Project Crostini Eclipse installed

Linux on Chromebooks getting Ansible integration for enterprise package management

This seems to be a big week for Chromebooks in the enterprise. First, we heard the joint announcement between Google and Dell for new, high-end Latitude Chromebooks. And now I’ve found some code commits indicating that Project Crostini wasn’t just about adding Linux to address a Chrome OS “app gap” but also to add new services for enterprise users.

There are at least a dozen recent Chromium code commits that mention both “crostini” and “Ansible”. Not knowing what the latter was, I did some searching and quickly found that Red Hat Ansible is an open-source project to automate IT through these main areas:

  • Provisioning
  • Configuration Management
  • App Deployment
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Security & Compliance
  • Orchestration

No, these aren’t the kind of things that consumer Chromebook users care about but they’re a huge time and budget drain in the enterprise.

Here are a few of the code commits, I noticed that mention Ansible.

This one from June sets the stage for integrating Ansible into the Linux container of Chrome OS:

For context, this is how Ansible describes the playbook for application management:

Ansible allows you to write ‘Playbooks’ that are descriptions of the desired state of your systems, which are usually kept in source control. Ansible then does the hard work of getting your systems to that state no matter what state they are currently in. Playbooks make your installations, upgrades and day-to-day management repeatable and reliable.

Credit Ansible

This very recent code commit suggests how Crostini will work with Ansible playbooks when there is Linux software to be upgraded or installed:

There are several other code commits, but you get the idea. As I read it, IT admins that manage Chrome OS devices in the enterprise will be able to push Linux software installation and updates to Crostini containers on managed Chromebooks. It’s possible additional Ansible use cases could be used as well.

Assuming I’m correct, this would be a huge benefit in the workplace. Companies don’t want to pay their employees to self-install and update software individually. That’s typically a centralized function of IT. Not only does it save time, but it provides software consistency across the company: You build an image, or in this case an Ansible playbook, and every user in a particular job function has all of the tools they need.

About the author

Kevin C. Tofel has covered technology since 2004. He's used ChromeOS since Google debuted the CR-48 in 2010, reviewing dozens of Chromebooks since then. He worked for Google's Chrome Enterprise team from 2016 to 2017, supporting the launch of Android app support. In his free time, he uses Chromebooks to learn software engineering at Launch School. In 2019, Kevin joined the CS Curriculum Committee at his local community college.

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