2009.10 release: 40 new appliances + Amazon EC2

Written for TurnKey Linux by Alon Swartz on 2009-11-01

We're proud to announce the 2009.10 release batch featuring:

    * 25 new additions to the TurnKey Linux virtual appliance library
    * Added native virtual appliance packaging (OVF support included)
    * Amazon EC2 support, with EBS persistence
    * Core improvements: Ajax web shell, upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04.3

The project recently celebrated its one year birthday. Since our last major release in March the project picked up steam with weekly downloads increasing over 500% (we just flew past 60,000 downloads). Not bad for a new server oriented project. With all the goodies in this new release, and all the stuff we're working on for the next release, TurnKey Linux's second year should be even more interesting.

This release is a big one. Previously we tried "releasing early releasing often", but discovered we could get more done by batching certain phases of virtual appliance development and decided to give bigger release increments a try.
25 all new appliances

The last release worked out the basics in terms of virtual appliance engineering and usability, so the main focus of the current release was expanding our virtual appliance library with more of the best open source server applications.

The project has expanded it's virtual appliance library to include:

    * Complex "killer app" integrations: Windows domain controller, torrent server, file server, and revision control.
    * Commercially-backed enterprise software: Zimbra, OpenBravo, tWiki, MovableType and MindTouch Deki.
    * Popular content management applications: Moodle, DokuWiki, MoinMoin, and Gallery.
    * Popular issue tracking applications: BugZilla, Mantis, OTRS, Trac, RedMine and Project Pier.
    * And many more.

In other words, we mostly we created new TurnKey appliances for applications that were already packaged by Debian / Ubuntu and supported with regular security updates:

Unfortunately there is still quite a bit of excellent open source software that is not yet officially supported by Debian / Ubuntu.

Packaging these applications into a virtual appliance is technically more difficult, and worse - not all components would receive automatic security updates. We decided not to let that limit us. Striving for perfection is great, but an imperfect appliance is better than no appliance. This opens TurnKey Linux up to including:

Project specials

Not all appliances are created equal. For this release we've put extra effort into creating a handful of project "specials": virtual appliances that include a more complex integration of components working together as a solution to a particular usage scenario:

Native virtual appliance support

In addition to the installable Live CD ISO format, all appliances are now packaged in a standard virtual appliance format that can run directly on a virtual machine with no installation necessary.

The virtual appliance package includes:

    * A light version of VMWare tools
    * Hard disk images in VMDK format
    * OVF support

The package format is known to work on VMWare and VirtualBox.
Amazon EC2 support

It's now possible to launch TurnKey Linux appliances directly into Amazon's EC2 cloud. Amazon supports hourly billing which at $0.1/hour opens up a variety of interesting use cases.

For example, we've been using our own EC2SDK appliance to convert the virtual appliance library into EC2's AMI format. Thats a resource intensive process which would stress our current server infrastructure. EC2 is perfect for this because renting a beefy server from Amazon for a few hours is dirt cheap.

We've also been offloading much of our virtual appliance testing and development to the cloud and have launched a virtual army of virtual appliances. Total cost so far: $22.

If you run a virtual machine 24x7 things can get a bit more expensive. Ideally you could just turn off the virtual machine when you don't need it but unfortunately it's not that simple because when you terminate an instance you loose all the data on the instance.

To get around this we've developed support for Amazon EBS, which allows you to set up persistent storage volumes (with snapshotting support) which survive instance creation and termination. We've developed software that helps with the tricky part of getting the virtual appliance to save all its data to the EBS volume. It's not yet as easy to use as we would like but it works.

Pricing: $5/month per image and 15% on Amazon's EC2's fees.

Amazon takes care of the billing and charging a small fee helps us put more resources into sustaining development and make sure TurnKey Linux is here to stay.
TurnKey Core improvements

We've made a few improvements to TurnKey Core, which have been inherited by all appliances:

    * upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04.3
    * SSH client is now optional: including web based AJAX shell (shellinabox)
    * bugfixes to custom components: configuration console, installer, etc.

Improvements to existing appliances

We didn't neglect our previous crop of virtual appliances either. We've taken the feedback you've all provided and used it to improve the existing appliances. For example:

    * TurnKey Ruby on Rails now includes Phusion passenger.
    * TurnKey Drupal bundled with an extended set of highly useful plugins.
    * TurnKey WordPress now bundles some of the most popular WordPress plugins and includes the latest version of WordPress which features an integrated upgrade mechanism. This way you get WordPress updates straight from WordPress's creator Automattic.

Some of our best ideas for new features and appliances come from our users. Keep em coming!

Though we've put many months of effort into making this release possible, we don't deserve all the credit. We're just walking the last mile, sorting the best stuff out and polishing things up for end users. The real heros are further up the chain. Open source works thanks to the tens of thousands of people who have collaborated tirelessly for many years now to produce a fantastic variety of excellent free software.

In no particular order, credit goes out to:

    * Everyone in the open source community who helped develop the software that makes up TurnKey Linux, especially the unsung Debian and Ubuntu developers who do most of the heavy lifting that makes this project possible.
    * Everyone in TurnKey's small community that provided feedback and ideas, manned the forums (JedMeister I'm looking at you!), spread the word and donated funding.
    * Our enlightened employer, which donated most of the project's development infrastructure and allows us to contribute to open source during office hours.
    * Pink Floyd for the background music.

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