Thursday, 17 December 2009

Virtually JODConverter I

Virtual appliances are all the rage these days. No, I'm not talking about cookers that never turn up or washing machines in SecondLife (with thanks to Pete J & apologies for the content of SecondLife!), but rather small, self-contained, often single function, virtual servers. There are a load of them made available by Turnkey Linux, who take the Long Term Support edition of Ubuntu Server (Hardy), bolt on some extra software - the Apache Web Server for example - and ship the whole thing in a ready to run package, adding a rather natty Web-based admin client on the way.

Why bother? Well, we've committed to a virtual architecture and one of the things we gain is the ability to add and remove appliances as the need arises - meeting the changing needs of the Digital Asset Management System at any point - and so having a few appliances we can throw up at the drop of the hat (someone phones and says "I need to do a huge deposit of items and I need to do it yesterday, can you handle the extra load?") will be very useful. (There are other gains too - mostly the consolidation of space and energy use - you'll find lots on all
that out there in Web land!)

That said, you might just want to run JODConverter on your desktop machine. If you do, this'll help too. Just make the virtual appliance and run it on your desktop and use NAT & port mapping to connect to it. Voila! You're own personal copy of JODCoverter as Web service! :-)

Back in 2008 on the Google Code home of JODConverter some folks seem to have suggested a virtual appliance with JODConverter & OpenOffice would be a Good Thing(tm) :-). About a week ago, quite independently, we also decided it would be a Good Thing(tm) and I set about making it and, inspite of this preamble, is what I really wanted to write about! :-)

So, here are the simple steps I took to make a JODCoverter Virtual Appliance. Note that I used JODConverter 2.2.2, which seems more stable than 3 at the moment.


1) Get yourself some virtualization software - I use VirtualBox.

2) (Optional, but I'll assume you did) Create, or reuse, a regular desktop VM (I used a standard Xubuntu install) - MON1 - and attach it to an internal (virtual) network on NIC0 (and useful to attach another NIC to the world via NAT too). Also add to this folder share with the host (your desktop PC). This will be handy later for moving isos, patches, etc. into and out of the virtual world.

3) Create a new (small) VM and install a Turnkey appliance of choice - I'll call this JOD1.
I used Turnkey's Tomcat but you might be trying to do something different. :-) I opted for a small and simple configuration (512MB RAM, 1 x 2GB disk and nothing fancy). Remember that appliances don't have fancy "desktops" so graphics capability isn't really a requirement! :-)

4) (Optional, see 2) Attach JOD1 to the same internal network as MON1 (the VM created in step 3).
We do this so that you can check open ports on JOD1, test if JODConverter is running, OpenOffice service is up, etc.

5) Start both machines.

You should now have a running Tomcat VM & a method of seeing it - open a browser in the test machine and try JOD1's IP (port 80). You should see the Web admin interface & if you don't check all the network connections and that JOD1 started OK, and such.

Now would probably be a good time to change the Web admin password!


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