While developers clearly love the flexibility that containers enable, there’s no question containers introduce complexity to IT operations. Not only are there more microservices to track, but also containers such as Docker tend to introduce new management tools that have to be mastered.
Looking to reduce that complexity, Red Hat at the Dockercon 2016 conference previewed an instance of the agentless Ansible IT automation framework running in a container that eliminates the need to use tools such as Dockerfile and Docker Compose to create and launch containers.
In addition, Red Hat has launched its Ansible project, which enables IT organizations to create Kubernetes templates directly from within an Ansible playbook to orchestrate containers.
Rather than requiring IT organizations to master a completely new set of tools to manage containers, Red Hat is striving to provide IT organizations with a common framework for automating the management of containers, virtual machines and bare-metal servers, says Greg Dekoenigsberg, director of the Ansible community for Red Hat. The goal is to allow developers to create applications rapidly using containers without having to fragment the way IT organizations currently manage IT environments.
In addition, Dekoenigsberg notes that by relying on YAML to launch containers with Ansible, developers and IT operations staff will have an easier time collaborating around a file format both parties understand and are familiar with.
This approach also provides the added benefit of eliminating the need to rely on the SSH networking protocol to launch a container from with an Ansible playbook, he adds.
These advances come on the heels of an update to Ansible that embedded support for the Docker Compose tool directly within Ansible. But the goal is to eliminate the need for dedicated Docker management tools altogether, Dekoenigsberg says.
The rise of Docker containers has created one of those seminal moments in the management of IT that easily could elevate some vendors while consigning others to oblivion. Red Hat clearly is trying to supplant rival IT automation frameworks such as Puppet and Chef by integrating support for Docker containers as deeply as possible. Obviously, Puppet Labs and Chef have similar ambitions.
At the same time, the proliferation of containers across the enterprise finally should force the IT automation issue. For a variety of reasons, adoption of IT automation frameworks has been fairly limited inside traditional enterprise IT organizations. The complexity associated with deploying containers in particular and microservices in general will eventually force IT administrators to rely less on manual processes to manage IT environments. Red Hat is betting that most of those IT organizations not only will prefer a declarative approach to IT automation that doesn’t require IT administrators to learn how to program, but also doesn’t rely on agent software that is impractical to attach to something as lightweight and ephemeral as a container.
Of course, companies such as Docker Inc. and CoreOS are counting on the fact that there will be a need for dedicated management frameworks to manage containers. The degree to which that ultimately proves to be true, however, remains to be seen.