Introducing the Event-Driven Ansible developer preview

October 19, 2022 by Joe Pisciotta

Today at AnsibleFest 2022, Red Hat announced an exciting new developer preview for Event-Driven Ansible. Most customers are on a journey toward full end-to-end automation and there are many paths you take along this journey.  Event-Driven Ansible is a new way to enhance and expand automation. It improves IT speed and agility, while enabling consistency and resilience. 

By fully automating necessary but routine tasks, you and your team will have more time to focus on interesting engineering challenges and new innovations. For example, what if you no longer needed to pause critical work to manually add technical detail to  a service ticket?  Or address a user password reset request? Or reset a router as a first troubleshooting step? With Event-Driven Ansible, the friction in your day can be dramatically reduced, leaving more time to work on important projects, with some added work-life balance.  

 

Why a developer preview? 

The Event-Driven Ansible technology was developed by Red Hat and is available on GitHub as a developer preview. Community input is essential. Since we are building a solution to best meet your needs, we’re providing an opportunity for you to advocate for those needs. We ask that both technology providers and end users give it a try and tell us what you think. There are several ways you can give feedback - via comments in GitHub, during our office hours on November 16, 2022, or via the event-driven-automation@redhat.com email. 

 

Event-driven automation is part of an ecosystem

Any event-driven solution must be able to work within multi-vendor environments. So, we ask technology partners to not only try the Event-Driven Ansible developer preview, but also begin building Ansible Content Collections so that our solutions complement each other and make it faster and easier for joint customers to use them.  New and existing partners can learn more in this blog

 

Designed for simplicity

Event-Driven Ansible is designed for simplicity and flexibility, much like we offer today in Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform.  What do we mean by this for Event-Driven Ansible? 

Until now, most event driven and “self-healing” automation projects have been complex and time-consuming to deliver because much of the solution is custom developed to meet a singular need. For example, automatically shut down network firewalls when certain activity patterns occur, then notify responsible teams.  This is a great and essential solution–for this one need. 

Event-Driven Ansible is designed to be more flexible with faster and more cost-effective ways to stand up new automation projects across any use case.  By writing an Ansible Rulebook (similar to Ansible Playbooks, but more oriented to “if-then”  scenarios) and allowing Event-Driven Ansible to subscribe to an event listening source, your teams can more quickly and easily automate a variety of tasks across the organization.

Think of it like a crescent wrench: a single tool that is easy to adjust to different size bolts.  Same idea here - a single automation tool that addresses a broad variety of IT automation needs. 

 

What is Event-Driven Ansible?

Event-Driven Ansible is a highly scalable, flexible automation capability that works with event sources such as other software vendors’  monitoring tools. In an automatic remediation use case, these vendor tools watch your IT solutions and identify “events,” such as an outage. Event-Driven Ansible documents your team’s technical information on how you want to act on the identified event (an outage in our example) as rules in Ansible Rulebooks. When this event (outage) occurs, Event-Driven Ansible  matches the rule to the “event” (the outage), and automatically implements the documented changes or response in the rulebook to handle the event. In our outage example, this may be an action such as resetting or rebooting the non-responding asset.



There are three major building blocks in the Event-Driven Ansible model,  sources, rules and actions that play key roles in completing the workflow described above:

  • Sources are third party vendor tools that provide the events. They define and identify where events occur, then pass them to Event-Driven Ansible.  Current source support includes Prometheus, Sensu, Red Hat solutions, webhooks and Kafka, as well as custom “bring your own” sources.
  • Rules document your desired handling of the event via Ansible Rulebooks. They use familiar YAML-like structures and follow an “if this then that” model.  Ansible Rulebooks may call Ansible Playbooks or have direct module execution functions.
  • Actions are the result of executing the Ansible Rulebook’s instructions when the event occurs. 

 

More about integrations

Event-Driven Ansible allows you to subscribe to sources, listen for events and then act on those events. Currently we have a number of source plugins that have been created and can be used. 

We are enabling events from partner technologies by providing event source plugins for webhooks and for Kafka. Many partner tools can utilize Kafka and webhooks for integration into the Event-Driven Ansible ecosystem. Once Event-Driven Ansible receives events from these sources, it can allocate rules against them from the instructions you have specified in Ansible Rulebooks. Technology providers can also develop event source plugins, which more directly integrate their tools with Event-Driven Ansible and distribute them via Content Collections.

Open source plugins are also supported. These plugins enable Event-Driven Ansible to process a number of different events. They include: 

  • Kafka for event streams
  •  webhooks
  • watchdog, a file system watcher
  • url_check to check the status of a url 
  • Range, an event generation plugin
  • File, which loads facts from YAML
  • Roadmap integrations support processing from the cloud service providers

In addition to all these integrations that enable events to prompt action, it is important to note that Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform does not require an agent to be present on a target solution receiving an automated action.  This is convenient and ideal for technologies that cannot host an agent, such as an edge device or network router— and it makes Event-Driven Ansible a simpler solution to deploy. 

 

Starting small, thinking big: recommended use cases 

Red Hat often recommends a “start small, think big” approach to growing your automation maturity and Even-Driven Ansible is no exception. We think IT service management is a great place to start and we suggest you look for simple tasks that get repeated very often to see the most benefit.  

You can use Event-Driven Ansible Rulebooks to enhance service tickets, do basic remediation of tickets and issues and also manage the variety of end-user requests that you receive everyday, like password resets.  

 Additionally, you can automate use cases across all of the common areas where you automate today – infrastructure, network, cloud, security, and edge – for service management and other tasks.  Once you get the basics down, growing the number, scope and sophistication of your Ansible Rulebooks is easy.  

 

Getting started and sharing feedback

Start by reviewing this web page where you will find more details on Event-Driven Ansible and can access additional resources such as a self-paced lab, how-to-video and more details about this solution. You will also find a registration link to our first Office Hours event, where you can ask questions and learn tips and techniques.  

Once you have some familiarity, use the developer preview code found here. In summary, your basic steps will be to download and install Event-Driven Ansible from the GitHub repository, configure sources of events so Event-Driven Ansible is subscribed, write your Ansible Rulebook(s) and start listening to events. Review this blog for more detail and getting started information.  

As a community project, we ask for your feedback through GitHub comments, on our Office Hours, or via email at event-driven-automation@redhat.com

 

Looking ahead for Event-Driven Ansible 

While this technology is a community project, we have bigger ideas to shape this capability to meet your needs.  In addition, we hope to integrate Event-Driven Ansible as a component in Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform in the future. With Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, you could gain access to all the platform has to offer, including RBAC and other controls, and the ability to use a single automation platform even more flexibly for both manually-initiated automation via Ansible Playbooks and also for your fully automated actions via Ansible Rulebooks.   

I hope this has provided a good overview of Event-Driven Ansible.  These resources can help you learn more:

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Event Driven Automation


 

Joe Pisciotta

Joe is the Product Manager for event-driven automation solutions from Red Hat. He has a comprehensive background in architecting and delivering IT solutions for his customers. Joe previously worked in Red Hat® consulting services where he worked with clients (primarily large financial customers) to architect advanced automation and container platform solutions, including event-driven approaches to IT automation.

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