August 29, 2022

Steampunk Spotter - FAQ

WORDS BY   The Spotter team

POSTED IN    Steampunk Spotter

1. What is Steampunk Spotter?

Steampunk Spotter is an Assisted Ansible Playbook Writing tool that increases reliability, security, and trust of your automation while reducing development and test time and outages. Spotter analyses your Ansible Playbooks, provides recommendations on how to improve them to avoid unwanted results, and helps you understand what happens when you run them to identify potential issues before they are executed. Use it to reduce risk, speed up, and simplify your automation.

2. Who is it for and what are the use cases?

Development, Quality Assurance and Operations teams will find Steampunk Spotter as an invaluable tool for assisted playbook writing, simplified Ansible upgrades, and achieving reliable and secure execution of automation.

Ansible Playbook Developers can identify potential issues, verify playbook templates or examples, check Ansible core and Collection versions compatibility, and understand the implications of Ansible upgrades.

QA teams can understand what will happen when they run the playbook, run QA automations without errors, and understand best practices and what-if scenarios for their tests.

Operations teams can identify potential vulnerabilities, receive quality reports and recommendations for improvements, and achieve reliable execution of automation, leading to minimized service disruptions and costs.

3. Can this tool really help me write better playbooks?

We know it sounds too good to be true, but yes, Spotter really does help improve the quality of Ansible Playbooks. Encapsulating our extensive automation knowledge and years of experience with writing Ansible Playbooks, it provides thorough guidance in your playbook writing process. You will find yourself spending less time sifting through the documentation and guessing how to tackle your specific problems. You will also notice significantly less executions of Ansible, minimizing trial-and-error.

Still not convinced? Go ahead, try it out for free while it’s in beta.

4. Can this tool really help me save time?

You need some numbers, we know. Just some flashy words won’t do. Agreed! Our Spotter team did some testing and simulated Ansible upgrade from version 2.4 to 2.14. Fixing the playbook manually took 2 hours (and remember, our Steampunks knew exactly where to look for the documentation they needed, otherwise it would have taken even longer), but using Steampunk Spotter, all it took was 20 minutes! See for yourself.

5. What’s new in version 1.1?

The new release features new checks that further simplify Ansible upgrades, such as checking for missing entries in ‘requirements.yml’ and checking for changes to the default values of module parameters, a GitLab integration, a rewrite option for Ansible Collection requirements, quick reference to Ansible module documentation for the entire Ansible Galaxy, and a revamped Spotter app dashboard that now provides insight into the most common errors in your playbooks.

Learn more about what’s new in 1.1 here.

6. Is my data being stored anywhere?

Don’t worry, we value privacy as much as the next person. Your playbook is not stored anywhere and is not transmitted to us. Steampunk Spotter is designed to collect as little data as possible to still provide an efficient scan of your content. By default, Spotter uses only module names and the names of parameters used in your playbooks. Using additional command line options, you can allow Spotter to also collect data such as task names, parameter values, and filenames used.

Spotter allows you to extract the data locally before submitting it to our servers. This allows you to review the data, edit it, and then push it for scanning.

The extent of the scan report depends on the amount of data you decide to share with Spotter.

7. Is Spotter open source?

We’re very active in the open source community and firm believers in giving back and sharing our knowledge.

The CLI tool, which extracts data from your playbooks and shares this information with us, is completely open source, you can find it here. This allows you to check how we extract the data and how we send it over the network. You are welcome to review the code and help us improve it.

On the other hand, the knowledge base of the Spotter isn’t open source due to privacy and legal responsibilities to our customers, who share some of their private information with us.

But what we do give back is years of knowledge and experience in Ansible which Steampunk Spotter users can benefit from.

8. Is Spotter just for Ansible?

Currently, yes, but we’re working on extending support to other IaC tools, such as Terraform and Pulumi in the future.

9. What’s coming in the future?

We’re constantly working on new features and capabilities to enhance the Steampunk Spotter. To name a few we’re currently focusing on:

  • adding new checks, that will enhance stability, reliability, and security of playbooks,
  • improved auto-remediation tools that will speed up the process of fixing your playbooks,
  • integration with additional CI/CD systems to simplify integrations with your existing development pipelines,
  • introducing AI-powered playbook generation working hand in hand with your existing playbooks and infrastructure,
  • growing the Spotter app with extended review and reporting capabilities, scan management, notifications, etc.,
  • enterprise deployment options, allowing you to use Spotter in your private environment,
  • extending support to other IaC tools, such as Terraform and Pulumi.

10. How do I install and use the Spotter?

Getting started with Spotter is easy. Head over to the registration page, sign up for an account, and start scanning. You can scan playbooks via CLI, via the Spotter app or via GitHub Actions and GitLab integrations. Find out more in this Quickstart guide.

11. Why do you require registration?

With registration, we avoid unauthenticated requests and reduce malicious load on the API, while still making it as accessible as possible.

12. Who are you?

Glad you’ve asked! At XLAB Steampunk, we are specialists for IT automation with Ansible and leading experts in building Enterprise Ansible Collections, so we know a thing or two about Ansible Playbooks. We design, develop, maintain and support high-quality Ansible Collections (such as ServiceNow, Sensu Go, SAP HANA, AWS, and NGINX Unit), and guide companies on their automation with Ansible journey.

As Red Hat Advanced Business and Technology partners and Ansible Certified Partner, we collaborate closely with the Ansible product team, and we’re also highly active in the Ansible community, so we have a deep knowledge of Ansible.

Our experience in building high-quality Ansible Collections allows us to understand available collections and assess their quality. Our experience in using Ansible for automation allows us to understand common patterns, anti-patterns, and best practices. We have incorporated this extensive and unique know-how in the Steampunk Spotter to help Ansible users write their playbooks with confidence.