IBM Z Can Now Use Ansible Certified Content – A Big Step in Simplifying the Management of Hybrid Cloud Environments

IBM recently announced that IBM Z, IBM’s mainframe computer, is now certified to use Ansible Content. IBM Z could previously work with Ansible – but now there is Z-specific content available to support Ansible interactions.What does this mean? Ansible is an open-source project designed to simplify the deployment, provisioning, and operations of heterogeneous system environments. Ansible is a consistent content delivery mechanism that allows content creators to ship bundles of modules, plugins, roles, and related documentation together to nodes within an Ansible network. These pre-built bundles include content from Red Hat-certified partners as well as Red Hat itself. The software to drive these bundles is packaged on the Red Hat Ansible Automation platform – where it can be deployed simply and easily using a graphical user interface, rather than having to use complex command-line scripts.

In other words, with Ansible certification, IBM Z can now participate as a node, accepting content, in an Ansible network. Why is this important to IBM Z users and the cloud community in general? Using open-source Ansible infrastructure playbooks and tools, IBM Z can be transparently provisioned and configured in the same way that other Ansible-certified nodes in a given cloud can be. Further, application deployment can be simplified, and intra-service orchestration can be more easily integrated. In short, Ansible breaks down the traditional internal and historical technology silos that have long existed between the distributed computing and mainframe computing worlds.

Consistent with IBM’s Transformation Strategy
In August 2018, Clabby Analytics wrote a report entitled: “IBM Z: Making Dev Work with Ops” that closely examined IBM’s DevOps strategy. In that Research Report, we pointed out that “IBM is strongly focused on helping its customers transform their information systems into cooperative, integrated processing environments that can easily mix and match existing environments and applications with new technologies and environments.”

We also observed that:
• From an application development perspective, IBM was focused (and still is focused) on making its venerable IBM Z more easily accessible to developers by providing support for numerous development environments (including 3rd party and opens source), open APIs, and support for multiple languages.
• From an operations perspective, we described IBM’s focus on 1) monitoring of application and system behavior; 2) visibility into systems/application behavior (discovery and analysis); and, 3) predictive analysis (the ability to identify problems before they occur and address them).

Red Hat Ansible Certified Content for IBM Z fits in both categories: application development and operations management. IBM Z Ansible content creates unified workflow orchestration, performing configuration management, provisioning, and application deployment from one launch point. Ansible allows z/OS and z/OS-based software to be disseminated as content through a hybrid cloud in a consistent fashion using a single GUI-based control panel. The initial core Ansible content collections include various plugins and modules, as well as a sample playbook that can be used to automate tasks specific z/OS tasks (such as creating data sets, retrieving job output, and submitting jobs.)
Red Hat Ansible Certified Content for IBM Z blends in nicely with a wealth of other operations management solutions from IBM. The company offers a complete suite of operations management products and that the company is a one-stop-shop for enterprise operations management needs (this includes distributed computing environments, mainframe environments, hybrid clouds, networks and more.)
For instance, IBM’s OMEGAMON for JVM provides deep insights into Java programs and API behaviors. IBM’s Z APM Connect provides insights into application behavior using APM (application program management) dashboards that can isolate issues, identify mainframe components involved in application processing, and reduce false positives in application behavior (this product also works with third-party APM offerings, such as Splunk and Elastic). Other offerings include IBM Operations Analytics for z Systems, Tivoli Decision Support, and IBM Common Data Provider for z/OS. Now, with Ansible certification, the process of configuring and deploying applications within a hybrid cloud environment has been simplified.

Summary Observations
When IBM acquired Red Hat, questions were asked about the compatibility of the two companies. Red Hat was a fast-growing, free-wheeling Linux company – and IBM was (and is) an enterprise computing company. Had IBM not acquired Red Hat, I have to wonder if Red Hat would have dedicated development resources toward the integration of IBM Z into its Ansible network environment. It is likely that if Red Hat had remained independent, they would have focused more on x86 platforms because the sheer volume of x86 servers would drive more software revenue. With IBM as the parent company, Red Hat resources can be redirected to serve IBM (including IBM Z and Power Systems). This Ansible on IBM Z offering is a perfect example of why IBM adjudged Red Hat to be strategically important to IBM’s future.
Red Hat support across multiple types of servers is a good thing for the market since it provides customers more choices (at alternate price points) and a broader approach to platform selection (so jobs can be run transparently on the systems best suited to them.)

Also, consider that by using a common management scheme, administrative costs can be reduced (lesser-skilled/lower paid individuals can perform deployments and fewer are needed.) Additionally, errors resulting from complexity can be reduced and enterprises can deploy applications and supporting infrastructure on the nodes best suited to execute given tasks.

The bottom line is this: Ansible greatly simplifies operations management; it breaks down hybrid computing barriers; it includes IBM Z in the mainstream, and it serves the needs of the IT marketplace as well as enterprise needs for more efficient computing.

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