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Automation Tales: A short story

By Scott Perkins 

Chris Smith woke up with a start, brain already zooming and feeling like he had barely slept. Looking into the mirror, the face staring back at him showed the stress of being an IT Support Manager with a lot on his plate. It was the face of frustration and worry, not uncommon to those tasked with managing a company’s IT infrastructure.   

In Chris’ case, this was the same face that had greeted him each morning for the last three weeks. Chris’ challenge was figuring out a better way to patch and update his server farm. The environment he supported at Knuten Valve, while not extremely large, had doubled in size over the last two years and showed no sign of slowing its growth. Plus, Knuten had recently acquired Sprockets R Us, a company of  similar size.

Chris instantly became responsible for the care and feeding of the combined companies’ IT infrastructure. Prior to the acquisition, Chris and his team was already struggling with completing their updates in a timely fashion. They were still using the traditional method of logging into each system individually and applying necessary patches or updates. While not the most efficient method, it was the most familiar to his team and prior to the extreme growth, they were able use it to accomplish their support tasks within an allowable timeframe.  

But with the addition of the Sprockets R Us systems they just can’t complete the required work within the time allowed. Chris desperately needed to find a more productive and scalable way to get the work done.  

So on that fateful morning, he decided to look to automation as a possible solution to his problem. Checking blogs and searching the net, Chris discovered there are actually quite a few choices to consider. Three of the most prevalent tools he ran across were Ansible, Puppet, and Chef. He only had one shot at choosing the right tool and he was feeling the pressure.

His boss had made it clear that the tool he selected must meet their needs, so Chris lined out his requirements: It had to have a short  learning curve and it needed to easily integrate with PowerShell so they could leverage the investments his team had already made in existing shell scripts. After more reading, he settled on Ansible

It didn’t take Chris long to set up  a small lab where he deployed Ansible within his environment. He was amazed at how quickly he was able to get his first “ping pong”. Next, he used it to make a pending configuration change to Postfix to all of his Dev systems. He  got all of the SSH key’s setup via his Ansible control box. Then he successfully ran the Ansible ping to each server because he had the sudoer’s file setup to allowing password-less sudo.

Chris was in the groove now. He quickly whipped up an Ansible script making the change to the main.fc file using the inline file module. Then he ran a restart on the Postfix service to re-read the configuration file. Eureka! it successfully ran on the test machines. He was so excited he had to show his team what he was able to accomplish, and the power that automation would provide them.

Later that same week, Chris’ boss burst into his office, thanking Chris and his team for their efforts shoring up the server environment. He went on to say that he was able to tell the compliance and risk management team that all servers across both Knuten Valve and Sprockets R Us were patched and at the latest security level. Chris was already thinking about how they could use Ansible and automation to streamline the deployment of virtual machines within their environment and ensure that images that were deployed met IT standards.    

So stay tuned.

About the author

Scott Perkins is a Cloud Architect for LRS IT Solutions. Holding multiple Storage certifications. Scott has many years of experience implementing solutions.