Introduction

Automation is the need of the hour. It is a powerful tool that can scale a business, provide significant cost savings, and allow IT staff to focus on strategic rather than administrative work.

A wide range of data center and cloud operations can be automated, resulting in faster operations. Thanks to automation, IT environments can scale more quickly with fewer errors and are more responsive to business needs. The automation capabilities of the FlexPod datacenter solution is a major step towards simplifying processes, minimizing errors, and increasing efficiency.

FlexPod is a best practice datacenter architecture that includes the following components - Cisco Unified Computing System, Cisco Nexus switches, Cisco MDS switches, and NetApp AFF/FAS/ASA systems. FlexPod's validated architecture provides a solid infrastructure foundation for a variety of business applications and solutions. With continuous integration with Cisco and NetApp technologies, FlexPod is at the forefront of innovation: through simplified management with Cisco Intersight, advanced hybrid cloud capabilities with NetApp ONTAP, and faster performance with end-to-end NVMe. FlexPod automation solutions using Ansible can further improve IT efficiency and reduce operation errors. Infrastructure deployment and service provisioning which used to take hours can now be completed in just minutes.

Ansible Overview

Ansible is an open-source software provisioning, configuration management, and application-deployment tool enabling infrastructure as code. Ansible is agentless, temporarily connecting remotely via SSH or Windows Remote Management to do its tasks. It can automate IT environments whether they are hosted on traditional bare metal servers, virtualization platforms, or in the cloud. Ansible includes its own declarative language to describe system configuration. Vendor specific modules for automation are available via Ansible Galaxy collections.

FlexPod Automation with Ansible

FlexPod automation delivers a fully automated solution deployment that covers all sections of the infrastructure and application layer. There are two modes to configure Cisco UCS, one is UCSM (UCS Managed) and the other is IMM (Intersight Managed Mode). The configuration of the NetApp Storage, Cisco Network and Compute and VMware layers are automated by leveraging Ansible playbooks that have been designed to setup the components as per the solution best practices that were identified during the testing and validation. This automation capability augments the standard manual deployment procedures that are provided in the deployment guide.

Note: The Ansible scripts will configure Cisco UCS in UCSM mode. 

Certain phases of the deployment also involve the exchange of parameters or attributes between compute, network, storage, and virtualization and may also involve some manual intervention. All phases have been clearly demarcated and the implementation with automation is split into equivalent phases via Ansible playbooks with a ‘tag’ based execution of a specific section of the component’s configuration. The Ansible playbooks, to configure the different sections of the solution invoke a set of Roles and consume the associated variables that are required to setup the solution. The variables needed for the solution can be split into two categories – user input and defaults/ best practices. Based on the installation environment customers can choose to modify the variables to suit their requirements and proceed with the automated installation. 

The automation for ONTAP is scalable in nature that can configure anywhere from a single HA pair to a fully scaled 24 node ONTAP cluster. After the base infrastructure is setup with NetApp ONTAP, Cisco Network and Compute and VMware, customers can also deploy NetApp ONTAP Tools for VMware vSphere formerly Virtual Storage Console, SnapCenter Plug-in for VMware vSphere, and Active IQ Unified Manager in an automated fashion. Another key benefit of this automation package is that customers can reuse parts of the code/roles to execute repeatable tasks using the tags that are associated with the fine-grained tasks within the roles.

Watch out the below demo videos to gain more insights into the FlexPod Datacenter Automation via Ansible:

Conclusion

Datacenter automation is a journey, and the destination advances along the way to adjust with continuous business changes. FlexPod automation capabilities will also advance with technology innovation and new solution design to keep pace with customers’ requirements.

About Kamini Singh

Kamini Singh, Technical Marketing Engineer, Hybrid Cloud Infra & OEM Solutions, NetApp
Kamini has more than three years of experience in data center infrastructure solutions. She focuses on FlexPod hybrid cloud infrastructure solution design, implementation, validation, automation, and sales enablement. Kamini holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication and a master’s degree in Communication Systems.

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