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Ansible Tower – Executive Summary

Find out how Ansible Tower augments the capabilities of Ansible and know about the enterprise features of Tower that enables efficient management of configurations and deployments through an easy-to-use web-based user interface.

Overview

Ansible Tower from Red Hat is an enterprise framework that lets you control, secure and manage your Ansible automation through an easy-to-use UI and RESTful API. With a visual dashboard, Tower offers a convenient and familiar environment for IT admins who aren’t comfortable with the command-line interface. While Ansible allows performing a wide range of configuration management tasks, Tower extends the functionality of Ansible with additional management capabilities to enhance ease of use and enable centralized administrative control.

These capabilities include role-based access control, job scheduling, inventory management, workflows, built-in notifications, audit trail, and external logging integrations. Ansible Tower is essentially a scalable adoption strategy that you need as your teams begin to rely on automation increasingly.

Existing Problem

With innovation driving IT, it has become prominent for the development teams to deliver software faster. But, with the traditional process, application developers regularly require verifying the code, making changes, testing the code locally, and finally deploying it in the production environment. In doing so, the development environment often requires making configuration tweaks and building custom software stacks to eliminate inconsistencies between the development and production environment. However, these settings often lead to software errors and result in production downtimes.

To overcome this complexity, organizations are increasingly adopting automation and DevOps tools and practices. Unfortunately, DevOps and other agile methodologies demand unique programming skills that everyone in the organization may not possess. Ansible removes these bottlenecks in your SDLC by offering powerful agentless automation that manages repetitive tasks through Playbooks that require no special coding skills. This configuration management tool lets you orchestrate the entire application environment no matter where you deployed it.

While the tool is excellent for smaller team environments, it introduces complexities when you start scaling your automation capabilities across your organization. With multiple users and teams writing their own Playbooks or trying to configure your organization’s structure, it becomes challenging to maintain control over your infrastructure, follow best practices for Playbooks, define user access, and ensure security. In addition, a command-line interface of Ansible might also present a challenge to non-technical people in your organization and therefore restrict enterprise-wide adoption.

How Ansible Tower Solves the Problem

Ansible Tower serves as a centralized platform to control your Ansible infrastructure through a visual dashboard that offers quick access to everything happening in your Ansible environment. It includes essential features necessary for large-scale enterprise deployments.

For example, with the pushbutton interface, you can template how a Playbook should run using job templates that include the specifications for parameters and environments. This approach helps in driving consistency between repeated deployments. It is also possible to create multiple job templates to launch the same Playbook with different parameters, enabling reuse across different development stages or environments.

Tower also allows developers to schedule jobs to run automatically. With a REST API, programmers can further automate deeper levels of configuration to reduce potential errors during production while admins can integrate external systems or workflows required for CI/CD and DevOps processes.

When you combine these capabilities with Tower’s role-based access control, you can deploy Playbooks with greater control and easy auditing. This means you can quickly scale the power of Ansible across your organization. Even users that aren’t familiar with Ansible can run Playbooks written by others. The RBAC feature ensures who does what in your Ansible environment, making delegating specific authority to different teams or users.

On top of these capabilities, Ansible Tower offers better visibility to your infrastructure so that you can see how your system is performing and compare it with other systems in your cluster. Besides, with remote command execution, you can quickly and easily run simple tasks on your host or group of hosts in your inventory, such as adding users, rebooting misbehaving service, or updating security vulnerability.

Important Features of Ansible Tower

Here are some of the features that make Ansible Tower a necessity for enterprises looking to scale their automation adoption.

Graphical UI Dashboard

Ansible Tower offers a heads-up, NOC-style display that offers easy-to-access information about everything happening in your Ansible environment, so that people not used to the command-line interface can easily manage configurations and deployments.

Role-Based Access Control

Ensure granular level control on who does what within your Ansible environment. Keep project private, define users who can edit inventory, and who can only run Playbooks. Allow users to use credentials without exposing the credentials to them.

Job Scheduling

Schedule Playbook runs, inventory updates, and source control updates as well as setup periodic tasks such as backups and configuration remediation.

Graphical Inventory Management

Pull inventory from public cloud providers or sync with your local OpenStack cloud or VMware environment. Connect your inventory to Red Hat Satellite, Red Hat CloudForms, or your custom CMDB. Organize and automate hosts across all your providers with Ansible Tower Smart Inventories.

Multi-Playbook Workflows

Use graphical workflow editor to model complex processes that use any number of Playbooks, inventories, users, credentials, updates, and other workflows. Build provisioning workflows for base system configuration, CI/CD workflows to test and promote the application, or production deployment workflows.

REST APIs

Call Ansible Tower Jobs from your build tools, display Tower information on your dashboards, and do integrate third-party tools with your Ansible environment using REST API.

Real-time Job Status Updates

Quickly access the status of your automation in real-time. Track plays, completed tasks, success, and failure for each machine. Get details on source control updates, cloud inventory refreshes, and other job types through the common job view.

Integrated Notifications

Stay notified about the status of your automation through integrated notifications. Alert a person or team when the jobs succeed or fail. Send enterprise-wide notifications or restrict them to a per-job basis. Easily connect your notifications to productivity tools like Slack or use custom webhook to post notifications to your enterprise’s custom communication tools.

Top Ansible Tower Competitors

There are several other configuration tools that compete well with Ansible Tower in terms of performance and other enterprise-grade features. Here are the top 4 Ansible Tower competitors that you should check out.

Puppet Enterprise

Puppet Enterprise is a model-driven, scalable configuration management tool built with system administrators in mind. The tool has similarities with Ansible Tower but has a better UI and is also cost-effective.

Chef Automate

Chef Automate is often dubbed as a single dashboard and analytics for application, security, and infrastructure automation.

SaltStack Enterprise

SaltStack is another popular Python-based configuration management tool that has gained traction due to the performance benefits compared to Ansible Tower.

CFEngine Enterprise

It is an IT infrastructure automation and Continuous Operations framework that helps system administrators to manage IT infrastructure and ensure compliance.

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