Sometimes the cliché is really true: a picture is worth 1K words.
That's what goes through my head when I see the banner picture at right on the Bitnami web site. The whole concept of pre-built stack computing is summed up perfectly in this one graphic: it's really just services in a can.
As I have written before, one of the best benefits of free and open source software is the ability to download world-class software and implement it gratis on your system. But, sometimes, there is a big difference between theory and action.
Complex server systems, like Ruby on Rails, Tomcat, Joomla!, or Drupal can be difficult to install and properly configure Regardless of platform, getting one of these instances running can range from a bit tricky to downright hair-pulling.
This is where a service like the BitNami Project can really come in and save the day. Web-based applications like these can be launched as virtual machines or within cloud services such as Amazon's EC2 with just a few clicks, all ready to go. In that respect, BitNami shares a lot of functionality with JumpBox or TurnKey Linux, two popular service packagers.
But there the similarity ends, according to BitRock, Inc. CEO Erica Brescia, because BitNami also offers web application stacks that can be installed natively on Windows, Linux, OS X, and Solaris systems. That's extremely useful, because native installations can circumvent some of the typical performance issues that can come up when running virtual and cloud-based instances.
BitRock is the sponsor of the BitNami Project, which the company launched in 2007 "to help spread the adoption of freely available, high quality open source web applications," according to their press release. It also serves as a nice showcase for what the talent at BitRock can do with their commercial offerings, such as BitRock InstallBuilder and their Custom Stacks and Virtual Appliances service, Brescia explained in a recent interview.
Looking at the BitNami offerings, it's clear the BitRock folks know their stuff. The Native Installers are particularly intriguing, because not only is the installation managed with a single executable that contains a user-friendly wizard, but each install is self contained from the rest of the native operating system. Which means that dependencies and existing installs are completely unaffected by the presence of the newly installed web application. Users can install complete from-the-ground-up stacks, or modules that tack onto existing stacks like LAMP or WAMP.
BitNami's not all about BitRock showing off.
"The idea was two-fold. We were building these open source stacks anyway, so this was a great way to give back to the community," Brescia said. At the same time, she added, "BitNami has been a great source for generating leads for our commercial systems."
Currently there are 28 application stacks offered free of charge on BitNami, and an additional 11 infrastructure stacks. They're all very simple to use, and as a give-back to the community, this ranks high on the good karma list.
I invite you to give the service a look today and see for yourself.