I've been working with infrastructure software for over ten years and open source nearly twice as long, and a few months ago a project caught my eye: Ansible. It appeared to fill a hole that existed in the configuration management and IT orchestration space, and the informal feedback from users I knew was universally positive. People seemed to really enjoy using the tool. So, when I learned about the creation of the company and its founders, and as close as I was to joining a different, and very fast growing startup, it was clear to me that joining Ansible was the right move.
I'll be heading up the AnsibleWorks services and support arm, responsible for most customer-facing activity in 2013. This includes professional services, training, and solutions engineering (which is what the cool kids are calling sales engineering these days). I'm really excited to get started and I am thrilled by the number of happy users and the healthy open source community that we have already.
Ansible began as an open source project in early 2012 to address some holes that Michael DeHaan saw in the configuration management, datacenter automation, and IT orchestration world. Ansible requires no agents on managed hosts, communicates over ssh with additional pluggable connection methods, and has a "batteries-included" philosophy: Ansible ships with a large number of modules that are useful out-of-the-box. Modules can be written in any language that can return JSON-formatted information, but most of the modules today are written in Python.
One of the biggest differences between Ansible and other tools is that system configurations and automation tasks are described in data, not code. We call these task lists playbooks. This has a couple of significant advantages:
- Playbooks are easy to read and write. You don't have to learn a domain-specific language or write code.
- Since the playbooks are data, they can be parsed, edited, and manipulated as data.
- The playbooks are simple enough to understand that even non-technical people can review the information and understand what is going on.
AnsibleWorks is going to be focused on providing world-class services and support for Ansible, as well as continued product development on Ansible and other tools built around the core platform. This year we'll have a series of training courses throughout the United States and online in a webinar-style format, as well as several services offerings designed to get your IT orchestration project up and running as quickly and easily as possible.
Ansible has a couple of unique features that lead to some very interesting capabilities. Number one, we can communicate with any device that offers an SSH connection, or any platform that exposes an API: SOAP, REST, or other. This means Ansible has the ability to manage things other than just physical, virtual, or cloud hosts. It can also control networking hardware: firewalls, switches, and load balancers. Storage devices which expose an API or shell interface can be managed, too. All of this power is increased by Ansible's ability to orchestrate multiple tiers of an IT environment holistically, not just individual hosts one at a time.
Our long-term vision for Ansible and related products is a full-featured IT orchestration, auto services, and configuration a management suite that can orchestrate all of your IT tasks, end-to-end. This year you're going to see additional support for networking devices, cloud management platforms, storage, and more. We want to make IT orchestration radically simple, and expand the idea of automation to more than just your servers. We want to provide a user-friendly and powerful way to handle continuous configuration management, software deployment, and those inevitable one-off tasks that can burn up so much administration time.
I'm honored to be a part of a game-changing platform like Ansible, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the continued growth of the open source community. I'm excited to see all of the creative ways that people apply this technology, and all of the interesting devices that Ansible will be able to automate and orchestrate.