant and complete example. You can read about it here: Simple GlusterFS Setup with Ansible (Redux).

Modern infrastructure often involves some amount of horizontal scaling; instead of having one giant server, with one storage volume, one database, one application instance, etc., most apps use two, four, ten, or dozens of servers.

Many applications can be scaled horizontally with ease, but what happens when you need shared resources, like files, application code, or other transient data, to be shared on all the servers? And how do you have this data scale out with your infrastructure, in a fast but reliable way? There are many different approaches to synchronizing or distributing files across servers:

Highly-Available Infrastructure Provisioning and Configuration with Ansible

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Ansible for DevOps, a book on Ansible by Jeff Geerling. The example highlights Ansible's simplicity and flexibility by provisioning and configuring of a highly available web application infrastructure on a local Vagrant-managed cloud, DigitalOcean droplets, and Amazon Web Services EC2 instances, with one set of Ansible playbooks.

tl;dr Check out the code on GitHub, and buy the book to learn more about Ansible!