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Ansible

7 Ansible Use Cases – Management & Automation Examples

ansible use cases

Ansible is one of the most used tools for automation and managing cloud and on-premises infrastructure. Ansible is the way to go if you are looking for a flexible and powerful tool to automate your infrastructure management, configuration, networking, and deployment tasks. 

This post delves into different use cases of Ansible, highlighting its impact on configuration management, CI/CD, cloud provisioning, network automation, security, disaster recovery, and complex workflow orchestration.

If you are new to Ansible, look at these Ansible Guides and Tutorials hosted at Spacelift’s blog.

What is Ansible?

Ansible is an open-source and battle-tested automation tool with simplicity and powerful capabilities. These qualities make it a preferred choice for IT professionals aiming to streamline operations across various domains. It enables cross-platform automation and orchestration at scale and is considered an excellent option for configuration management, infrastructure provisioning, and application deployment use cases. 

It’s addressed primarily to IT operators, administrators, and decision-makers, helping them achieve operational excellence across their entire infrastructure ecosystem. Its automation opportunities are endless across hybrid clouds, on-prem infrastructure, and IoT, and it’s an engine that can significantly improve the efficiency and consistency of your IT environments.

Read more: Terraform vs. Ansible Comparison

Ansible use cases

ansible use cases infographic

1. Configuration management

One of Ansible’s most common use cases is configuration management for IT systems. Ansible excels in automating the initial setup and ongoing maintenance of physical and virtual servers. By leveraging Ansible, administrators can automate deploying updates, managing reboots, and ensuring systems are configured consistently across environments without the risk of introducing manual and error-prone processes. 

Configuration management tasks include setting up package repositories, login accounts, kernel modules, network parameters, etc. This automation extends to many operating systems, making Ansible a versatile solution for mixed-environment infrastructures. The idempotent nature of (most) Ansible modules guarantees that configurations can be applied repeatedly without unintended side effects, offering a safe, scalable approach to configuration management.

2. CI/CD and application deployment

Ansible offers integration and automation capabilities that bridge development, testing, and production environments. Ansible can help you automate the deployment pipeline, ensuring software can be released and updated without manual intervention. Ansible playbooks can define the necessary steps for deployment, from pulling the latest code from version control to executing database migrations and restarting services.

It can quickly help you simultaneously deploy applications and software onto multiple targets, environments, and machines. Ansible uses inventory files to define environment-specific variables and conditions, allowing the same playbook to be used across different environments with adjustments made dynamically based on the target environment. 

This approach minimizes errors and inconsistencies, ensuring that applications behave as expected when promoted through the pipeline. Ansible’s modular design allows for integration of custom modules and plugins, facilitating a tailored automation approach that aligns with specific project, application, and infrastructure requirements. 

3. Cloud provisioning and management

As organizations increasingly adopt cloud-based architectures and infrastructure, Ansible’s cloud provisioning and management capabilities are very handy. Ansible offers modules for interacting with major cloud platforms, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. It enables IT teams to automate the creation, configuration, and management of a wide array of cloud resources, including virtual machines, networking components, and storage options.

Ansible’s role in building immutable infrastructure through machine image creation and configuration automation sets the stage for reliable, reproducible environments that bolster DevOps practices and enhance the overall governance of cloud resources. The automation extends to creating entire cloud environments, adhering to best practices for security and compliance. Ansible playbooks can define repeatable processes, allowing for the automated setup of complex cloud infrastructures with predictable results. (See also: How to Manage and Automate AWS with Ansible)

Cloud environments are highly dynamic, creating and destroying instances based on demand. Ansible’s dynamic inventory feature automatically adjusts to these changes, fetching real-time information about the instances running in the cloud. This ensures that automation tasks always target the correct resources based on current state information without manually adjusting inventory lists.

4. Network automation

Network automation focuses on efficiently managing network devices and operations, shifting away from manual configurations and interventions towards a model where tasks are performed automatically and consistently. Ansible can assist Network Engineers with automating network tasks such as configuration of network devices, ensuring compliance with network standards, and managing network infrastructure. 

Network administrators and engineers typically need specific knowledge compared to the rest of the IT operations. However, with Ansible’s unified approach to YAML, there’s a way to automate and simplify complex network tasks. Leveraging Ansible modules designed for network automation enables IT professionals to define the desired state of network devices. It supports various network devices from leading vendors, allowing teams to automate configurations, updates, and compliance checks across diverse network environments.

As networks grow in size and complexity, the scalability of network operations becomes a pressing concern. With its agentless architecture, Ansible scales efficiently to manage thousands of network devices.

5. Security and compliance automation

Another challenge organizations face is ensuring security and compliance at scale as cyber threats become increasingly sophisticated. With its strong automation capabilities, Ansible can assist with preparing and fortifying IT environments. That can be achieved by running Ansible playbooks to ensure security policies are consistently applied, and compliance standards are met without sacrificing speed. It also offers capabilities to protect sensitive data at scale with Ansible Vault.

Ansible can automate the deployment of security best practices across an entire IT infrastructure. This includes configuring firewalls, managing users and permissions, deploying intrusion detection systems, and ensuring that only necessary services run on servers. It can audit existing systems against compliance standards, identify gaps, and automatically apply the required configurations to ensure compliance.

Furthermore, Ansible can automate the response to vulnerabilities, quickly applying fixes or workarounds across affected systems. Rapidly and safely acting on threats is crucial for mitigating the impact of security vulnerabilities and protecting sensitive data.

6. Disaster recovery automation

Organizations need Disaster Recovery (DR) plans to ensure business continuity. Ansible can automate disaster recovery processes, such as backups and recovery testing playbooks, and ensure systems can quickly recover from failures with minimal impact on operations.

Leveraging Ansible for DR purposes ensures that backups are performed consistently and efficiently across various environments, including on-premises servers and cloud platforms. Ansible can manage the scheduling of backups, the retention of backup files, and even the encryption of backup data to secure sensitive information.

DR often involves complex procedures that must be executed in a specific sequence to ensure the successful recovery of IT services. Ansible automates the orchestration of these procedures, coordinating the recovery process across different systems, applications, and services. This includes automating the failover to secondary systems, restoring services in a prioritized order based on their criticality, and reconfiguring network settings to redirect traffic to recovered systems. 

Testing is essential to an effective disaster recovery plan, yet it is often overlooked or deprioritized due to the complexities and resources involved. Ansible automates the testing of disaster recovery procedures, enabling organizations to regularly validate the effectiveness of their recovery plans without extensive manual effort.

7. Complex workflow orchestration & automation

Organizations and IT professionals often need a way to automate and orchestrate complex workflows across various systems and applications to achieve a unified operational goal. Ansible excels at orchestrating complex procedures, offering a solution that integrates disparate tasks into a cohesive, automated flow.

From software deployments, configuration management, and network automation to security enforcement and cloud services provisioning, Ansible provides a unified framework for automating tasks across different domains. Ansible playbooks define complex workflows by chaining multiple tasks and roles, which can be reused across various processes and environments. This modularity and reusability facilitate the efficient orchestration of workflows, reducing duplication of effort and ensuring consistency across operations.

Ansible allows for task dependencies and supports conditional execution based on the results of prior tasks or the system’s state. This ensures that workflows are executed logically and efficiently and adapt dynamically to different scenarios. Orchestrating complex workflows frequently requires interaction with external tools, APIs, and services. Ansible offers extensive integration capabilities, allowing workflows to incorporate external resources seamlessly.

How Spacelift can help you with Ansible projects?

Spacelift’s vibrant ecosystem and excellent GitOps flow can greatly assist you in managing and orchestrating Ansible. By introducing Spacelift on top of Ansible, you can then easily create custom workflows based on pull requests and apply any necessary compliance checks for your organization.

Another great advantage of using Spacelift is that you can manage different infrastructure tools like Ansible, OpenTofu, Terraform, Pulumi, AWS CloudFormation, and even Kubernetes from the same place and combine their Stacks with building workflows across tools. Spacelift greatly simplifies and elevates your workflow for all of these tools, and the capability of creating dependencies between stacks and passing outputs gives you the possibility to make end-to-end deployments while just making a small change.

If you want to learn more about Spacelift working with Ansible, check our documentation, read our Ansible guide or book a demo with one of our engineers.

Key points

Ansible is a comprehensive automation solution that has become a valuable tool for IT professionals. By leveraging Ansible, organizations can achieve increased efficiency, consistency, and security across their operations and systems. Its ease of use and powerful automation capabilities make Ansible a no-brainer for infrastructure, network, and IT automation use cases. Whether managing configurations, deploying applications, automating networks, or ensuring disaster recovery, Ansible can simplify complex processes and achieve operational excellence. 

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did!

Manage Ansible Better with Spacelift

Spacelift helps you manage the complexities and compliance challenges of using Ansible. It brings with it a GitOps flow, so your infrastructure repository is synced with your Ansible Stacks, and pull requests show you a preview of what they’re planning to change. It also has an extensive selection of policies, which lets you automate compliance checks and build complex multi-stack workflows.

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