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From our data, Ansible is gaining on industry leaders Puppet and Chef. Why is that the case? Simplicity is one of the key factors driving the growth in the utilization of Ansible. That according to the Director of Ansible Community at Red Hat, Greg DeKoenigsberg. He was kind enough to take time answering our questions revolving around the growth phenomenon which is Ansible. From Ansible's future plans to its integration with Red Hat, Greg provided us with a wealth of information.

Interview Questions

Interview Answers

Future Expectations

Question 1: Is it logical to conclude that automation will make certain low-level administration skills obsolete in future?

Greg DeKoenigsberg I don't think low-level admin skills will ever become obsolete,because automation is really about scale -- and you definitely don't want to perform actions at scale that you don't understand. Sure, Ansible is a great language for making it easy to do repetitive tasks in a highly scalable way, but if you can't accurately describe the task that needs to be scaled, Ansible won't help you.

Maybe ugly shell scripting will become obsolete. We can only hope.
Question 2: As you look into a crystal ball, please enlighten our readers with some of Ansible's plans. What can users expect to see in the future?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Expansion of functionality in the networking space is a big one. Any switch that you can ssh to, you can manage with Ansible. Network administrators are starting to flock to Ansible because it provides an abstraction layer for commonly performed networking management tasks. Want to set up vlan tags across four different switch types? You can write an Ansible playbooks that will "do the right thing" -- just provide the parameters, and the Ansible playbook can handle the idiosyncrasies of the underlying platforms. More and more network hardware vendors are partnering with us, and the 2.4 release continues that momentum.

Beyond that, it's all about contributors and modules. More modules to do more things. We've added hundreds of new modules in the latest release, with more modules in the pipeline all the time.

Obstacles

Question 3: When looking for new personnel, is the Ansible community one of Red Hat's main sources for finding its skilled workforce?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Absolutely! One of the best things about a successful open source community is that it puts a great source of talent right at your fingertips. Working with community members gives us a great insight into not only their technical abilities, but the way they interact with others. Most of the members of the Ansible engineering team started first as community contributors.


Question 4: What significant changes has Ansible gone through since the 2015 Red Hat acquisition?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Not as many as you might think, actually. Most of the changes have been on the business side, and they've been very positive. Customers are happy because Red Hat provides a lot of stability -- it can be nerve-wracking to invest in a tool like Ansible if it's backed by a small company, but if it's backed by the world's leader in open source, it's a much safer bet to standardize your organization around Ansible.

Beyond that, the Ansible team and mission are largely unchanged. Everyone at Red Hat is enthusiastic about Ansible's continuing success, and have mostly left us to continue to do what we do well.


Question 5: Ansible and other automation solutions are often associated with the enterprise and cloud deployments. Do you think there's a place for Ansible with smaller companies and even home Linux users?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Without a doubt. There are so many small tasks that can be effectively automated, and that includes home laptop use. Here's a great blog on managing a home Mac laptop setup with Ansible.


Question 6: Is it true that due to Ansible's agentless nature, its performance starts to deteriorate when facing more bulky hosts pool? If yes, is the Ansible automation engine more suitable for small or medium-sized deployments?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: In theory, this is true: if you initiate ssh connections from a single host, your performance is bounded by the ability of that host to handle those connections.

In practice, it's almost never a problem, because most organizations don't actually want to automate changes to thousands of hosts at once. They want to automate changes to a set of hosts, evaluate those changes, and then roll out to the next set of hosts. This kind of blue-green deployment has become the de facto best practice.

For those cases in which organizations really do want to push simultaneous changes to thousands of systems, they almost always have their own sophisticated set of processes to manage. Because Ansible is a simple and flexible tool, it fits well into those processes.

Linux Career & Community Involvement

Question 7: Using our IT Skills Watch tool, LinuxCareer.com has recorded a massive increase in Ansible popularity. In your opinion, what are the main reasons for the increased adoption of Ansible in the past few years?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Simplicity of set up and use. It's both agentless and serverless, and the language is extremely easy to understand. Any sysadmin who knows how to use ssh can do something useful with Ansible in literally their first hour of use.

That simplicity is extremely important. Sysadmins all understand the need to automate, but before Ansible, it was always just too expensive to get started. To set up Puppet, for instance, you'd need to stand up and configure a Puppet server, and you'd need to get agents on the systems you wanted to manage, and then you'd need to learn the DSL, and only then would you be able to start work. I went through those exact struggles myself before Ansible came along.


Question 8: In your opinion, how has the open source software model contributed to the success of Ansible?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Ansible literally would not have been possible without the open source software model. Ansible was designed from the very beginning to be built by the open source community. From its very earliest days, the goal was to create a simple core engine, well designed by a small core team, and then to be extended with a large set of modules from a broad community.

There's a lot of research around how to build a successful open source project, and Ansible is successful because we took that research seriously and built our entire development model around it. 

Question 9: If the community wants to contribute to Ansible, what is the best way to get involved?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Become an Ansible power user. That's always the right path to get involved in any open source project. All software has flaws to be fixed and improvements to be made, and Ansible is no exception -- and the best way to understand those flaws is to use the software extensively.

Then, when you find a bug, start digging into the code. That's when you'll find the community guide helpful.


Question 10: What skill set is most sought after within the Ansible community? In other words, what kind of experience and expertise should one possess to become a contributing member of the Ansible community?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: I hesitate to answer this question with technical details. Ansible is Python, so knowing Python is important. Ansible is a tool for automating system administration tasks, so understanding the basics of system administration is important. But Ansible is really not that complicated a tool, and the most important characteristics for an Ansible community contributor are an earnest desire to help, and the ability to play nicely with others.

Competitors

Question 11: Can Ansible be considered a complete automation solution replacement for its chief competitor Puppet, or do both only share some similar traits while offering different advantages?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Sure. There are plenty of 100% Ansible shops that use no Puppet, and they do just fine.

That said, Ansible doesn't have to be a Puppet replacement; it can play nicely alongside Puppet. That's important to organizations that have already spent a lot of time and money on their Puppet infrastructure. There's no need to gratuitously rip out all of your Puppet code; just use Ansible where it's a better fit. (Like, for instance, using Ansible's Puppet module to deploy Puppet agents to your hosts.)

We find that even in Puppet-heavy orgs, new automation tasks are often written in Ansible, because it's so much easier to learn Ansible than Puppet.


Question 12: What advantages do enterprise businesses receive in regards to the after sale Ansible support when compared to some of its competitors (e.g., Chef and Puppet)?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Ansible is supported by the best open source company in the world. That's a pretty big advantage, and it's tough to beat.


Question 13: Regarding learning curve, do you believe that the newcomers to Ansible automation engine require less time to master Ansible's ins and outs when compared with Puppet or Chef?

Greg DeKoenigsberg: Yes. :)

About Greg DeKoenigsberg

Image aligned to the rightGreg DeKoenigsberg is the Director of Ansible Community for Red Hat, where he leads the Ansible project's relationship with the broader open source community. Greg has nearly two decades of leadership experience in open source communities and companies.

He served as the Fedora Project leader for Red Hat, VP Community and Product for open source cloud pioneers Eucalyptus Systems, and VP of Community for Ansible, Inc. Greg lives in Durham NC.

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