Giving back: Contributing to Open-Source Software

If you know a thing or two about us here at Fierce Software™, it’s that we live for Open-Source Software. Really, we mean that. Our strongest partnerships are with those around open-source solutions, such as Red Hat, Hortonworks, CloudBees, and Elastic. I could go on and on about the benefits and value of open-source, but let’s just say that open-source is the only thing that makes sense and it is what the future will be built on.

Speaking of building, we’re not afraid of doing work ourselves.

I am proud to announce the public release of the unifi_controller_facts – UniFi Controller Facts Ansible Module!

Background

Fierce Software™ is the organizer of Ansible NoVA, the 3rd largest Ansible User Group in North America. At our last meetup, I gave a presentation on part of my Franken-lab. Part of that amalgamation of a network was a project where I had an Amazon Echo fire off an Alexa Skill (by voice obviously), and the skill would communicate with Ansible Tower. The Alexa skill had some intents to get Tower’s stats and fire jobs. It would fire jobs such as maybe like restarting my home network core if needed. To do so, I created some middleware with Laravel Lumen and paired with the UniFi API would, yada yada…either way, at this point you can tell it was complicated.

In the development of this process, I thought it’d be much easier to have an Ansible module that could connect to and control a UniFi Controller. In my searching for that module, the UniFi Controller API documentation, or UniFi automation options in general, I’d come to find a general lack of information and solutions. So this is where I got my hands dirty and started building that very set of Ansible modules.

DIY Development

There’s a general lack of information out there around the UniFi Controller API, but also as far as for how to make Ansible modules. Luckily, since Ansible is open-source, I could browse the software repository on GitHub and browse some of the sources for the modules in the official distribution and base mine off of some of those better-built modules. Another benefit of open-source software, my code was made better by good code already out there, and now it’s not (as) bad! I was also able to adapt the API calls and reference them off of the compiled work of another person because they published their open-source code as well!

This Ansible module removes two layers from my previous Rube G-like voice activated network core, well almost that is.  In order to truly introduce the Ubiquiti UniFi lineup into the world of Ansible Automation for Networking, you need to be able to perform actions.  This module simply reports information from the controller, it does not take any actions or set any configurations.  For that, there is the unifi_controller module, which will be released soon as open-source as well.  I need to clean up a few late-night wine-fueled code comments and finish a few more functions before releasing that one to the world!

This wasn’t the first thing that I, or Fierce Software™, has open-sourced but because of our position in the Ansible community, I wanted to make sure it was as complete as possible and as polished as a new pair of shoes. This was a fun project, and I’m happy with how easy it really was to develop a custom Ansible module in Python.  Of course, it could be better still, and I hope maybe even one of you helps with that and contributes back to the source!  I guarantee there are people out there (probably you) with better Python skills than myself, and maybe some more UniFi gear than me, so help me, help you, help us all!

Resources

In the spirit of collaboration, here are a few resources (and due credits) that can save future developers some time…

  • Custom Ansible Module GitHub Example – Great reource that helped me get my head around what Ansible required of a simple module
  • UniFi API Browser – A PHP library to browse the UniFi API. Also has another library that acts as a client, this is what I based this off of and basically ported the PHP library into Python.
  • Python Requests QuickStart – There of course, were many docs, quickstarts, and tutorials that I referenced but this was by far the most important and the only thing that kept me along.

 

Get a copy on our GitHub repo: unifi_controller_facts – UniFi Controller Facts Ansible Module!