The popularity of Ansible makes this tool suite a high-demand solution for web development engagements. Companies and brands that use such a technology in their ongoing work (or want to try it out in the future) will be more than happy to take a closer look at Ansible.
This open-source automation engine is in high demand in 2023, and no wonder why; it contributes to achieving a desired, simplified automation. And you certainly strive for this in your business. Hence, you could use a few tips on optimally searching for and hiring Ansible devs.
Choosing the best candidate from everyone who applied is not a simple task; many will meet the requirements for your job ad, and here comes the tricky part. The risk is putting too much effort, time, and money into a process that started poorly planned out and will be costly to reverse down the road.
Let’s jump right to it and clarify the essentials about Ansible and what the hiring process of Ansible devs should look like.
Ansible represents a suite of software tools (also considered an open-source engine for automation and IT infrastructure) used for configuration management, orchestration, and app deployment, among other things. Other, just as viable uses of Ansible, are the provision infrastructure, server and workstation updating, upgrading security, software installation, patch systems, and automation sharing on a larger scale.
With Ansible, devs can configure computers on a network level—not just a single computer. It is simple to install and use, and there are no security infrastructure or agent software usage requirements. In combination with DevOps, Ansible is an excellent tool suite because it enables simple automation and simplifies the work for DevOps experts.
Michael DeHaan created Ansible, and it was first released in 2012. Next year, in 2013, Said Ziouani and Timothy Gerla founded Ansible, Inc (AnsibleWorks, Inc.). Red Hat later acquired it in 2016.
Why and when to hire an Ansible developer?
You need to hire an Ansible developer if you need automation. This is the central selling point that Ansible provides.
The significant benefits of automation can be seen mainly in the functionality and standardization of cloud deployments (both private and public). With the help of modules, playbooks, and roles, the developers can orchestrate the security systems in the best way possible.
Working with just one platform for automation (Ansible), the deployment, management, and scaling of work become much more manageable. You’ll also notice how day-to-day management is easier and more reliable, as are the upgrades and installations in the sense that they are simple to implement.
With Ansible, the development process will be accelerated and improved due to a process called multistep app-orchestrating. This allows for regular code updates, including bug fixes and other novelties in the upcoming software features.
Useful stats about Ansible
The average salary of an Ansible dev is $87,019 annually, with the lowest salary being $68K and the highest $112K per year.
Regarding the popularity of Ansible as a tool suite, 9.49% of devs have said this is their fundamental tool to use in development.
Regarding usage, 27% of devs currently use it in 2023.
Popular brand names that rely on Ansible usage
These are some brands that use Ansible:
- Alibaba Travels
Interviewing an Ansible developer
Of course, this is the central, core part of the hiring process. To find and hire the best Ansible dev, you’ll need to pay attention to the technical and non-technical skills (and certain essentials) that the dev must possess. Then you’ll need to use relevant interview questions that would assess the dev accordingly.
Technical skills of an Ansible developer
An experienced Ansible developer will have significant experience with:
- Knowing the Yaml syntax
- Having experience with code editors, like Visual Studio Code
- Knowing the Ansible Galaxy well, with its directory tasks and commands
- Using the playbooks of Ansible
- Knowledge of source control systems, like Git and its commands git pull, git push, git clone.
Anmol Nagpal, a DevOps engineer in the Proxify network, said there are a few crucial technical focal points to look for in an Ansible developer:
“The Ansible dev should have rich Unix and Windows OS knowledge and understand Docker extensively. They need hands-on experience with CI/CD automation pipelines, and just as importantly, excellent experience with L2 (ethernet) and L3 (switch) networking too.”
Non-technical skills of an Ansible developer
The non-technical skills are equally as necessary as the technical ones. As much as you value technical expertise—professionalism and attitude in the workplace are significant influencing factors in the success of the working relationship.
The recruiters, hiring managers, and talent acquisition specialists should focus on punctuality. This shows how responsibly someone takes the interview, which is a good indicator of future behavior in a work environment (being on time, respecting someone else’s time).
With this said, the preparation of the dev also shows their dedication—equipment quality (camera, headset), room and lighting, and dress code are all important factors that influence the impression the candidate leaves at first.
Then, their English proficiency level is yet another key factor to look out for. If there is a linguistic obstacle between the dev and clients, it will likely impact the day-to-day communication. The overall attitude is also essential; being open, communicative, optimistic, curious, and a careful listener all go a long way toward a prosperous work dynamic.
They’ll need good communication and problem-solving skills, the ability to thrive in a team, and a growth-oriented mindset.
Essentials and assessment of an Ansible developer
There is no jumping through hoops to learn Ansible (meaning it’s very straightforward). One significant thing for the candidate to have is an excellent command of the Linux system because we have to run Ansible on it (Ansible can also run on WSL–the Windows Subsystem for Linux—but it’s currently not supported by Ansible, and it shouldn’t be used for real work).
Another preferred prerequisite is to have ample experience and good knowledge of the human-readable language for data-serialization, YAML, because the Ansible playbooks are written in this language.
Finally, Ansible is written in Python. At best, the dev needs to be very familiar with and highly experienced in Python.
Anmol added the preferable must-haves (or essentials) for prospective Ansible engineers as in:
“The dev needs at least six months of experience with Linux. But, they also need knowledge of the functionality of Ansible, the Ansible roles, tags, playbooks, and GitLab. Otherwise, I’d inquire with them about configuration management, how to run the playbook with tags, and I’d also ask about Ansible Galaxy, ad hoc commands, no direct access servers, and more similar relevant points.”
Ansible interview questions
1. Can you explain what CI/CD is?
Expected answer: For the deployment processes and development streamlining, we use Continuous Integration. After an app is built, we call Ansible from a CI system. This is a common way to do a simple integration.
With Continuous Delivery, we conduct a process of taking a code to production when that code was previously in a remote repository.
2. What are the Ansible server requirements?
Expected answer: It is a must to have a virtual machine with installed Linux on it. As far as programming languages are concerned, we need at least Python v2.6 or above.
3. What are Ansible Playbooks?
Expected answer: Ansible Playbooks are a group of tasks in a list used to execute against hosts automatically. When we have more hosts in more groups, this is called Inventory.
Every single separate module in Playbook is intended for a particular task. It has the metadata for which the user is conducting the execution of the job tasks and information for the task execution itself (where and when).
We can use the Playbook in two ways: from within the platform (Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform) and from the CLI.
4. What are Ansible tasks?
Expected answer: The smallest action unit we want to automate with the help of a playbook is called a task. This task breaks down a configuration policy and divides it into code blocks. Next, these code blocks help in the automation processes and are vital for the automation process overall.
The playbook consists of a task series, and Ansible will execute them (the tasks) precisely as in the playbook, in the same order. All of these tasks are used for app deployment to an environment that’s remote or also for a web server setup.
5. Elaborate on Ansible modules.
Expected answer: Ansible modules are used inside the Ansible playbook and are standalone scripts. Here are a few examples:
- Package Management—For installing various packages, upgrading, downgrading, and removing those packages.
- Ansible Command Module—For implementing the commands in the remote node., and usually used for remote servers Linux commands.
- Ansible Yum Module—Used to install various services with Yum package manager (default for Red Hat Linux distributions).
- Ansible File Module—For various methods of new file creation; owner assigning, group permissions, and more.
- Ansible User Module—For management of different accounts of users of a Linux system, and for adding groups, password settings, and even deletion of a user account.
- Ansible Lineinfile Module—For adjustments to the existing line; insertion, altering, removing, and replacing lines.
- Ansible Archive Module—For creating compressed archives, but in different files.
- Ansible Template Module—A module with every possible configuration parameter you need for easier server configuration management by creating static files.
- Ansible Cli_Command Module—For pushing configurations (text-based) toward devices via the network_cli plugin.
- Ansible Windows Modules—These modules are tested for the Windows hosts.
6. What can you say about the Ansible Tags?
Expected answer: The tag represents an attribute for the structure of Ansible, its tasks, roles, and plays. Let’s say we have a massive playbook. In this case, it’s best just to run some part of it and not everything in that playbook. The tag attribute proves to be a perfect solution for this.
When applying the tags, we can choose what we control or if we will use the tags through the command line. But, we can use two ways to filter the tag-based tasks:
- (For command-line) use -tags and -skip-tags
- (Ansible configuration settings) use TAGS_RUN and TAGS-SKIP
7. Describe the Ansible Roles.
Expected answer: With Ansible roles, we can develop reusable automation components. We do this by grouping and encapsulation templates, configuration files, handlers, and tasks (all named automation artifacts).
The good thing about Roles is that they allow for automatic loading of files, tasks, vars, meta, defaults, and handlers, among many others. So, once we assemble content in roles (by grouping multiple tasks), it’s pretty easy to share this with the rest of the users.
The Roles consist of numerous playbooks; essentially, they are a set of files assigned for a specific role before dividing the configurations.
8. What is Ansible Galaxy?
Expected answer: The massive public repository of Ansible roles is called Ansible Galaxy, and these roles are constantly increasing and upgrading too. The Galaxy is the website that allows users to create, install, manage and share community-developed roles.
If we (devs) create roles, we can share them through Galaxy and using the GitHub account. This way, we can import the roles and make them accessible to everyone in the Ansible community. In turn, if we import roles, they will be visible and accessible in the search index of Galaxy, so users can also use them by first downloading them.
9. Can you elaborate on Ansible Tower?
Expected answer: The Ansible Tower represents the Ansible enterprise version, enabling Ansible benefits deployment at scale. It can be integrated with the existing infrastructure, such as security, networking, app deployment, storage, and software development lifecycle processes.
The features of Ansible Tower include:
- Job scheduling
- GUI dashboard (Graphical user interface)
- RESTful API
- Job status updates in real-time
- Multi-playbook workflows
- Logging integrations (external)
- Access control (role-based)
10. In what way(s) can you test the projects of Ansible?
Expected answer: We can test these projects in three ways:
- Asserts–If we run a test in Python, the Asserts will duplicate the method and way of the test run. When a system gets to a particular state (intended one), Asserts verifies this for us.
- Manual Run–For this, we just have to play and ensure we have the desired state for the system. This method is quite simple, but one downside is that there could be a difference between the results in the environments (test environment vs. production environment)
- Check Mode–If we don’t execute the simulation but want to know how things would run, the check mode can show us this exact thing, i.e., we can check if everything from the engagement behaves as we need it to. One flaw is that we can’t run commands and scripts for playbooks and roles. A solution to this is disabling check-mode for specific tasks, and we just need to run check_mode:no
What distinguishes a great Ansible developer from a good one?
The best Ansible devs will have more years of experience, good English proficiency, critical thinking, and above-average results in the technical tests.
Also there are certain specific things high-quality Ansible devs do, which make their work easier, cleaner, and more optimized (in addition to also accelerating the development process:
- Comments and whitespace usage–With YAML, the devs can write the Ansible Playbooks of Ansible; therefore, the whitespace (literal space) helps YAML to denote the nesting and define the structure of the document.
- Organizing playbooks through roles–Probably the most efficient way to manage the playbooks, even though there are other ways to do it just as well. The role feature is intended exclusively for the well-organized structures of the playbooks.
- Version control usage–Version control is nothing new or unusual in coding; on the contrary. For example, keeping variables, roles, inventory, and playbooks in the Git version system is an excellent way to keep in check with the datasets.
- Unique naming to variables–The variables’ names are not just unique but have a significant meaning. To avoid confusion, the devs add a prefix (role name) to a variable, resulting in neatly organized variables.
- Staging and production with a separate inventory–Everything is more accessible when the dev doesn’t keep everything maintained in just one inventory file but instead uses separate ones.
- Using block syntax–Ansible Blocks help the dev logically conduct task grouping. With this said, they easily enable rollbacks when urgent, set data to tasks, and organize the code.
- Native modules usage–Instead of excessively using specific commands (shell, raw, command) and later complicating things, the devs use them sparingly. And they do so because Ansible has native modules, hundreds of them.
- Rolling updates with serial keyword–Ansible offers the serial keyword that enables the dev to choose the number of machines to be updated in one go and one batch. With the serial keyword, devs can also select the number of hosts to be managed too.
To the listed points above, Anmol added:
“The developer should have excellent knowledge of the tags and roles and troubleshooting. They will master the YAML security and encryption and know how to work around rollback and shell scripting. Of course, they will also have great knowledge of Python and Go.”
Possible challenges during the hiring of an Ansible developer
By knowing what the possible challenges are during the hiring process, you can expect the candidates to be prepared adequately:
Limited talent pool
It’s common to face this challenge, but perhaps you could try and explore more broadly. Try out various job platforms where recruiters and talent are not scarce. The more job platforms are researched, the better the chances of enlarging this talent pool.
Lack of highly-skilled candidates
Finding the stellar expertise in candidates could be an issue, even if the talent pool size is quite vast–the number of qualified candidates is what matters here, not how large the talent pool is. There will be many good Ansible devs, but perhaps not with stellar knowledge and outstanding skills.
Provided that there are Ansible devs who genuinely shine in what they do, they could be already employed or asking for a salary that doesn’t fit your budget.
In those cases, your competitors can be the determining factor in it all. Some already give the dev their desired (high) salary or are ready to splurge if they want to hire the best dev that others wish to. Some competitors could also be prepared to give much better offers than the market average.
The costly and lengthy recruitment process
Costs are a challenge for the recruitment and hiring process as well. This means, there is a risk of recruiters searching for candidates poorly, and this will cause unsuitable candidates for interviewing, missing out on the best devs out there and repeating the process anew.
Business drivers and the value of Ansible
Let’s see what the benefits of using Ansible in development are; in what way does Ansible adds value for a business, and why it is essential to use/implement it:
- Flexible–The dev can easily organize and dictate the overall dynamics for the app environment, regardless of deployment location. Customizing goes just as easy as well, according to specific requirements.
- No need for agent programs–There is no more a need for firewall ports or specific software installation because now it’s possible to automate the client’s system without those things installed and without individual and new management structures.
- Free of cost–Being open-source, Ansible is also free of charge and accessible to all.
- Efficient–It is incredible that with Ansible, there’s no need for additional software to install; this, in turn, makes a lot of room for specific resources for the app, otherwise on the server.
- Easy to set up and use–The features of Ansible make it not just easy to use but easy to set up initially too.
Talented Ansible developers available now
Mostafa Mamdouh Yousef A.
Mostafa is a multi-skilled DevOps/Cloud engineer and Service Delivery Consultant with eight years of technical expertise.
Abayomi is a highly skilled DevOps Engineer with over four years of experience in architecting, automating and supporting cloud-based services.
Marcelo de Faria S.
Marcelo is a talented DevOps Engineer with 18 years of experience working with start-ups in different fields.
- Digital Ocean
Anmol has 7+ years of experience in DevOps designing and implementing High Available (HA) and Scalable environments.