Ansible – The Why ?

What ?

Ansible is a simple IT automation tool.

Ansible exists as CLI & GUI. GUI is called the Ansible Tower and Ansible, Inc., which is owned by RedHat, officially supports this.

Controlling Nodes:

The Network infrastructure is managed from Controlling Nodes. In an Enterprise environment, Controlling Nodes are typically Linux bastion servers.

Managed Nodes:

Managed Nodes are the Network Devices that is being managed by the Controlling Nodes. Managed Nodes are typically of Cisco, Juniper, and Arista make and can be classified as Switches, Routers, Firewalls and Load Balancers based on their function from a Network Engineer’s perspective.

Why ?

There are many automation tools like Chef, Puppet, CFEngine but in my opinion, Ansible is suited for Network Automation for the following reasons:

  1. Ansible does not require an agent to be installed in the Managed Node (Network Device).
  2. Ansible requires Python on the Managed Node and most Network Devices support Python.
  3. Ansible relies on YAML as the descriptive language and Jinja2 for templates.

Among the points mentioned above, most Network Vendors do not support the installation of agents and even if they did support the installation, it would be tough to get the relevant permissions within an organization to install the agents in an Enterprise environment that has different Network Teams managing different aspects of the infrastructure.

Fortunately, most network vendors provide native support for Python and Ansible rely on this to execute automation tasks on the “Managed Nodes”.

As a Network Engineer working in an environment with significant scale (1,000s of Network Devices across multiple datacenters), Ansible has been quite useful in obtaining data and deploying configuration. Ansible seems to have widespread support among the Network Engineers seeking automation to manage at scale and there are resources online that can be leveraged to implement Network Automation Solutions.

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