Getting Started With Ansible Content Collections

November 14, 2019 by Colin McNaughton

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With the release of Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, Ansible Content Collections are now fully supported. Ansible Content Collections, or collections, represent the new standard of distributing, maintaining and consuming automation. By combining multiple types of Ansible content (playbooks, roles, modules, and plugins), flexibility and scalability are greatly improved.

 

Who Benefits?

Everyone!

Traditionally, module creators have had to wait for their modules to be marked for inclusion in an upcoming Ansible release or had to add them to roles, which made consumption and management more difficult. By shipping modules within Ansible Content Collections along with pertinent roles and documentation, and removing the barrier to entry, creators are now able to move as fast as the demand for their creations. For a public cloud provider, this means new functionality of an existing service or a new service altogether, can be rolled out along with the ability to automate the new functionality.

For the automation consumer, this means that fresh content is continuously made available for consumption. Managing content in this manner also becomes easier as modules, plugins, roles, and docs are packaged and tagged with a collection version. Modules can be updated, renamed, improved upon; roles can be updated to reflect changes in module interaction; docs can be regenerated to reflect the edits and all are packaged and tagged together. 

On top of this, before collections, it was not uncommon for modules to break or lack timely updates needed to interact with the services they were interfacing with. This often required Ansible users or Ansible Tower administrators to run multiple versions of Ansible in virtual environments in order to consume a patch that addressed a module issue. Ansible Content Collections bring stability and predictability by breaking modules out from the core distribution.

For automated organizations, this means that certified content is readily available to be applied to use-cases ripe for automation from day one.

 

Where to Find Collections

With the launch of Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, Automation Hub will be the source for certified collections. Additionally, collections creators can also package and distribute content on Ansible Galaxy. Ultimately, it is up to the creator to decide the delivery mechanism for their content, with Automation Hub being the only source for Red Hat Certified Collections. Find more information regarding obtaining certified collections from Automation Hub here. 

A Closer Look at Collections

An Ansible Content Collection can be described as a package format for Ansible content:

Screen Shot 2019-11-13 at 4.11.45 PM

 This format has a simple, predictable data structure, with a straightforward definition:

  • docs/: local documentation for the collection
  • galaxy.yml: source data for the MANIFEST.json that will be part of the collection package
  • playbooks/: playbooks reside here 
    • tasks/: this holds 'task list files' for include_tasks/import_tasks usage
  • plugins/: all ansible plugins and modules go here, each in its own subdir
  • roles/: directory for ansible roles
  • tests/: tests for the collection's content

More information regarding collection metadata

 

Interacting with Collections

In addition to downloading collections through the browser, the `ansible-galaxy` command line utility has been updated to manage collections, providing much of the same functionality as has always been present to manage, create and consume roles. For example, `ansible-galaxy collection init` can be used to create a starting point for a new user created collection.

IMG_0284

Along with the correct directory structure to start creating a collection from, this command also generates a metadata file that will be used while building the collection with namespace and collection name pre-populated:

Screen Shot 2019-11-13 at 4.10.36 PM

 

Where to Go Next

Ansible Content Collections were first introduced as tech preview in Ansible Engine 2.8 and are now fully supported in Ansible Engine 2.9 and are an integral part of Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform. Collections allow Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform to offer certified, stable content in order to continue expanding use cases for automation. Future posts will dive deeper into developing new collections and converting existing roles into collections.

Want to learn more about how you can get up and running faster with Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform?

Register for Get up and running with Ansible Content Collections webinar Dec. 3, 2019.

 

Additional Resources

Collections fully supported within Ansible and documentation is available for consuming and developing Ansible Content Collections here:

AnsibleFest 2019 in Atlanta also highlighted stories and sessions featuring collections:

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Topics:
Product Features, Getting Started, Ansible Automation, Ansible Automation Platform


 

Colin McNaughton

Colin McNaughton is a Principal Technical Marketing Manager for Ansible Automation. Colin has been with Red Hat for 7 years and, prior to this position, served as a Solution Architect in the southeast helping organizations grow their automation strategy. He has lived in NC for the past decade with his wife and two kids.


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