When you need to quickly deploy a server or test a server-based application, one of the best means of doing so is by using a virtual appliance. A virtual appliance is essentially a prebuilt virtual machine of a configured server that offers any number of features or services. There are virtual appliances for ERP, CRM, file serving, groupware, and just about every type of server you can think of. You can download complete operating systems or powerful services built on top of full-blown server OSes.
I have rounded up 10 of my favorite turnkey solutions, which you can download and load up into your favorite virtual machine host to deploy or test. Since there are hundreds upon hundreds of these types of tools available, I tried to offer a variety as well as list those that are readymade for VMware and VirtualBox.
1: LAMP stack
LAMP stack is for anyone who needs to quickly deploy a LAMP server (Linux Apache MySQL PHP). This virtual appliance offers SSL support, PHP, Python and Perl support for Apache2 and MySQL, XCache (PHP opcode caching acceleration), PHPMyAdmin (Web-based front end for MySQL), Postfix MTA (mail server), and Webmin modules for configuring Apache2, PHP, MySQL, and Postfix. With this appliance, you can quickly test and roll out Web sites and services or test customized LAMP optimization.
2: Drupal appliance
Drupal is one of the finest CMS systems available. If you need proof, load up Drupal appliance and point your Web browser to the site. This Drupal appliance also offers numerous preinstalled modules, such as Views, CCK, Panels (drag-and-drop customized layouts for pages, nodes, and blocks), Backup and migrate, Devel (helper modules for Drupal module and theme developers), Drush (command-line shell and UNIX scripting interface), CKEditor (WYSIWYG editor), IMCE (image file uploader and browser), CAPTCHA, PathAuto (to auto-generate search engine friendly URLs), GlobalRedirect (alias 301 redirects), Webform (to create forms and questionnaires), and much more.
3: WordPress appliance
The WordPress appliance will help you get the world's most popular blogging system up and running in moments. You will instantly have a WordPress server that is installed from upstream source code to /var/www/wordpress. Also included is an integrated upgrade mechanism, the ability to upload media such as images and videos, permalink configuration supported through an admin console, and automatic plugin upgrades.
4: Domain Controller appliance
The Domain Controller appliance is a Samba-based Windows domain controller server. This appliance is configured to support netlogon, network attached storage for domain users, roaming profiles, and PnP printing services. It includes a powerful Web interface to make configuring Samba and printing services a snap.
5: Zimbra appliance
The Zimbra appliance will have you up and running with a powerful groupware product that includes a Web-based collaboration suite, email and group calendars, advanced search capabilities with date relationships, online document authoring, and mashups. This appliance provides an incredible Ajax-based Web interface that supports tool tips, dragable items, and right-click menus.
6: OTRS appliance
The OTRS appliance is a powerful prebuilt ticket request system. It allows you to try out one of the finest help desk solutions on the market and includes a Postfix email system and Webmin modules for the configuration of the LAMP subsystem. Once it's up and running, you can easily manage help desk requests originating from either email or phone calls.
7: Openfiler appliance
The Openfiler appliance will convert any standard x86/64 system into a full-fledged NAS/SAN appliance or IP storage gateway. With this virtual appliance, you have easy access to all the tools to fit your growing storage needs. Openfiler also helps bridge the gap between platforms, easily allowing for storage from any OS or system.
8: Opsview Core Virtual Appliance
The Opsview Core Virtual Appliance is what you need if you're looking for complete visibility of your IT infrastructure. Its integrated GUI enables you to quickly configure the tool. Opsview integrates with Nagios plugins to further extend the feature set. This appliance is ideal for application performance monitoring, network monitoring, and Windows, Linux and UNIX server monitoring in small to midsize environments.
9: FOG Project
FOG lets you clone a Windows XP, Vista, or 7 system. It uses TFTP and PXE and has a vast number of drivers built into the kernel. This system includes a graphical interface for changing the host name, and it enables you to restart the computer (if a task is created for it) and auto import hosts into the FOG database. It also installs printers and does simple snap-ins.
Moodle is a BitNami stack that simplifies the deployment of Moodle. Moodle is a popular course management system that's designed to help educators create online learning communities. Used in 175 countries, Moodle can scale from a single computer up to a 50,000-student university.
Worth a try
If you haven't tried virtual appliances, you need to do so right away. These incredible time-saving tools can help you quickly learn the ins and outs of specific pieces of software and systems, as well as virtualization. Check out a few of these virtual appliances and see if they don't make your world much easier to manage.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.