SAS installation and environment configuration management can be an incredibly complex process that comprises multiple configuration options. These options have the ability to affect every aspect of an analytics environment and SAS configuration management, from performance to security. With the help of expert SAS installers and administrators, many organisations leveraging SAS software are often provided with the perfect environment – optimised and built to deliver an analytics platform they need.
What goes wrong? A lot of the operations and procedures that are conducted during the installation phase are documented externally – either on spreadsheets or separate documents. Therefore, as time goes by, administrators make changes to configuration files, updates are implemented, and the overall operating system experiences changes, these changes break from the initial configuration. What we see happening in this situation is the SAS environment drifting away from its original, perfect form. This is precisely where Ansible can come into play.
Before we dive into that, however, let’s first take a look at what encompasses a true SAS configuration. These insights will give you a clearer perspective as to why automated and streamlined SAS configuration management is so important.
The important thing to keep in mind is that, if used correctly, your SAS environment is going to be constantly evolving. From regular updates to various internal administrative tweaking, it’s normal for any SAS environment and configuration to change over time. The problem with this is that in many instances, these changes occur in a decentralised manner, which results in a disconnect between an environment’s initial configuration versus where it is right now.
To understand why this is so critical, you need to look at the three deployment phases that a SAS environment goes through – prerequisite determination, installation and deployment, and ultimately the configuration phase.
From making sure you have the right users created with the right permissions on groups, along with the right disk space at the prerequisite phase to actually completing the required manual tasks, installing SAS, and running the SAS Hotfix tool at the deployment stage to finally configuring your environment, setting up your environment is no small task.
Throughout these very complex stages, vital configurations that are critical to the sustainability and existence of a SAS environment are set up. Therefore, to answer our initial question as to why SAS configuration management is so important, poor configuration management can result in the fragmentation of this environment – resulting in inefficiencies and misconfigurations in the long-term. SAS admins need to be on top of this!
In short and within the context of a SAS environment, our services manager, Cameron Lawson, says it best – “Ansible is an extendable tool, written in Python, that is a scriptable way of managing configurations across multiple hosts – you can run it directly from your laptop, via dedicated hosts, on-premise, multi-clouds (Azure, AWS), or hybrids”.
From SAS installation to day-to-day management, Ansible is something your environment can benefit from significantly. Additionally, while there are many alternatives to Ansible, there are noticeable differences that set it apart.
The main concern about configuration management in a given SAS environment is that, over time, configurations are altered from the original configuration. Therefore if left managed improperly, a SAS configuration can drift away from what it once was. By running Ansible, users and administrators can ensure they maintain the baseline of their original configuration while making changes as required.
Here are three specific ways that Ansible is a major asset for SAS configuration management:
Any changes you need to make can be done via Ansible – Unlike initiating changes to your configuration via a random, on-the-go method, Ansible allows SAS admins to do this centrally. The changes made through Ansible are organised and permeated throughout the system – ensuring your configuration remains consistent with its original form.
Ansible is agent-free – There are many alternatives to Ansible, like Chef. However, one key distinction between Ansible and many of its counterparts is that you wouldn’t have to install an agent on the host that you’re managing to keep the configuration running as required. Ansible uses SSH to communicate with your hosts – essentially leaving no footprint on it. You can just connect to it, perform your tasks, and end the connection.
A combination of simplicity and complexity – For basic environments, you can conveniently run Ansible directly from your laptop. However, for more complex environments, you can typically use a dedicated host – called your an Ansible controller that is Linux or runs on the Linux subsystem for Windows.
We’ve only highlighted three specific aspects that make Ansible an extremely valuable component in SAS configuration management. The good news? There’s so much more.
If you’d like to learn more about Ansible and its many benefits, specifically how it can be used for configuration management of your SAS environment, be sure to join our upcoming webinar. We’ll run you through the entire process and welcome your questions with open arms. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more – don’t hesitate to get in touch!