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Interview with Sean Sullivan

Sean Sullivan is the author of Demystifying the Ansible Automation Platform, we got the chance to sit down and find out more about his experience of writing with Packt.

Q: What are your specialist tech areas?

Sean: Ansible and Networking

Q: How did you become an author for Packt? Tell us about your journey. What was your motivation for writing this book?

Sean: I had written a blog article and been maintaining some Ansible collections for about a year. When Packt reached out to me. I had at this time known most of the ins and outs of the Ansible Automation Platform(AAP), and the roles and modules to maintain it, and after looking saw there was not a book that covered the topic. I sat down and started outlining the book that I wish I had when I started working with the Ansible tower many years ago. Nine months of late nights later, I will get to share that book with the world.

Q: What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the book?

Sean: I spent a lot of time coming up with the practices used in each chapter, and going over to make sure that everything worked. I had a home lab setup with a fully fleshed out AAP. Much of the information I’d known, but made sure to review it to make sure it was as accurate as possible. For example I had written inventory plugins for use at companies before, but wanted to make something similar but accessible, So I choose a Public API and built a plugin around that, So that readers could make changes to the code and see how that effected the output.
Other things like the Automation services catalog were brand new, and came out while I was writing the book. I sat down and poured over the available documentation, the actual server, and how to make things works. I knew the general concepts, but that was one of the services I really dug into.

Q: Did you face any challenges during the writing process? How did you overcome them?

Sean: A lot of the challenges were just time. I naively thought that I was giving myself more then enough time to write the book in 6 months, and that 7 would be plenty of time. One of the best things I did was make sure to stay ahead of schedule, giving myself a buffer. That buffer helped when writers block happened, or my home lab had an issue and I had to rebuild it, or I just wanted to take a break. Without the buffer, I don’t think I would have been able to finish on time.

Q: What’s your take on the technologies discussed in the book? Where do you see these technologies heading in the future?

Sean: Ansible is great, as it is versatile and easy for users to pick up, and for more advanced users to write modules to do a lot of the heavy lifting for them. The AAP helps to take that simple tool and scale it, the downsides is that it has a lot of pieces that interact with each other. However I’ve seen it become easier to use, and scale in the past few years, while maintaining the great quality. I can see it growing and interacting with more services, and more people picking it up in order to increase Automation.

Q: Why should readers choose this book over others already on the market? How would you differentiate your book from its competition?

Sean: This book has a heavy focus on Configuration as Code(CaC or CasC), This means that you keep your configuration in git repository files, and helps to maintain state and prevent drift of everything configured. From Job templates, credentials, inventories, execution environments, collections, it is all configured from code. In addition the AAP has changed a lot in the past year with the move from virtual environments to execution environment containers, and the addition of Automation mesh. This book should introduce these new features to the reader in a way to understand and configure them.

Q: What are the key takeaways you want readers to come away with from the book?

Sean: I wanted the reader to come away with a detail of how all the pieces of the AAP work together, specifically the Automation controller. There are many moving parts in how they interact, and I wanted to go over who those worked, how to configure them, and how to use roles and modules to interact with them programmatically. If the reader follows along, they should have a set of playbooks and configuration files to do the installation, configuration, to maintain and update the controller, hub, and execution environments. This puts them on a path for maintaining more of their Infrastructure as code.

Q. What advice would you give to readers learning tech? Do you have any top tips?

Sean: Get your hands dirty and use the technology. I was using various parts of Ansible and Ansible Tower for a while, but it wasn’t until I really dived into the configuration modules in the awx.awx collection that I really got a good feel for how everything worked in the AAP. Try out different things, make tests. If I didn’t know the answer to a question, I would create a test scenario and figure it out. You may find 5 ways it doesn’t work and the 1 way it does.

Q. What are your favorite tech journals? How do you keep yourself up to date on tech?

Sherwin: Not yet but I am planning soon.

Q. Can you share any blogs, websites and forums to help readers gain a holistic view of the tech they are learning?

Sean: I belong to the Redhat Community of practice, which is an internal group, but online on github we accept anyone who has issues with our collections, or questions. I also belong to the Central Indiana Linux Users Group, that meets up monthly to hear a presentation about various linux technologies. I encourage anyone interested in Ansible or Linux to seek out and find a local Linux User Group.

Q. How would you describe your author’s journey with Packt? Would you recommend Packt to aspiring authors?

Sean: Docs, I had an outline, an excel sheet, and the a git repository to keep notes. I would write down concepts, links, and other interesting bits where I found them so that they could be used later, and organized. At least for me I’d create a scrap document, to just throw things in, and then organize it later.

Q. What are your favorite tech journals? How do you keep yourself up to date on tech?

Sherwin: Dr. Dobbs, C/C++ Magazine, Java Journal Dev

Q. How did you organize, plan, and prioritize your work and write the book?

Sherwin: I first create a general description of the topic, objective, purpose, and simple outline. Then, I do some background check and little research to expound on the outline. I rewrite the outline with details. And then hibernate. Then, finalize to derive a good research proposal.

Q. What is that one writing tip that you found most crucial and would like to share with aspiring authors?

Sean: Take notes and keep them, when going back for revisions your notes are going to be extra helpful to figure things out. Additionally, as I said before, stay ahead of schedule, you never know when the unexpected is going to happen, and if you are ahead of your deadlines you have some slack to use.

Q. Would you like to share your social handles? If so, please share.

Sean: http://www.linkedin.com/in/seansulliv, https://github.com/sean-m-sullivan/

You can find Sean’s book on Amazon by following this link: Please click here

Demystifying the Ansible Automation Platform is Available on Amazon.com

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