It's Friday morning and marketing tells you they need a Wordpress blog up and running by Monday and they want a theme like this and features like that and, and, and ... you've not got much time if you plan to have a weekend off so the last thing you’re going to want to do is work with a remote server. If you did you'd be loading themes one after another, testing them with various plugins, and generally beating the application into submission while dealing with the delays inherent in using a machine that’s somewhere out on the Internet. That would mean you’d be waiting just that little bit longer (or quite possibly, a lot longer) to do everything than you’d prefer.
The answer is, of course, to run the application locally but that will often involve a huge amount of preparation and messing around. I have a fantastic shortcut: Bitnami Stacks.
Bitnami Stacks are server-based open source applications packaged to a consistent standard with all of the app’s required libraries and dependencies, optimized for performance, and kept updated to the latest stable version.
A key aspect of Bitnami’s standards is that the apps are configured to be secure and Bitnami promises to update each Stack as vulnerabilities are discovered (“often within hours of the availability of a fix”) which, given problems such as the recent “Bash Bug” vulnerability, is incredibly important.
The current list of Bitnami Stacks is impressive and includes Infrastructure (such as WAMP, MAMP, LAMP, WAPP, MAPP, LAPP, Node.js, Tomcat, and Ruby stacks), Cloud Tools (for Amazon, Azure, Google, and Cloudwatch), blogs (including Wordpress, Ghost, and Roller) … it’s a long list of categories and an even longer list of stacks.
Most Bitnami Stacks are available for multiple platforms including OS X, Windows, Linux, and Docker, as well as VMware virtual machines. The VMs can be run on VMware ESX, ESXi, VirtualBox, or QEMU (this is the hypervisor used on several NAS systems including the QNAP TS-451 I recently reviewed) and contain a minimal Linux operating system with a fully configured Bitnami application stack. In short, Bitnami Stacks are an incredibly easy, efficient, and effective way to explore, customize, and test applications.
Native platform stacks are quick and easy to install which means you can easily wipe them out when a development environment gets too messed up and start again. Add to that no remote access overhead and the only thing you'll have to wait for is downloading new themes and plugins.
And did I mention that Bitnami Stacks are free?! Bitnami Stacks get a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.
But wait! There’s more!
You can also deploy Bitnami Stacks directly to Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure (other platforms are promised). A nice touch is that if you discontinue your Bitnami Cloud Hosting service your cloud apps and servers continue to run; you just don’t get the slick Bitnami management interface.
On AWS you can deploy and manage one T1 micro or T2 small instance for free (you’ll still have Amazon charges for the free Bitnami Cloud Hosting Plan) and then upgrade to a premium plan starting with Basic that provides three micro or small servers for $24 per month. All plans include Schedule Backups which backs up your complete image and data on whatever schedule you like, Server Scheduling which automatically powers the server up or down to save money by not running the server when it's not used, and Monitoring which checks CPU, memory, and disk size, along with access to the Bitnami Forum and Helpdesk support.
This is a really well-designed and effective cloud solution that also gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5. If you’re using Bitnami I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
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