Configuration management is a very important aspect of both server administration and DevOps. The "infrastructure as code" methodology makes it easy to deploy servers in various configurations and dynamically scale an organization's resources to keep up with user demands. But less attention is paid to individual administrators who want to automate the setup of their own laptops and desktops (workstations).
In this series, I'll show you how to automate your workstation setup via Ansible, which will allow you to easily restore your entire configuration if you want or need to reload your machine. In addition, if you have multiple workstations, you can use this same approach to make the configuration identical on each. In this first article, we'll set up basic configuration management for our personal or work computers and set the foundation for the rest of the series. By the end of this article, you'll have a working setup to benefit from right away. Each article will automate more things and grow in complexity.
Many configuration management solutions are available, including Salt Stack, Chef, and Puppet. I prefer Ansible because it's lighter in terms of resource utilization, its syntax is easier to read, and when harnessed properly it can revolutionize your configuration management. Ansible's lightweight nature is especially relevant to the topic at hand, because we may not want to run an entire server just to automate the setup of our laptops and desktops. Ideally, we want something fast; something we can use to get up and running quickly should we need to restore our workstations or synchronize our configuration between multiple machines. My specific method for Ansible (which I'll demonstrate in this article) is perfect for this—there's no server to maintain. You just download your configuration and run it.