With thousands of containers soon to descend on enterprise IT systems everywhere, most IT organizations will have little choice when it comes to relying more on IT automation frameworks.
To enable higher levels of IT automation to be applied to Docker containers, Red Hat released an update to its Ansible framework that adds support for a Docker Service module that now includes a docker-compose tool for creating containers in a way that make it possible to leverage Ansible playbooks to configure the network, operating systems and infrastructure Docker containers are running on.
In addition, Red Hat has rewritten its existing Docker modules in Ansible 2.1 to improve overall performance and gather additional metadata about the overall Docker environment.
Todd Barr, general manager for the Ansible business unit at Red Hat, says both the docker-compose file and the Ansible playbook are YAML files, which means their syntax is nearly identical. Both Ansible and the Ansible docker-compose tool are written in Python, and both the docker-compose tool and the Docker module use the docker-py API client.
Barr adds that since Red Hat acquired Ansible, the open source IT automation framework is now the fastest-growing IT automation framework in terms of overall adoption. Barr says the update to Ansible is a natural complement to OpenShift, the Red Hat platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment tightly integrated with the open source Kubernetes container management framework. The primary benefit is that whatever a developer sees on his/her laptop now can be replicated easily across the rest of the enterprise and maintains application fidelity. In addition, the Ansible playbook provides IT organizations with a way to maintain control over versions of container applications when deployed at scale, Barr notes.
While Red Hat may not be the dominant Linux platform on which containers are currently deployed, Red Hat is betting it can be dominant in terms of the platforms used to run those container applications in production environments. As a result, support for Docker containers inside both Ansible and OpenShift is critical to achieving that goal.
Many IT operations teams have been slow to embrace IT automation because of a lack of visibility into what is being automated and a fear that using these tools might eliminate their jobs. While the latter issue can be overcome in time as IT administrators become more comfortable with relying on automation frameworks to manage ever-growing IT environments, the former issue speaks to the concern over what might happen should a playbook automate things in a way that can’t be reversed easily in the event of a mistake. IT automation is great when things go right, but when things go wrong, without the appropriate level of checks and balances an error can promulgate across the enterprise in a way that could redefine the word “catastrophic.”
Those concerns notwithstanding, many IT organizations are also about to discover that managing containers without making use of IT automation frameworks simply will not be an option.