Ansible Automation Story Gets Better on IBM i
March 8, 2021 Alex Woodie
When IBM and Red Hat launched support for IBM i with its Ansible automation software in July 2020, it provided about three dozen Ansible modules that supported specific actions on IBM i. The companies recently added another dozen or so Ansible updates for IBM i, making the software even more useful on the midrange server.
Ansible is an open source configuration management package originally designed to enable remote administration of Linux servers. Over time, the software has been adopted to support a wide number of operating environments, including Kubernetes orchestration environments managing Docker containers in public and private clouds.
The main advantage that Ansible brings is automation of and simplification of repetitive, complex, and tedious operations. “Everybody likes it because it brings huge time savings when we install packages or configure large numbers of servers,” writes Cédric Delgehier of software-defined storage provider OpenIO. “Its architecture is simple and effective. It works by connecting to your nodes and pushing small programs to them.”
The folks at IBM and Red Hat worked to bring Ansible to IBM i last summer. Developers with the companies created around 35 Ansible “modules” for IBM i that enabled users to automate a range of common tasks on the midrange server.
Among the tasks automated by the modules are things like copying a SAVF file to a remote IBM i node (ibmi_copy); fetching objects from the IBM i node (ibmi_fetch); IPLing an IBM i node (ibmi_reboot); running CL and SQL scripts on IBM i nodes (ibmi_script,); and synchronizing SAVF objects (ibmi_synchronize).
In late February 2020, IBM added seven new modules, including:
- ibmi_download_fix_status: Checking whether the fix downloading complete;
- ibmi_fix_compare: Verify whether the PTFs are installed;
- ibmi_fix_product_check: Check the software product installation status for a fix;
- ibmi_mirror_setup_copy: Configures the Db2 Mirror on the target node;
- ibmi_mirror_setup_source: Configures the Db2 Mirror on the source node;
- ibmi_mirror_warm_clone_activity: Performs suspend and resume activity for warm clone;
- ibmi_spooled_file_data: Returns the content of a spooled file.
On top of that, IBM has introduced nine new “roles” that can help Ansible automate IBM i activities. These include:
- capture_server_via_powervc: Capture a virtual server via PowerVC to generate a deployable image;
- change_server_state_via_powervc: Ansible role for starting, stopping a VM via PowerVC;
- configure_passwordless_ssh_login: Confgure passwordless ssh login;
- deploy_vm_via_powervc: Ansible role for deploying a VM via PowerVC;
- display_network_info_via_powervc: Ansible role for retrieving port info and corresponding subnet info by mac address;
- display_vm_info_via_powervc: Ansible role for displaying VM information via PowerVC;
- fix_repo_check_download_individual_ptfs: Check if requested individual PTFs are already in catalog. If not, will call download_individual_ptfs role to download non-existent PTFs and write the information into catalog;
- fix_repo_download_apply_individual_ptfs: Check if requested individual PTFs are already in catalog. If not, will download non-existent PTFs and write information into catalog. After that, will transfer savfs to target server, then load and apply PTFs;
- present_ip_interface: The role is to present an IP interface and make it active.
According to Steve Sibley, vice president and global offering management for IBM, Ansible is showing popularity among IBM i shops, which in turn is driving demand for more automations.
“We have more total modules on i because it’s a more complex environment, just from a capability standpoint,” Sibley told IT Jungle recently. “We are seeing very much the interest from clients.”
The Ansible software is open source and it’s free, at least for the basic components and modules. Customers can contract with Red Hat to get support for the software. They can also pay to get access to Ansible Automation Hub, which provides a GUI for monitoring and tracking Ansible activities.
In a recent Forrester Wave report on infrastructure automation, Ansible was labeled one of the leaders in the space, along with Cisco, Microsoft, and VMware. It trailed VMware, Micro Focus, BMC, Chef software, Microsoft, and Turbonomic in terms of its current offering, but Ansible ranked higher than all the other platforms in terms of its strategy.
“Ansible continues to grow quickly, particularly among enterprises that are automating networks,” Forrester notes in its report. “The solution excels at providing a variety of deployment options and acting as a service broker to a wide array of other automation tools. A robust community ecosystem contributes to Ansible’s success.” Model editing was cited as a weakness, along with documentation and the lack of modularity of the code.
You can get Ansible plug-ins and modules for IBM i at https://ibm.github.io/ansible-for-i/modules.html.