Red Hat Ansible: Standardization And Automation
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Red Hat Ansible: Standardization And Automation

Digital transformation requires the standardization of IT landscapes and the automation of processes - and this applies to the SAP ecosystem as well. With standard tools like Red Hat Ansible, it is possible to achieve quick wins.

IT departments face a common set of problems. The current situation at most of them involves a wide array of different applications and tools, and IT silos are widespread. Company departments often act independently and are not subject to control, which leads to the development of shadow IT. This results in inflexible, slow, and error-prone processes as well as high security risks.

What are the options available to address these challenges?

Automation is a hot topic in this area. Companies want – or rather need – to automate. The driving factors are gains in efficiency as well as reliable, standardized reproducibility and traceability. In addition, automation is meant to provide the basis for DevOps and self-service models.

It is imperative that you view automation as a comprehensive approach, because automated silos are still silos and do not lead to the desired results. The stated task is to consistently automate previously fully separate, stand-alone tools.

This requires a great deal of independent specialist know-how, which is usually found within a number of different departments and employees. Coordination problems, delays, and incompatibility issues are bound to happen.

Red Hat Ansible Automation provides the perfect solution to meet these challenges, which significantly reduces costs in workflow management.

Red Hat Ansible Automation

Ansible can combine many different playbooks and roles in a single workflow. This way, every unit of an IT department can map its specific competencies in matching playbooks that can then be integrated into complex processes without affecting other units.

The possibilities available are best demonstrated by the automation of Hana deployments and configurations. The Hana in-memory database provides precise set-up requirements that are documented in SAP Notes. SAP defines all set-up guidelines for all platforms in SAP Notes, which contain many manual steps.

This creates the risk that one or more system-specific notes may be missed or misinterpreted. In addition, SAP only supports production systems if the steps outlined in SAP Notes are consistently observed and documented.

Here are the basic steps involved in the standard installation process for Hana: provision of hardware and/or setup of a VM; installation and configuration of the basic operating system Red Hat Enterprise Linux; installation and configuration of Hana; and system validation and customization. The application can then be incorporated into the regular maintenance cycle.

Automation with Ansible can significantly improve this time-consuming and complex process. It is possible to reduce the time required to set up a Hana system from days to minutes.

Ansible can be used to fully automate the steps involved in the configuration of the operating system, installation, and configuration of Hana, as well as validation and customization. Migrating the relevant SAP Notes to Ansible Playbooks and Ansible Roles serves as the basis for the automation process.

Red Hat Ansible Tower

The core component of the automation process is Red Hat Ansible Tower. RESTful APIs and a self-service portal are used to integrate the solution into existing tools and processes, making it suitable for use across the entire company.

In addition to automating complex workflow scenarios, Ansible Tower offers the central management of inventories, playbooks, and credentials, role-based access control, and an end-to-end audit trail.

Red Hat Ansible is suitable for smaller environments or systems as well as for complex environments. This means the solution supports the dynamic addition of new machines and, with just a few changes, larger environments can be set up and configured.

Other Ansible roles let users install scale-up and scale-out environments with Hana system replication and an accompanying high-availability connection via Pacemaker.

In addition to fully automated deployment, Ansible, in combination with Red Hat Satellite, supports configuration management during operation as well as patch and release management. Red Hat Ansible is designed to deliver the best results in terms of user-friendliness and security.

Getting started with Ansible playbook development is quick and easy. Changes made to the playbooks are continuously tested using a developer platform. Every change likewise generates multiple scenarios, such as scale-up, scale-out, system replication, and pacemaker, and tests whether the process is being successfully carried out.

Along with this, staging methods are supported. For example, identical environments can be set up in the cloud for error-free configuration and quality assurance or for testing patches, upgrades and migrations.

This is the fourth article of a series! To read the first part, click here. To read the next part, click here.

E-3 Magazine October 2019 (German)

About the author

Thomas Bludau, SVA

Thomas Bludau is System Engineer at SVA System Vertrieb Alexander GmbH.

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