Red Hat gives Ansible a generative AI front end and adds stream processing features
Ansible, the open-source automation tool that is the leading software used to automate software provisioning, configuration management and application deployment, is getting real-time, event-driven processing capabilities and an artificial intelligence-enabled front end in a series of announcements by Red Hat Inc. this week.
Ansible Lightspeed with IBM Watson Code Assistant keys off the industry’s current fascination with generative AI sparked by the success of OpenAI LP’s ChatGPT large language model. These models enable seemingly humanlike responses to queries, create credible summaries from articles and even can generate software code, among other things.
The new function makes it easier for novice Ansible users to automate tasks and thereby removes the burden of creating low-level tasks from automation professionals, Red Hat said. English commands can be used to generate the YAML commands used in the automated task lists called Ansible Playbooks.
Ansible simplifies information technology infrastructure management, configuration management and application deployment by enabling tasks to be automated and deployed in code. Using natural language processing, the new service will integrate with IBM’s Watson Code Assistant, which simplifies application development by providing AI-generated recommendations. The service is expected to be generally available later this year.
Bridging the skills gap
“There is a large and growing skills gap, and at the same time IT operations teams are being required to think differently than they historically have thought,” said Tom Anderson, vice president and general manager of the Ansible business at Red Hat. “Their world is getting more complex and they’re dealing with more data centers and the edge. They’re trying to use older practices to manage newer complexity and those two things aren’t matching up real well.”
Red Hat parent IBM’s own IT organization has been using Lightspeed and saw a 60% productivity improvement in IT operations, Anderson said. Red Hat sees the technology as benefiting both operations professionals and end-users. “It really has two sides to it: making your existing people more productive and bringing more people into the world of automation by lowering the competency bar,” he said.
Event-driven Ansible, which will become a standard part of the Ansible Automation Platform 2.4, can be used to take action on data captured in real-time, such as event logs and alerts. It enables IT operators to predetermine and define rules to trigger automated actions in situations like unresponsive system processes or unauthorized access requests. Multiple events can be chained together into more complex automation actions.
Useful for observability
“There are tons of observability tools out there and they’ve gotten better and better,” Anderson said. “Let’s make it easy to connect those observability tools to the Ansible automation platform to remediate mundane and repetitive tasks and free up your ops team to work on innovation problems.”
Red Hat intends to support all popular observability platforms such as those from Dynatrace LLC and Datadog Inc. It can also be used with popular streaming platforms such as Apache Kafka.
“We’ve created a rules engine and event capture that can kick off rules-based workflows to be able to determine the proper playbook to run against a situation,” Anderson said. “Most customers have an event manager already correlating hundreds of thousands of events distilling them down into a single incident. They are able to transmit that incident into the event-driven Ansible through the rulebook, which has the logic to say which playbook should be run.”
Anderson said Ansible’s agentless event-driven automation is particularly useful in shop floor environments where so-called edge devices need to be managed in real time. “We do lots of work in the retail area around cash registers and kiosks as well as on oil drilling platforms,” he said. “There are many use cases where the companies do not have the IT staff to take care of things.”
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