Last updated on September 22nd, 2023 at 10:58 am.
Ansible Tutorial for Beginners: A Comprehensive Introduction
Welcome to this Ansible tutorial for beginners! If you’re new to Ansible or want to learn how to use it effectively, you’re in the right place. In this tutorial, we’ll cover everything from the basics to advanced concepts, so by the end, you’ll be comfortable using Ansible for various automation tasks.
Getting Started with Ansible
What is Ansible?
Ansible is an automation tool, specifically an agentless automation tool. It’s designed to configure, deploy, and provision remote systems seamlessly. Imagine you need to install Nginx, Apache, or deploy WordPress on a remote server. Instead of manually installing these on each server, Ansible automates the entire process. All you need is Ansible installed on your local computer, and then you create an Ansible Playbook – a configuration file that instructs the remote server on what actions to take.
Why is Ansible Agentless?
Ansible stands out as an agentless tool, meaning you don’t need to install anything on the remote server except Python. Once Python is installed on the remote server and SSH is set up (as Ansible communicates via SSH, especially with Linux), Ansible can efficiently communicate with and manage the server.
Key Ansible Terminology
Before diving deeper, let’s clarify some essential Ansible terms:
- Control Node: This is where Ansible is installed and where it runs. It can be your local computer, a server, or even a virtual machine.
- Managed Nodes: These are the remote systems that Ansible manages and automates tasks on. Essentially, any resource you add to your inventory files for Ansible to work on is considered a managed node.
- Inventory: An inventory file contains a list of hosts for all your managed nodes. You can group these hosts based on categories, such as web servers, mail servers, or database servers.
Ansible’s power lies in its versatility. It can be used for various tasks, including provisioning, configuring, and deploying. While Terraform is commonly associated with provisioning, Ansible can also handle this task through plugins. You can use Ansible to provision resources on cloud platforms like AWS, provided there’s an Ansible plugin available.
Recap of Ansible
In summary, Ansible is an agentless automation tool capable of automating tasks on remote systems, whether they’re servers, routers, or any device with SSH capabilities. You can use it on Windows and Linux systems alike.
Remember these key points:
- Control Node: The system where Ansible is installed and executed.
- Managed Nodes: The remote systems Ansible manages.
- Inventory: A file listing all the hosts for your managed nodes, often organized into groups.
With this foundation, you’re ready to dive deeper into Ansible’s capabilities and create your own automation solutions.
Stay tuned for the next part of this tutorial, where we’ll explore Ansible Playbooks and delve into practical use cases.
Video captions for What is Ansible
Here’s the video transcription:
“Hi there, and welcome to this Ansible tutorial for beginners. If you don’t know how to use Ansible, this is a tutorial for you, because I’m going to go through everything from scratch. So, if you don’t know how to use it, you’re going to learn everything you need to learn to use Ansible and get to a point of comfort.
If you don’t know how to use Ansible, you’ll see how to use it, where you can use it, and what you can do with it. So, I will put all the notes, if I have any notes, I will put all the notes on this page. Of course, I will provide the link in the description or in the resources, depending on where you’re watching it from. If you’re watching on Udemy, of course, you’ll find it in the resource link. If you’re watching on YouTube, you’ll find the links in the description.
So, let’s just get started right away. What is Ansible?
Ansible is an automation tool. To be specific, it is an agentless automation tool. It can be used to configure, deploy, provision remote systems. So, what does that mean? Let’s say you want to install Nginx, Apache, or even if you want to deploy WordPress on a remote server. You want to deploy it like a load balancer in different regions, different server resources in different regions. So, instead of going in and installing Nginx on each server, then moving on to the next server, you can use Ansible to automate the entire process. All you’ll have to do is, on your computer, you’ll install Ansible and then create what is called an Ansible playbook. So, we’re going to see all this. Don’t worry about anything you don’t understand. You’re going to see all this at some point. Then you’re going to create, write a playbook. A playbook is just like a configuration file that tells the remote server what to do. For instance, you can tell it to install Nginx, start Nginx, move something from GitHub, put it here, copy something from this link into this folder. So, that’s something you can do with Ansible, and you can do it in Ansible playbooks.
Let’s look at some terms about Ansible. Ansible is agentless. What does this mean? By being agentless, it means that you don’t have to install Ansible on the remote server. On this remote server, all you’ll need for Ansible to work and communicate to the remote server is Python.
Once you install Python on each of these servers, Ansible can communicate with these servers and give them the directives to make them do something, maybe install something, update something, and so on. Other automation tools will usually require that you have an agent on the server to enable communication with the automation tool. But for Ansible, all you have to do on the remote server is have Python installed and make sure you have some form of SSH because Ansible, especially with Linux, will usually communicate via SSH. So, as long as you have SSH installed, SSH running on your remote server, and you have Python installed on the remote server, then you can automatically deploy anything within it. You can automate any tasks within that resource. So, I’m going to assume you know what it means to be agentless.
And where you’re going to run it is called the control node. Now, the control node is where Ansible is installed, and this is where it will run the Ansible playbooks, Ansible roles. Let’s just call them configuration files. The Ansible configuration files are written in YAML. So, these configuration files are what you’re going to use to communicate with the remote resources. So, the control node, this is where Ansible is installed, and this could be your computer. It could be a server. You can even install it on a virtual machine and just use that for deploying results, for running Ansible and automating different tasks using that virtual machine. So, it doesn’t have to be your local computer, but usually, in most cases, you’ll probably be working with Ansible on your local computer. And then, managed nodes. You need to understand the meaning of managed nodes. Now, a managed node is a resource, the remote system that Ansible automates. Any resource that you add to your inventory files for Ansible to automate something on, that is a managed node. So, the control node is where Ansible is installed. The managed node is where Ansible will do something on a remote system. And then, we have inventory. Now, the inventory file, this is a file that has the hosts for all your managed nodes. So, if you have database servers, you have web servers, email servers, all of them, you will declare them inside an inventory file. And that’s what you’re going to see how to do next. You’ll put them in an inventory file, and Ansible will just pass the inventory file and then do whatever it is directed to do. So, Ansible can be used to provision, configure, deploy, among other things.
With provisioning, you’ve probably heard that mostly Terraform is used, but you can use Ansible as well. There are plugins that enable you to use Ansible to provision resources. And by resources, I mean something like AWS servers and any other cloud provider that has an Ansible plugin. So, just a recap, what is Ansible? Ansible is an agentless automation tool that is used to automate remote systems. So, the remote system, as you said, could be a server. It can even be a router, anything that can run SSH, you can automate with Ansible, Windows, Linux, all that. And just a recap of this: Control node, you said this is where Ansible runs. It could be a virtual machine; it could be your local computer. And then the managed nodes, these are the resources that are being manipulated by Ansible. And then, the inventory, the inventory file, this is where you’re going to declare all your hosts, and you can group them in your inventory file. Maybe you have web servers. There’s a way you’re going to see how to group them, where web servers, mail servers, database servers. You can group them, and when you’re running your playbooks, you’ll just choose which particular group you want to run Ansible on, and you’re going to see that at some point. So, that’s it for this part. Let’s continue in the next part.”