Red Hat speed fiends celebrate automation

One language called Ansible to rule them all

While tech luminaries fret about the world-killing potential of self-directed computers amid galas and globetrotting, the industry's worker bees see automation as salvation from soul-killing drudgery.

So it was at AnsibleFest in San Francisco on Thursday, which proved to be more sysadmin speed evangelism than freewheeling festival – the substructure of the Marriott Marquis hotel, while spacious, fell short of a rave.

Ansible refers to an instantaneous communications device imagined by author Ursula Le Guin and to, among other things, open source IT automation software acquired by Red Hat in 2015.

Now four years old, the code serves to mechanize the arcane twiddling demanded of developers and IT operations personnel. It aims to make !@#$ing horrible computer administration easier and more productive, by saving time that might otherwise be spent on tedious command line typing and throwing things.

In introductory remarks, Dave Johnson, director of solution architecture at Red Hat, floated an unqualified appreciation for rapid operations: "Any competitive advantage we can get by moving faster is better."

Peter Sprygada, senior principal networking engineer of Ansible at Red Hat, offered similar sentiment: "When you automate, you accelerate." And Justin Nemmers, general manager of Ansible at Red Hat, sounded the same speed-drunk theme: "The key to effective IT management is automation."

Such assertions aren't entirely unexpected from people selling automation software. Nonetheless, they represent a fair approximation of industry and analyst consensus, not to mention common sense. Managing large numbers of servers, routers, and the like tends to be slow and error-prone without automation.

To underscore the real world significance of IT operational speed, Sprygada pointed to an account of how Cisco Advanced Services used Ansible in support of the US Army's Hurricane Harvey relief effort. The project, which involved the setup of Layer 2 VPNs, network state validation and a performance check, would have taken half an hour of manual configuration. It took three minutes with Ansible.

Nemmers during a press conference positioned Ansible as the universal language for automation, a tool that can bring separate systems together.

In a conversation during a break in the scheduled presentations, Galina Reznik, enterprise cloud senior program manager at Microsoft, said automation is what keeps the lights on internally at Azure and said the company is looking to expand its devops offerings to help customers connect systems not based on Microsoft technology.

Reznik noted that automation can also magnify system management burdens, because automating a system tends to be done with a separate resource that itself must be managed.

Questioned about issues with Ansible, an IT admin at a large financial services company who asked not to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak with the press said the software falls short when it comes to real-time data. If you want to see whether a configuration has changed, he said, you have to run an Ansible playbook to get that data. It's not available at a glance.

The admin said among other automation options he was aware of, such as Puppet and Chef, he really liked SaltStack, but his company had chosen Red Hat and Ansible.

This buttresses a point made by Nemmers during his presentation: that people issues – organizational intransigence, in the admin's case – represent one of the barriers to the adoption of IT automation.

The other two barriers he described were vendor-specific products and the challenge of integrating automation across organizations.

Coincident with Red Hat's celebration of automation was the obligatory introduction of products and version bumps.

Red Hat Ansible Engine, available October 1, is a service providing Ansible to enterprises. To the open source Ansible software, it adds SLAs, support, priority bug fixes and notifications, extra networking capabilities, and Red Hat Ansible Tower integration. It includes support for about 100 modules out of more than 460 available through the Ansible community.

It comes in another flavor – Red Hat Ansible Engine with advanced networking automation – which adds support for networking-specific Ansible modules from Arista (EOS), Cisco (IOS, IOS-XR, NX-OS), Juniper (Junos OS), Open vSwitch, and VyOS.

And Red Hat Ansible Tower 3.2, coming later this month, was announced along with the open source AWX project, the upstream version of Ansible Tower.

The latest iteration of Tower includes the ability to create custom views for managing machines based on their attributes and instance groups for allocating capacity to specific organizations and resources. It includes source code management capabilities to help teams manage their automation and inventory as code. It also adds custom credential types, for integrating third-party credential storage.

"We're starting to install a culture of automation across your entire environment," said Nemmers. ®

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Ransomware encrypts files, demands three good deeds to restore data
    Shut up and take ... poor kids to KFC?

    In what is either a creepy, weird spin on Robin Hood or something from a Black Mirror episode, we're told a ransomware gang is encrypting data and then forcing each victim to perform three good deeds before they can download a decryption tool.

    The so-called GoodWill ransomware group, first identified by CloudSEK's threat intel team, doesn't appear to be motivated by money. Instead, it is claimed, they require victims to do things such as donate blankets to homeless people, or take needy kids to Pizza Hut, and then document these activities on social media in photos or videos.

    "As the threat group's name suggests, the operators are allegedly interested in promoting social justice rather than conventional financial reasons," according to a CloudSEK analysis of the gang. 

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft Azure to spin up AMD MI200 GPU clusters for 'large scale' AI training
    Windows giant carries a PyTorch for chip designer and its rival Nvidia

    Microsoft Build Microsoft Azure on Thursday revealed it will use AMD's top-tier MI200 Instinct GPUs to perform “large-scale” AI training in the cloud.

    “Azure will be the first public cloud to deploy clusters of AMD's flagship MI200 GPUs for large-scale AI training,” Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said during the company’s Build conference this week. “We've already started testing these clusters using some of our own AI workloads with great performance.”

    AMD launched its MI200-series GPUs at its Accelerated Datacenter event last fall. The GPUs are based on AMD’s CDNA2 architecture and pack 58 billion transistors and up to 128GB of high-bandwidth memory into a dual-die package.

    Continue reading
  • New York City rips out last city-owned public payphones
    Y'know, those large cellphones fixed in place that you share with everyone and have to put coins in. Y'know, those metal disks representing...

    New York City this week ripped out its last municipally-owned payphones from Times Square to make room for Wi-Fi kiosks from city infrastructure project LinkNYC.

    "NYC's last free-standing payphones were removed today; they'll be replaced with a Link, boosting accessibility and connectivity across the city," LinkNYC said via Twitter.

    Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, "Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access!"

    Continue reading
  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022