As we have explored in our previous article, Red Hat Insights is an invaluable (and free) tool to finding and identifying potential security, performance, availability and scalability issues in your RHEL environment. Registering a host in Insights will enable it to be continually scanned for vulnerabilities and known configuration conflicts. It can help you save a lot of time locating areas that will require remediation.
Red Hat Insights is available for free with RHEL subscriptions for versions 6.4 and higher. It discovers bugs and issues according to an ever-expanding knowledge base crowdsourced from system runtime configuration metadata. Only the minimum data that is needed for analysis and issue identification is collected. It can be used with any RHEL environment except for embedded RHEL and is available for on-premise and cloud deployments.
However, we’d be mistaken if we positioned Insights as a RHEL user’s only tool for saving time on bug fixes. Insights is a natural complement to automated functions provided by Ansible and comes with pre-created playbooks to automate fixes for bugs that it uncovers. We have been providing input to Red Hat on the development of their products over the past 15 years and can definitively say that this integration is something to get excited about.
What are Ansible and playbooks?
To start, Ansible is Red Hat’s open source IT automation technology. Ansible Automation Platform (which includes both Ansible Engine and Ansible Tower) is available to purchase and provides additional features built on top of Ansible, such as a REST API for integration with existing tools, a user-friendly interface, and visual dashboards. It makes implementing Ansible automation at enterprise scale possible and helps it live up to its goal to automate anything IT, even in large or complex environments.
Image source: Red Hat
Ansible playbooks inform Ansible what to accomplish using Ansible automation modules. They can lay out policies for automated enforcement or steps to complete in IT processes. They are developed in basic text and feature a human-readable YAML format intended to model your processes. Essentially, they are a recipe for Ansible to follow to carry out your policies and processes on groups of hosts. Playbooks accommodate distinct plays that dictate different host groups for different actions, resulting in the ability to automate more and more complex tasks and processes.
Insights’ free playbooks
To make issue remediation in RHEL easy and fast, Red Hat provides free, pre-written Ansible playbooks in Insights to address problems acknowledged in its rules base. Playbooks are made available as rules are created in Insights based off incoming metadata. Then, if you create a Plan in Insights, any available playbooks can be combined into one comprehensive playbook that will direct Ansible to automatically fix acknowledged issues in your environment.
In the case that there is no available Ansible playbook yet for your issue, Insights will bring it to your attention for manual resolution.
We recommend that those who are operating RHEL at enterprise scale consider implementing Ansible Automation Platform to make the most of what Insights has to offer and relieve significant burden via automation. While Insights on its own is useful to uncover issues, Ansible can provide the means to quickly fix issues around the clock, reducing your downtime and improving performance and security.
There is endless opportunity to automate IT processes with Ansible but only one or two of our customers are actually using it in conjunction with Insights to optimize their remediation processes in RHEL. This huge missed opportunity inspired us to write this blog post and to reach out to our customers personally about it. Our team has used it and they appreciate how much time and effort it can save in the long run, especially for sprawling enterprise environments with large numbers of hosts.
Interested in learning more about Ansible Automation Platform for your enterprise? Get in touch with us and we are happy to help. You can also learn more about a real enterprise use case and more about harnessing the power of Ansible automation with this analysis of cost savings and business benefits.