Today marks an important milestone for Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform subscribers: The initial release of Red Hat-maintained Ansible Content Collections have been published to Automation Hub for automating select platforms from Arista, AWS, Cisco, IBM, Juniper, Splunk and more. The addition of these 17 Red Hat-maintained Collections on Automation Hub brings the total number to 47 Collections certified and published since September 2019. Finally, we are thrilled to have Ansible Collections for automating Red Hat Insights and Red Hat Satellite included as part of this release as well.
Why is this significant? First, it is important to understand that the Ansible project has recently completed an effort to decouple the Ansible executable from most of the content, and all migrated content now resides in new upstream repositories on GitHub. This change has had a ripple effect on backend development, testing, publishing, and maintenance on Ansible content. The good news is that now features of high quality, can be delivered more quickly, asynchronously from Ansible releases.
Today’s announcement highlights the successful culmination of the following:
- Migration of Ansible-maintained content from Ansible project to Collections.
- Releasing new features and functionality since Ansible 2.9, without having to wait until Ansible 2.10.
- Publishing of these fully supported Collections to Automation Hub for Ansible subscribers to download and install, while continuing to enable the community to contribute via Ansible Galaxy.
The end result is a set of fully supported Ansible Content Collections that include new feature enablement tested against stable Ansible releases. No longer do Red Hat customers need to wait 6-8 months for Ansible releases in order to consume new or updated Platform content. This also allows for the underlying Ansible execution engine to track for much longer release cadences in order to maintain stability, while content can be released at its own cadence.
A Quick History, and Moving Forward
We announced at AnsibleFest Atlanta 2019 the foundational pieces that allow developers to create Ansible Content Collections as part of the Ansible 2.9 upstream release, and subsequently in the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform product release. The writing was on the wall: The Ansible project was about to undergo extreme change, and Collections was the path forward. There is no doubt community and developer contributions have made Ansible what it is today, but in order to continue to expand and scale, a disaggregated approach to “execution vs. content” had to be made in order for the Ansible open source project to continue on its growth path. This change was necessary and inevitable; Ansible had 2,000+ outstanding pull requests and 4,000+ open issues. The project was becoming difficult to triage, manage, and update given that most approved changes had to go through a small group of project maintainers, which were often seen as gatekeepers that could not cope with the flood of contributions, issues, or requests. With changes now in place, the Ansible project maintainers can now focus on hardening, security, and performance improvements, while module, plugin, and role developers can release updated content at their own development cadence.
As my colleague Brad Thornton said in an Ansible team chat channel, “I went on to tell my friends how excited I am about our Collections release and how we are trying to split the ‘how Ansible works’ from the ‘what Ansible can do,’ and built a team around that vision.”
We hear similar asks frequently from our enterprise customers - they want to worry less about the underlying “plumbing” and more about how to implement what Ansible enables across an IT organization. An enterprise automation strategy needs to span multiple domains, functions, and departments, and Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform was designed to enable teams to get automating quickly and efficiently.
The following Collections are now available and each are written, tested and maintained by Red Hat:
- amazon.aws - Amazon AWS collection
- ansible.netcommon - Ansible Netcommon collection
- ansible.posix - Ansible Posix collection
- ansible.tower - Ansible Tower collection
- arista.eos - Arista EOS collection
- cisco.asa - Cisco ASA collection
- cisco.ios - Cisco IOS collection
- cisco.iosxr - Cisco IOS XR collection
- cisco.nxos - Cisco NX OS collection
- frr.frr - Free Range Routing collection
- ibm.qradar - IBM Qradar collection
- junipernetworks.junos - Juniper JunOS collection
- openvswitch.openvswitch - OpenvSwitch collection
- redhat.insights - Red Hat Insights collection
- redhat.satellite - Red Hat Satellite collection
- splunk.es - Splunk Enterprise Security collection
- vyos.vyos - VyOs collection
Full information about these collections can be found in the following Knowledgebase Article: https://access.redhat.com/articles/4993781
These Collections are fully supported by Red Hat and available with a Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform subscription. The equivalent open source versions are also available on Ansible Galaxy for community consumption. We are extremely excited to have Red Hat Insights and Red Hat Satellite Collections published as well, which provide Red Hat Insights and Red Hat Satellite customers end-to-end support with an Ansible subscription. We are planning for Collections to soon have their own extended support lifecycles to provide enterprises with content that is low risk and maintains backward compatibility. More information on this will be provided later this year.
Please note that each of these Collections have many interesting features that have been added. Stay tuned for follow-up deep dive blog posts that go into more detail on many popular network, security, and cloud platforms.
Summary / Wrap Up
This release marks a milestone that addresses many challenges we’ve heard over the past few years. We believe with recent upstream project changes, combined with downstream product enhancements, Red Hat customers benefit from the following:
- Flexibility on feature development and release, while maintaining compatibility and stability against current Ansible versions
Decoupling content from the executable also means decoupling the support roadmap of the content from the executable, enabling content to be supported immediately on the current Ansible releases (and tested on future ones).
- Better clarity on what content is fully supported vs. certified vs. community supported
A good rule of thumb is if the content is downloaded from Automation Hub it is either fully supported (Red Hat-maintained) or certified (partner-maintained), which means that Red Hat Support may be engaged to assist with any issues via a Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform subscription. Please note that content on Ansible Galaxy is community supported.
- Strengthening developer communities without the “red tape” or project overhead
Ansible community contributors were already organizing themselves to best align with their interests, and now they can now have more freedom to contribute without lag or wait for merging into the project. Collections themselves can now become their own sub-communities, without the overhead.
Resources and More Information
- Register now for a webinar on July 14, 2020 that goes into detail around the supported collections, and an update from Ansible Engineering on the collections framework in general. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the Ansible Webinars and Training page.
- If you are an active community contributor, a new addition to the Community Developer Guide, “Contributing to Ansible-maintained Collections” provides clarification on where and how to publish issues, and criteria for consideration.
- Read the press release formally announcing the newly added Ansible Content Collections to Automation Hub as well as the components that were recently added to Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform.
- More information on Partner Certified and Red Hat Supported Ansible Collections, via knowledgebase article.