Ansible is an open-source configuration management tool and IT automation platform. It helps in automating software provisioning, configuration management, and application deployment.

Ansible is not like other configuration management apps. This is what makes it different from other configuration management tools such as Chef, CFEngine, Salt, and Puppet.

Ansible Tower provides a web-based interface to manage Ansible. Ansible users wanted an intuitive interface that was easy to use for quick deployments and configuration monitoring.

Ansible Tower was the response of Ansible management. Each language and every framework has its own unique capabilities and nuances. This post will discuss the differences between Ansible, Ansible Tower, and Ansible Tower.

Ansible Introduction

Ansible is an open-source tool for configuration management that automates software provisioning and configuration management. You can control and configure multiple machines from one server machine.

ansible

It works with a push-based system where configuration is “pushed” from the master machine to all of its nodes.

Configurations are written using YAML. They are easy to understand and simple enough for server administrators to create. It works over SSH and uses OpenSSH as the transport layer.

All the Ansible configurations can be found in a set of YAML files that we call playbook. This playbook contains tasks or plays. To configure nodes, a task uses a module. 

Playbooks are a place where configurations can be written. All tasks written in a playbook are executed in the same order. It supports both synchronous and asynchronous execution.

You can see several host machines in the above image. These host machines are used to execute all configurations that we have created.

Pros of Ansible:

  • It is free and open-source
  • Simple: There are no problems setting up Ansible
  • Powerful: With Ansible, you can configure thousands of machines simultaneously
  • Flexible: It can be used in multiple environments.
  • Agentless: Does not rely on agent nodes, like Jenkins.
  • Efficient: It does not require any additional software to run.

Cons of Ansible:

  • Hard to install
  • Doesn’t Run on Windows
  • Backward compatibility

Ansible Galaxy Introduction

Ansible Galaxy allows users to share and fetch roles. Ansible Galaxy encourages the use of reusable roles in server configuration. Ansible Galaxy is often used in projects.

Galaxy

Ansible Galaxy is basically a public repository of Ansible role descriptions. READMEs are included with all Roles. They provide information about the role’s use and variables.

Ansible Galaxy has many roles which are constantly evolving and growing. Roles allow you to break down larger playbooks and create a structured structure. You can modify your own roles and then use them as you wish. 

Ansible Galaxy Role Structure

  • README.md is the Readme file that describes the role. The readme file contains all details about the role’s input parameters and an example yml.
  • tasks – All tasks can be enlisted by the Role at tasks. The entry point for the Role is Main.yml. This is where execution begins. This file can contain other files.
  • handlers – This category includes handlers that may be used in this role or any other role.
  • defaults – The default variables for the Role.
  • vars – Variables that are more important than the defaults for Role.
  • files – These files can be deployed using Role.
  • templates – This section contains templates that can be used via Role.
  • meta – Metadata can be used to define the roles in meta. This file should also include any Role dependencies.
  • tests – CI tests to be executed.
  • library – Embedding Modules or Plugins in Roles. Not created by the init command. You can also create a custom module in Python in this folder and then use it in your tasks.

Ansible Galaxy is a tool that allows you to create and manage roles. You will see new versions of Ansible, and there will be changes. Ansible version 2.2.8 featured the collection feature. The Ansible content is distributed in collections. They are used for packaging and distributing modules, playbooks, and plugins.

Pros of Ansible Galaxy:

  • Locate, reuse, and share Ansible-related content centrally
  • Easily download reusable roles for installing the application
  • Increases deployment speed

Cons of Ansible Galaxy

  • It is community-driven, so working on a module is not guaranteed
  • Many Ansible galaxy roles have bad documentation
  • Most Ansible Galaxy Roles are not idempotent

Ansible Tower Introduction

Ansible Tower is the UI for Ansible. It is a web-based solution that can be used by many different types of IT teams.

Ansible Tower can be compared to a car’s dashboard. The dashboard shows you all the information you need about your car’s condition: speed, oil level, remaining gas, etc. Ansible Tower looks like a dashboard, but Ansible is the engine.

Ansible-Tower

Ansible Tower allows users to execute tasks remotely via a graphical user interface. Ansible jobs can be executed via playbooks. These playbooks can be executed using the Ansible CLI. Ansible Tower, however, allows playbook management and execution to be done through the GUI.

You can either execute pre-existing playbooks or create your own. Ansible Tower also offers integrated notifications. This allows specific teams to be notified when a job is completed or failed. This type of cross-communication is vital for any organization.

It also provides Role Based Access Control (RBAC), which allows you to verify who is authorized to run the jobs. This allows only certain users to execute jobs at Ansible Tower. This is often required to comply with industry security regulations.

It provides RBAC and also shows an audit log that details who was responsible for what job at any given time. This provides additional security that is difficult to find if you use Ansible by itself.

Ansible Tower allows remote code execution in different applications. A VM might be in the wrong condition and need to be restarted, and Ansible Tower makes it easy and secure to do this.

Remotely installing software can be used to quickly fix security holes or reset passwords. Ansible Tower is your one-stop shop for all your network infrastructure and VMs deployed through Ansible.

Ansible Tower, unlike Ansible, is not free. There are two versions of Ansible Tower: Premium and Standard. It is up to you and your company’s IT requirements which version is best. Standard editions are suitable for most IT operations. Premium is designed for mission-critical DevOps.

Red Hat will provide you with exact pricing information after you contact them. The Standard edition will cost approximately $10,000 per year for 100 nodes. The Premium will run you about $14,000 per year for the same number of nodes.

Pros of Ansible Tower:

  • Simple layout
  • Helps you build CI/CD pipeline for workflow management
  • Allows to schedule a job and notifies for every error
  • Graphic inventory management
  • Very easy to setup

Cons of Ansible Tower:

  • Expensive
  • Subscription-based
  • Merge conflict resolution impossible/unclear
  • Debugging is complex

Ansible vs Ansible Galaxy vs Ansible Tower

Ansible can be used as an IT automation tool. It can deploy software and configure systems. It can also orchestrate more complex IT tasks like continuous deployments or zero downtime roll-up updates. Ansible’s primary goals are simplicity and ease of use.

Ansible Tower, on the other hand, is described as “The most powerful Git Client for Mac & Windows”. You can use all the powerful features of Git in a GUI that is more productive. Ansible Galaxy can be used to store Ansible roles. Ansible Galaxy is the equivalent of PyPI for Python or Maven for Java.

Ansible Tower can’t be used without Ansible. Ansible Tower can be used with Ansible Tower. Ansible is the engine that drives your infrastructure management and deployment.

Ansible Tower allows us to see the inside workings of everything. It allows you to see and control the security compliance of your organization’s infrastructure.

Ansible Tower can provide RBAC for your Ansible deployments. Ansible Tower is also a great option if you are looking for professionals not skilled in coding to review your infrastructure.

Comparison of Ansible vs Ansible Tower vs Ansible Galaxy:

AnsibleAnsible TowerAnsible Galaxy
Open-source configuration management toolUser interface of AnsibleRepository of roles and collection
Executes playbooks through CLIExecutes playbooks through GUIRuns ansible-galaxy using CLI
Initial Release in 2012Initial Release in 2015Initial Release in 2016
Free to useStarts at 5000$ per year for 100 nodesFree to use
Very simple to set up and useDelivers visibility into your entire Ansible environmentIt can re-use blocks of code in different playbooks

Conclusion

So, that was all about Ansible, Ansible Tower, and Ansible Galaxy and the differences between Ansible, Ansible Galaxy, and Ansible Tower. An organization should consider its requirements regarding Ansible Tower because it is very expensive. But overall, Ansible is an excellent CM tool for any Linux-like environment. 

You may also be interested in Sysadmin tasks you can automate with Ansible.