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IBM’s Red Hat Reveals Ansible Automation Platform 2 Early Access

‘Automation is foundational. Not an option. Not tactical,’ Massimo Ferrari, Red Hat’s management strategy director, tells CRN in an interview. “You need automation, otherwise you won‘t be able to do many other things, whether that be DevOps, whether that be digital transformation.”

IBM subsidiary Red Hat has launched early access of Ansible Automation Platform 2 for existing and prospective customers, with Platform 2.1 expected to become generally available in November. The new platform version comes with capabilities around automation scaling, diverse environment connection and new developer tools for automation content.

Red Hat — based in Raleigh, N.C. — announced the new version of the platform during its virtual AnsibleFest 2021 event, which runs Wednesday to Thursday.

Massimo Ferrari, Red Hat’s management strategy director responsible for developing Ansible Automation Platform’s strategic product direction and fostering its partner ecosystem, told CRN in an interview that Red Hat launched the new version of the platform with simplifying how managed service providers (MSPs) build solutions on top of Ansible as part of its goals.

[RELATED: Paul Cormier On 6 Ways Partners Can Help Red Hat Dominate The Cloud ]

Ferrari views the new platform version as helping partners grow their portfolio of offerings, even combining Ansible with other vendor solutions as a “piece of a larger ecosystem.”

“Right now we are setting the foundation for partners to say, ‘Oh you know what, I have a fantastic idea, and I have this group of technologies that I can chain together and make that happen,” he said. “We want to be the standard for automation across the board.”

Red Hat’s Ansible Content Collections package of certified Ansible modules, plugins, documentation, playbooks and other content, enables about 100 supported partner platforms, double the amount a year ago, Ferrari said. Among the recent additions to the collections is a package for closed loop IT service management automation for ServiceNow.

As of May, Red Hat has about seven million active Ansible nodes under management worldwide. All airlines, 82 percent of commercial banks and 65 percent of media and technology companies in the Fortune 500 use Ansible Automation Platform, according to the company. Ansible also has more than 5,000 contributors on GitHub.

Red Hat, particularly its OpenShift offering, has been a key part of IBM’s growth strategy. Although Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM hasn’t broken out sales figures for Ansible, the tech giant did report in July that Red Hat revenue increased 20 percent year over year for the quarter ended June 30.

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said on the company’s latest earnings call that 3,200 clients using the hybrid cloud platform, almost four times the number of clients before the Red Hat acquisition announcement.

“Nearly three years since we announced the acquisition, there is no doubt this integration has been successful,” Krishna said at the time.

Kurt Sand, general manager of development operations (DevOps) security at CyberArk — a Newton, Mass.-based Red Hat and IBM partner and 2020 CRN Tech Innovator Awards finalist — told CRN in an interview that CyberArk partners with Ansible to protect and rotate credentials during enterprise infrastructure automation work.

During AnsibleFest, CyberArk will show a reference architecture it developed for best practices around using both companies’ products, Sand said.

Part of what’s kept CyberArk partnered with Ansible is its popularity and “amazingly strong community,” he said. “Any enterprise customer that CyberArk serves is likely to already have Ansible and people with Ansible skills,” he said. “The thriving community just has a lot of people that are Ansible smart so that we‘re not starting from zero.”

As Red Hat continues to invest in Ansible, Sand said he hopes the company continues to follow potential for automation as enterprises adopt combinations of public and private cloud options and other emerging technologies.

“It’s a very pervasive, general purpose automation platform,” he said. “That’s what makes it so powerful. Anywhere we go, it can come with us.”

Laura Leonti, partner manager at Bedford, Mass.-based Red Hat and IBM partner Continental Resources — also known as ConRes IT Solutions and a member of CRN’s 2021 MSP 500 — told CRN in an interview that Ansible has helped ConRes internally by minimizing repeatable tasks and manual errors, saving ConRes time and money.

For customers, Ansible has helped ConRes minimize errors and security gaps during deployments, Leonti said.

“Our customers have come to us for Ansible deployments because they need help in managing and streamlining their organizations‘ many tools and business processes,” she said. “Automation has become critical to increase speed, efficiency, productivity and accuracy.”

New Version Built For Hybrid

This new version of Ansible Automation Platform adds self-contained automation capabilities and was built for hybrid cloud scaling, according to a company statement Wednesday. The automation controller tool, formerly called Ansible Tower, allows users to scale automation on demand and systematically to reduce irregularities across the enterprise. The automation mesh feature connects diverse environments with dispersed networks to add resiliency.

Ansible Automation Platform 2 adds new collaboration and developer tools for creating, testing, distributing and managing automation content, according to the statement. In this area, Ansible Engine has been replaced with automation execution environments that deliver self-contained automation spaces to speed up automation tooling delivery across environments. Automation execution environments are also meant to reduce operational overhead and automation platform maintenance complexity in an open hybrid cloud.

The automation content navigator feature aims to help developers, administrators and other employees validate automation content faster across environments.

The Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform Operator integrates Ansible Automation Platform with Red Hat OpenShift for cloud-native deployment of automation clusters and with the goal of simpler data migration and management, according to the company.

As part of the announcements, Red Hat revealed that Red Hat Insights has gained former Automation Analytics components with new features. The advisor feature analyzes automation controllers against a set of Red Hat recommendations for system security, stability, availability and performance. The drift feature creates a baseline for configuration consistency and issue identification. And the policies feature allows for internal policy creation to identify and eliminate environment-specific scenarios.

Ferrari believes that some of the new Ansible features answer growing customer demand for automation as IT environments and applications become more complex.

“Automation is foundational. Not an option. Not tactical,” he said. “You need automation, otherwise you won‘t be able to do many other things, whether that be DevOps, whether that be digital transformation.”

 

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