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In DevOps Last updated: April 27, 2023
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Any discussion about automation in IT operations cannot be complete without Ansible and Kubernetes. Although these two tools serve different purposes, they have truly revolutionized the software development cycle. So let’s get to these tools in detail. 

What is Ansible?

Ansible, originally the brainchild of Michael DeHaa, is currently ranked on GitHub as one of the top 100 most popular projects. It is well-liked for its simple language and ease of use. Today, Ansible has gained widespread adoption as the de facto benchmark for IT automation.

Thriving in an open-source community, the tool has experienced noteworthy development, offering solutions to operators, administrators, and IT decision-makers across diverse technical environments.

ansible beginner

Consequently, prominent organizations such as Twitter, eBay, Verizon, NASA, ILM, Rackspace, and Electronic Arts extensively employ this tool. Due to its success, Red Hat acquired Ansible in 2015.

Ansible makes configuration management, application deployment, and task automation uncomplicated. In modern digital environments, DevOps professionals often leverage it for resource provisioning to execute an infrastructure-as-code (IaC) approach for seamless software delivery.

Here are some of the ways Ansible can be used: 

  1. Configuration management: With Ansible, defining the desired configurations for servers, networking devices, and other infrastructure components is child’s play. It can also automatically and consistently play these configurations across multiple systems, thereby ensuring a standardized structure and compliance. 
  2. Application deployment: Ansible makes application deployment a breeze by automating the process across different environments, from development to testing to production. Tasks like installing software, configuring databases, and setting up networking are taken care of with a few commands. 
  3. Task automation: Say goodbye to manual, repetitive tasks! Ansible allows IT teams to automate a wide range of tasks, such as patching systems, managing backups, creating user accounts, and restarting services. This frees up your team to focus on more strategic initiatives.
  4. Infrastructure provisioning: Dynamic provisioning and configuration of resources, such as virtual machines, cloud instances, and network devices, based on demand can be tedious. However, Ansible comes to your rescue again and can scale up or down your infrastructure efficiently.
  5. Orchestration: Ansible shines in managing complex deployments that involve multiple systems. It can stage intricate workflows to handle tasks such as deploying multi-tier applications, and rolling out updates across a distributed environment, thus, managing network devices in a coordinated manner.

Benefits of Ansible

  • Simple to learn and use: As the playbooks use YAML, they are fairly easy to write, allowing amateurs as well as experts to have fun with it. The straightforward and intuitive syntax facilitates quick adoption and smooth workflows.
  • Written in Python: This tool is all about simplicity. It is written in Python, one of the most popular and unsophisticated programming languages. 
  • Agentless architecture: It is agentless. Ansible can regulate remote hosts through SSH without requiring software installation on them. Using playbooks and roles, Ansible facilitates defining your ideal infrastructure and automating the path to get there. 
  • Enhanced security: With SSH, Ansible prioritizes security between systems. It safeguards the applications and infrastructure from potential threats.
  • Integration with authentication management systems: Ansible integrates with authentication management systems like LDAP, Kerberos, and more for proper access control and enhanced security.
  • Reliability: IT infrastructures need stability and reliability. Ansible has a track record of offering high performance and dependability. 

Moreover, what makes Ansible exciting is that it is truly user-friendly. Managing both on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure is absolute, as Sherlock would say, “elementary” with Ansible.

How Does Ansible Work?

Before delving into how Ansible works, let’s take a look at its components:

Modules: If Ansible were a dish(meal), modules would be the main ingredient. They are pre-built small programs that handle almost everything – from applications and packages to files on external systems. Ansible implements defined instructions on external systems and simultaneously delivers modules from the command computer.

Playbooks run that associated module and take it out of the loop once the task is done. Ansible has over 750 (ever-growing) built-in modules, making automation easy with its plays and tasks!

Image Source: InterviewBit

Playbooks: Playbooks are task-oriented user manuals that use the YAML format to simplify automation. These playbooks dictate the workflow and carry out the tasks in an orderly manner. Playbooks can perform sequential procedures, define environments, and manage various stages of a task.

Plugins: Ansible plugins improve both built-in and customized website functionality. The system can perform logging, event display, caching, and front-end controller functions, and it executes them before modules on nodes.

Inventories: Ansible inventories contain lists of hosts with their IP addresses, servers, and databases. SSH for UNIX, Linux, or networking devices and WinRM for Windows systems help manage them. 

The other Ansible components are API, Cloud, Host, Networking, and CMD (Configuration Management Database).

Here’s how Ansible works its magic: 

First, Ansible has an inventory file with a list of hosts or machines. Users can alter this inventory file by adding the servers they want to control.

The next step is creating playbooks to define the ideal infrastructure on the managed nodes. Now, as Ansible runs on the control node that helps execute tasks on the remote system, it will establish an SSH connection with the latter. It allows for secure communication between the nodes. 

It then sends and executes modules to perform the tasks defined in the playbooks, bringing the systems to the desired state. 

After completing the task, Ansible removes the modules from the managed nodes to prevent any residual modules. Lastly, it provides reports on the status of task implementation, allowing users to monitor the progress and results of automation tasks. Moreover, Ansible can run regularly to maintain and improve the system over time.

What is Kubernetes?

Joe Beda, Brendan Burns, and Craig McLuckie are the brilliant minds behind Kubernetes. Working as engineers at Google, they created this tool, which is now a powerhouse for containerized applications. 

Initially, Kubernetes was developed by Google to manage their own containerized applications in production, and it was first released as an open-source project in 2014.

In 2015, Google donated Kubernetes to the vendor-independent Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) to advance cloud-native computing technology. 

Since then, Kubernetes has become one of CNCF’s flagship projects, with widespread industry adoption, and has established itself as the leader in container orchestration.

According to Gartner, about 85% of organizations will use Kubernetes by 2025. And why should they not? Its robust ecosystem of add-ons, tools, and services makes it a versatile platform for managing containerized applications.

Kubernetes has gone through several important updates, bringing new functionality, enhancements, and bug fixes with each release. It’s constantly evolving and improving, thanks to the passionate community behind it!

Benefits of Kubernetes

  • Scalability: Easily scale applications based on demand.
  • Portability: Deploy and manage applications consistently across different environments.
  • Flexibility: Support for various container runtimes and formats.
  • Automation: Automate container deployment, scaling, monitoring, and healing.
  • Resilience: Built-in fault tolerance and self-healing capabilities.
  • DevOps enablement: Promotes collaboration between developers and operations teams.
  • Extensibility: Customizable and extensible architecture for integration with other tools.
  • Community and ecosystem: Large community and ecosystem for enhanced capabilities.

How Kubernetes works?

As Kubernetes is the platform that helps with container orchestration, the first step involves packaging the application into containers with the help of containerization tools, such as Docker. These containers are self-sufficient, with all the necessary software and dependencies to perform unfailingly in different environments.

Next, with YAML or JSON, the state of applications, including container images, resource requirements, scaling policies, networking, and storage configurations, are defined. The files with instructions are called manifests.

In Kubernetes, a cluster is like a team of computers, called nodes, that work together to run your applications. Think of nodes as the players in a soccer team, and each player can run multiple containers, which are like the players’ gear or equipment needed to play the game.

Kubernetes Components

The smallest building block in Kubernetes is called a Pod, which is like a cozy little home for one or more containers. Pods are like the players’ locker rooms, where they hang out and share things like network and storage resources. Each Pod has its own unique name and address, so you can easily identify and communicate with them.

Kubernetes Architecture

Deployments are like the coaches that manage the team. They tell Kubernetes how many players (or replicas) of each Pod should be running at any time. Just like a coach manages the players on the field, a Deployment manages the creation, scaling, and deletion of Pods to make sure your application is always in the desired state.

Services are like the referees that help players communicate with each other. They provide a stable address, like a phone number, that others can use to access your application. Services select the right Pods based on labels, like the player’s position, and distribute the traffic evenly between them, making sure everyone gets a fair chance to play.

To handle important information like passwords or API keys, Kubernetes provides ConfigMaps and Secrets. They are like lockboxes where you can store these sensitive details securely and then use them in your Pods and Deployments to access resources without exposing them in plain text.

Finally, the Kubernetes API server is like the team’s coaching hotline. It provides an easy way to manage the team’s state using a RESTful API, which you can interact with using kubectl or other Kubernetes tools. It’s like having a direct line to the coach’s office to give instructions or get updates on the team’s performance.

Feature Comparison: Ansible vs. Kubernetes

TypeConfiguration management and automation toolContainer orchestration platform
PurposeAutomate IT tasks such as configuration management, application deployment, and system provisioningAutomate deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications
ArchitectureAgentless, uses SSH or WinRM to communicate with target systemsContainerized, uses a master-node architecture
ConfigurationWritten in YAML, declarative languageWritten in YAML or JSON, declarative language
ScalabilitySupports both small and large infrastructuresDesigned for large-scale deployments
High AvailabilityPull-based, where containers are pulled from the container registry to target nodes

Provides built-in high availability features with automatic container rescheduling and node failover

NetworkingProvides basic networking functionalities
Provides advanced networking functionalities such as service discovery, load balancing, and DNS-based routing

DeploymentPush-based, where configuration changes are pushed to target systems
Uses TLS for communication, provides built-in container isolation, and RBAC for access control

Rolling updates
Supports rolling updates with minimal downtime
Supports rolling updates with zero downtime

Health checks
Provides basic health checks for target systems
Provides advanced health checks for containers and automatic container restarts

SecurityUses SSH or WinRM for communication, requires proper authentication and authorization

Moderate to steep, requires an understanding of containerization, networking, and distributed systems concepts

ExtensibilityProvides custom modules for extending functionality
Provides custom resources and operators for extending functionality

Learning curve

Moderate, requires knowledge of YAML and basic scripting

Moderate to steep, requires understanding of containerization, networking, and distributed systems concepts

Uses of Kubernetes


Application Deployment

Managing complex applications in the production environment requires executing numerous tasks flawlessly within a time frame. If developers were to perform the task manually, it would take them weeks before deploying the application.

However, by using Kubernetes and containerizing the applications, they can not only deploy and manage them across a cluster of machines but also ensure consistency and reproducibility. They can achieve maximum efficiency by automating tasks like scheduling, scaling, and updates. 

Scalability and Load Balancing

For an application to be successful, it must accommodate higher traffic volumes without compromising performance. Kubernetes’ built-in features of scalability and load-balancing offer the best option.

It distributes workloads across a cluster of machines and automatically scales up or down based on demand, ensuring high availability. Moreover, it also helps allocate the incoming traffic across multiple instances.

Service Discovery and Networking

Most applications cannot work on their own. They need to connect with other applications or services. Kubernetes offers networking features that assist in establishing communication between containers within a cluster. Applications can also discover and connect to other services running in the group through the DNS-based service tool.


Rolling Updates and Rollbacks

With Kubernetes, updating apps or reverting to earlier versions is simple. It automates the process and ensures seamless updates without interfering with the application’s availability, allowing for rolling updates and rollbacks with little downtime.

Infrastructure Management

Kubernetes takes a declarative approach to simplify infrastructure management. It allows users to define infrastructure resources like storage, networking, and computation as code using YAML or JSON manifests. These manifests or configuration files enable versioning, automation, managing IaC (Infrastructure as Code), and streamlining the management of complex infrastructure configurations.

Hybrid and Multi-cloud Deployment

Kubernetes is a game-changer for organizations looking for adaptability and agility in their deployments. By employing a consistent abstraction layer, deploying and managing applications across various cloud providers or on-premises data centers becomes efficient.

It allows users to adopt a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy, leveraging the flexibility and portability of containers to deploy and manage applications across different environments.

Ansible and Kubernetes – Software Development Lifecycle

Stage in SDLC Ansible Kubernetes
DevelopmentProvides automated configuration management and deployment of development environments, enables version control for configuration files, and facilitates code deployments
TestingProvides automated provisioning and configuration of testing environments, allows for easy replication of environments, and supports automated testing tasks
Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)
Facilitates automated deployments of applications and configuration changes, enables version control for infrastructure code, and supports continuous delivery and deployment pipelines
Facilitates containerized deployments, scaling, and management of applications, supports rolling updates and zero-downtime deployments

Provides automated provisioning and configuration of staging environments, allows for consistency across staging and production environments, and facilitates testing of production-like environments
Facilitates containerized deployments and scaling of applications in pre-production environments, enables testing of containerized applications in an isolated environment

ProductionFacilitates automated provisioning, configuration, and management of production environments, enables infrastructure as code (IaC) practices, and supports production deployments
Provides containerized deployments, scaling, and management of production applications, offers built-in high availability features and advanced networking functionalities

Automates config drift management, continuous monitoring, and desired state enforcement. Supports backups, upgrades, and operational tasks.Streamlines app management, scaling, upgrades, and operational tasks like rolling updates and auto-restarts for containerized apps.
Enables config visibility, troubleshooting, and rollback for issues.Enables container app visibility, troubleshooting, debugging, and logs/diagnostics.

Ansible Use Cases

The IT ops team manages a large infrastructure with hundreds of servers in multiple data centers. With Ansible, they automate consistent and secure server setups and processes such as managing users, setting up firewalls, and enforcing security policies.

Servers are grouped by roles and environments, and regular playbook runs keep them updated and compliant. Ansible simplifies configuration management, reduces manual work, and improves security compliance.

Kubernetes Use Cases

A development team builds a microservices web application and deploys it with Kubernetes, configuring networking, storage, and containers with Docker and manifests. Scaling, load balancing, self-healing, and updates are handled by Kubernetes. It’s simple to scale up or down, and doing so guarantees fault tolerance and high availability.

This Kubernetes Deployment resource deploys a web app with 3 replicas. Labels indicate application instances and container configurations are defined in the template field. Kubernetes manages scaling, load balancing, self-healing, and rolling upgrades for a scalable, resilient, fault-tolerant, and highly available app.

The administration is easier with containers and Kubernetes, ensuring uniform deployment and easy scaling. More config can be added as needed for networking, storage, and other needs.

In Conclusion

Although Ansible and Kubernetes are automation tools, comparing them against each other directly wouldn’t be entirely fair. Ansible assists in managing configurations and tasks across a wide range of systems, while Kubernetes is more about container orchestration.

If we consider a traditional IT infrastructure, Ansible would be the right choice to handle configurations and deployments. However, Kubernetes is excellent for modern, cloud-native environments and managing containerized applications.

Also, both tools have their strengths and can greatly enhance IT automation and deployment workflows in their respective areas of expertise. So, understanding their unique purposes and utilizing them accordingly can bring immense value to your operations.

  • Surobhi
    Surobhi is a writer/editor with extensive experience in creating content for various niches. She is an accomplished semi-tech article writer with a passion for all things culinary and literary. When she’s not exploring the latest advancements… read more
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