Movable Type Goes Virtual (2008-10-08 12:25:49)
Author: Fahmida Y. Rashid
Due to the proliferation of free hosted blog sites, anyone can have their own blog. The hosted application can also point to a personal domain, and many Web hosts offer the software as a preinstalled feature.
For solution providers or DIY-admins, setting up the software in-house is also a fairly simple process. Depending on how mature the selected blog platform is, it can be as simple as unzipping the downloaded installer, copying it into the correct directory, and running the CGI script in the browser to configure the application. While simple, it still requires making sure all the third-party components and dependencies are properly installed and configured.
Six Apart's Movable Type software is fairly well-known and stable. Powerful, easy to manage and straightforward to use, the platform boasts a wide community of users and developers. Six Apart recently powered with virtual appliance developer JumpBox to create a Movable Type appliance to further simplify installation.
Virtual appliances can turn application deployments into drag-and-drop, and this is a very good example of that.
Virtual Movable Type turns installation into a four-step process: download the virtual appliance from either JumpBox or Six Apart, unzip it on the computer, open the configuration file (.vmx for VMware Player) inside the appropriate virtualization environment, and point a Web browser to the VM's IP address to get to the configuration page. Enter a machine name for the VM, an administrator e-mail and password, and the time zone information.
And a functional blog was up. There was no need to install the database or to figure out what ports to open for the Web server. There was no need to tweak permissions or create directories.
Reviewers downloaded the VMware image of Virtual Movable Type Pro for Bloggers, a free version of the platform. Images are also available for the Open Source, Pro for Business, and the Enterprise editions. Virtual Movable Type supports most virtualization environments, including Parallels (Workstation and Desktop), VMware (Player, Server, Fusion, ESX, Workstation), Virtual Iron,Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) EC2, Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) Virtual Server and PC, and Xen Open Source (in fully virtualized mode). Reviewers were very disappointed to see Sun's VirtualBox missing from the lineup.
The actual virtual machine image is called JumpBox. This is the container server—it is running a fairly recent Linux kernel (2.6.x) and has all the required software preinstalled. The software includes the Apache Web server, Perl and PHP with appropriate modules (such as CGI, DB, and SOAP::Lite), MySQL, and the Movable Type software. The JumpBox appliance handles all the port configurations, such as opening up ports 80, 443 and 3000 for Apache. The appliance also sets up the MySQL database and configures the system appropriately so that the Movable Type software can read and write to the tables.
Everything is handled by JumpBox, making the entire server-side configuration transparent. The default URL, which follows the pattern, http:///movabletype/blogs/my_blog/, is a little unwieldy, but this can be changed by simplifying the path within Movable Type's admin page and using the machine name that was assigned during setup. The admin URL remains http:///movabletype/mt.cgi. Users don't need to log in to the main application to post—the handy sign-in link opens the blog in edit mode.
Admins can go into Movable Type's management interface to tweak settings on the blog after logging in. The blog URL is a little hard to navigate, but this can be changed by simplifying the path within Movable Type's admin page and using the machine name that was assigned during setup. At this point, this blog is visible only internally to computers on the same network. This can be changed once the network administrator configures routing rules to get the machine name visible outside the network.
If there is any need to configure the JumpBox container, an administrative console is available by pointing the browser to https://:3000. Through port 3000, the underlying Linux box can be maintained and backed up. Network settings can be changed, new accounts created, e-mail relays created, statistics collected and SSL certificates managed. There's also a way to open an ssh session to the Linux OS.
There are some tweaks and customizations necessary to get the blog perfect, but that's par for the course for any application that can be customized. The initial installation is straightforward, and as long as the host PC has the memory and processor to support a virtual machine, reviewers didn't see any performance issues with Virtual Movable Type.
For solution providers, Virtual Movable Type offers several options. Customers wanting a blog but lacking physical infrastructure will appreciate the simple and straightforward solution. Because of its low requirements, this would be a good introductory application to move to a virtual environment for customers a little nervous about the whole "virtualization thing." And for solution providers, there's the option to set up a hosting farm for Movable Type blogs using these virtual machines. And that's only to name a few.
With Virtual Movable Type, more technical barriers to setting up a blog have fallen.