News & Insights for the AI Journey|Thursday, October 17, 2019
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Red Hat Acquires DevOps, Automation Startup Ansible 

The growing emphasis on DevOps and IT automation as vendors seek to provide "frictionless IT" to ease the transition to hybrid cloud infrastructure has prompted open source leader Red Hat to acquire up-and-coming automation specialist Ansible Inc.

Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) said Friday (Oct. 16) the Ansible acquisition gives it an IT automation and DevOps platform designed to help orchestrate "multi-tier application deployment and IT automation across hybrid clouds."

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of October. Terms were not disclosed, but a report by VentureBeat said Red Hat would spend more than $100 million on the acquisition.

Along with Red Hat, Ansible, Durham, N.C., has worked since its launch in early 2013 with networking specialists like Cisco Systems on OpenStack integration and Juniper Networks on IT automation projects. It has previously worked with Red Hat to ease the provisioning of Satellite, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux manager.

According to the startup's web site, Ansible's orchestration framework is based on the YAML (Yet Another Multicolumn Layout) automation syntax. Among other things, the data serialization format is used for interaction with scripting languages like Perl and Python. It also utilizes SSH on Linux or Unix or WinRM and PowerShell on Windows, eliminating the need for an agent.

Red Hat said the Ansible acquisition would expand its ability to deploy and manage applications across public and private clouds, launch new DevOps initiatives designed to speed service delivery as well as accelerate adoption of application containers by simplifying configuration and orchestration.

The acquisition also addresses complaints that the OpenStack cloud platform brings with it a steep learning curve. Red Hat stressed the Ansible deal would help it "streamline OpenStack installations and upgrades."

Red Hat executives also acknowledged as much in a blog post, explaining the rationale behind the acquisition. "Next-generation applications require next-generation computing environments, like scale-out IaaS and PaaS clouds," wrote Alessandro Perilli, general manager of Red Hat's cloud management strategy. "The deployment of these cloud environments (e.g. OpenStack) can be challenging due to their inherent complexity and the relative maturity of the underlying technology."

Red Hat also stressed that the addition of Ansible platform's "low learning curve" supports its "frictionless IT" strategy. Perilli noted that Ansible's "playbooks" are written in "humanly-readable" YAML code, making it easier to write automation workflows. The Red Hat executive also stressed that the startup's open source "Tower" platform uses standard SSH connectivity to handle automation workflows. The agentless approach would make it easier to blend the platform into existing IT infrastructure.

Ansible is a rising star in the open source community, with nearly 4,000 "forks" on Github, indicating its code has been heavily used as a starting point for other projects.

Red Hat's acquisition of Ansible concludes a week of blockbuster mergers and other indications of IT industry consolidation, including reports that flash memory storage vendor SanDisk may be exploring a sale. Dell and EMC Corp. announced a $67 billion merger on Oct. 12.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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