Monday, January 27, 2014

Azure Strikes Back with Their Own Storage Discounts

Windows Azure
The storage price wars continue. Last week, Amazon Web Services announced lower prices for S3 and EBS storage. A couple days later, Azure announced they would match the pricing.
We are committed to matching Amazon Web Services prices for commodity services like compute, storage, and bandwidth. Effective March 13, we are reducing prices by up to 20 percent for Block Blobs Storage, up to 28 percent for Locally Redundant Disks/Page Blobs Storage, and, we are also lowering the price of Storage transactions by 50 percent.
Azure is rapidly gaining ground to Amazon. According to a recent Nasuni 2013 Cloud Storage Report, “This year, our tests revealed that Microsoft Azure Blob Storage has taken a significant step ahead of last year’s leader, Amazon S3, to take the top spot across three primary tests (performance, scalability and stability), Microsoft emerged as a top performer in every category.”
Whatever flavor you prefer — AWS or Azure — you’re able to use your favorite Bitnami images. Bitnami is the largest single provider of images on both platforms with over 80 open source apps and development stacks to choose from. To launch a Bitnami image from Azure, visit the Azure VM Depot.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Introduction to Discourse

If you're looking at building a new community or refreshing an old one, Discourse should be on your short list of systems to consider. Discussion forums have been a part of the web for a long, long time. If we compare a 1990s web site with today, it’s clear that the art of web design has moved on a long way since then, yet web forums… haven’t really kept up. Discourse bills itself as a reboot of forum software for the next decade. Let's see why. 


The Discourse Design Philosophy

The Discourse project is spearheaded by Jeff Atwood, who was also a co-founder of Stack Exchange. With north of a hundred Stack Exchange Q&A boards around the web, it's clear that the new, modern design has resonated with web communities. Like Stack Exchange, Discourse set out to revitalize and modernize question and answer sites, and has been very successful, even inspiring quite a lot of competitors, such as OSQA. Discourse embodies a similar approach to forums.
Because Discourse was started from scratch recently, it has been relatively easy for the Discourse team to build modern web approaches directly into the core of the software. A small sampling of modern design touches include:
  • Much greater emphasis on the conversation rather than the scaffolding of the web pages compared with older forums software
  • New posts to a topic appear as you scroll down, rather than having a collection of minuscule “1, 2, 3, Next” links along the bottom
  • Adding images to a forum post, for example, is done by modern dragging-and-dropping those images
  • Responsive design for mobile users is built in
  • If someone else posts to the thread you’re looking at then their addition shows up as you browse, without needing constant page refreshes to keep up
  • Pasting a link to Wikipedia or YouTube or Amazon into a topic automatically “expands” that link to show the video or a summary of the article in question, saving readers from having to click through (and click away from your forum)
Unlike older systems, with Discourse, these features are native to the platform. Discourse itself is open source, and there’s a growing hacker community centered around the project and github; importantly, they’re not just interested in code contributions, but in our experience willing to help out with problems and listen to suggestions.

Installing Discourse

Discourse is implemented as a server which provides a JSON API, along with a JavaScript application which runs in the web browser and talks to that API. Discourse is built on Rails, Postgres, and Redis, and setting it up is done best on a public cloud (EC2, Rackspace, Azure) or Rails cloud hosting (Heroku, etc). The Discourse source contains step-by-step instructions for deploying to Heroku onto an Ubuntu server and others, but is made considerably easier by using something designed for the job. Obviously (at least we hope it is!), we provide one-click installs of Discourse to a local machine, as a virtual machine or into the cloud.
Discourse contains its own API, which at least in theory means that one never hits the situation where the forum provides a feature but the API doesn’t support it. However, because Discourse is still new and under heavy development, the API is a moving target. Support can be found on Discourse’s own support forum,

What does this mean for the community manager or admin?

The Discourse team themselves are pretty clear that Discourse is best suited “for new discussion communities,” and not as a drop-in replacement for an existing forum full of posts and users and avatars. If you’re in the position of setting up such a thing, and you have easy installation or skilled devops available to you, Discourse is a good and modern tool to help you build a community. That community will thank you for it.
You’ll be ready for the next decade of discussion rather than trying to escape from the one before last, which means that you can get beyond fiddling with your forum software and instead focus on what you should be doing: enabling discourse.

Next steps

MODX Revolution added to Bitnami Library!

It's been another month, and another application has been added to Bitnami Library! Revolution is an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) and application framework rolled into one. Despite the limitless possibilities that MODX affords you, we think you’ll find it refreshingly intuitive to work with. At every step, MODX strives to deliver creative freedom.

Thanks to the very passionate MODX community votes, the Bitnami MODX Revolution installers are your easiest onramp to MODX Revolution. To get started, download free, ready-to-run installers for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, virtual machine images (VMs) and cloud images for the Amazon EC2 and Azure clouds.

Bitnami MODX Stack Dashboard
MODX Dashboard

If you just want to check out MODX Revolution, you can launch a free cloud demo server in minutes with the Bitnami Cloud Launchpad by clicking the button below. The default admin user is "user" and the password is "bitnami".

Jay Gilmore, Director of Digital Strategy at MODX, was kind enough to answer some questions for those of you who may not be familiar with the project. 

1. What is the goal of the MODX application?
MODX is an Open Source CMS that was borne of the idea that the CMS should never—ever—get in the way of design. It is for people who care deeply about what goes in and, more so, comes out, a blank canvas on which to freely exact your vision. Basic sites don't require knowledge of PHP but for more advanced sites, developers can choose from hundreds of add-ons or write their own, using the object oriented PHP API. Further, it is engineered to be easily customized, extended, and integrated, meaning developers likewise get the creative freedom to make it fit their needs precisely. For end users, the MODX Manager can be completely tailored to the site and even for specific user types, making training and adoption a breeze.
2. What are some of the features of MODX?
  • Total Creative Freedom - 100% control of all output. Not just HTML but whatever you need.
  • Unparalleled Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - since output controlled, SEO is up to the site owner.
  • Install the core outside of web root and with custom folder names, support multiple MODX websites from a single set of files.
  • Install and update add-ons, themes and more from inside the MODX Manager
  • Customizable Manager interface provides tailored experience for site managers and content editors
  • Robust and fine-grained access control and user permissions for Manager and Web users
  • Available SLA-driven commerical support
  • International network of MODX Professionals
  • One of the open source world's most welcoming and helpful communities
  • Built to be extended without core-hacks or upgrade blocking
  • Built-in caching, capable of server and CDN caching for fast page delivery
3. Which projects or organizations are using MODX currently? What kind of projects do they use it for?
There are hundreds of thousands of organizations large and small using MODX for a variety of uses including Websites, Intranets and e-Learning. Some high-profile organizations using MODX include Pearl Drums, Hamilton Beach,The Green Party UK,, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, Genworth Financial (Intranet), Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and many more.

4. What do you expect will be the main benefits of having Bitnami packages available for MODX?
Bitnami packages will give people an opportunity to test MODX quickly and easily, on their own computer, without having to know how to install a webserver. In addition, it will allow Bitnami users to learn about MODX and evaluate it along with the other tools they use on a regular basis.

Would you like your favorite app to be part of Bitnami? Be sure to suggest and vote for it in our monthly contest!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Your Amazon Storage Costs May Have Dropped 50%

Amazon announced today that prices for their S3 standard and Reduced Redundancy Storage (RRS) have dropped at every tier by up to 22% in some regions, and EBS pricing has dropped by a whopping 50%. The price drop puts added pressure on competitors who are trying to keep up with Amazon's low-margin business strategy. 
Where Amazon S3 provides unlimited storage, EBS (or Elastic Block Store) provides high performance compute power with ease of scalability. New S3 pricing can save companies a bundle on their cloud storage costs. For example at the 49TB/month tier standard storage costs change in each region:

EU (Ireland)
US East (N. Virginia)
US West (N. California)
49 TB / month
Before: $0.080 / GB
After: $0.075 / GB
Before: $.080 / GB
After: $0.075 / GB
Before: $0.090 / GB
After: $0.084 / GB
But perhaps the bigger news is EBS price reduction. On EBS Standard volumes, prices have dropped from $0.11 per GB-month of provisioned storage to $.055 per GB-month. The price reductions are big shots fired over the bows of other public cloud service providers and begs the question, "why wait to move to the cloud?"

New instance types on BCH

Amazon had two announcements today: two new sizes for M3 instances and huge price drops for S3 and EBS. For EC2 customers, the new instance types – m3.medium and m3.large with 1 and 2 vCPUs respectively – give you greater control over your cloud costs and server capabilities. For example, the M-instance types are ideal for small and mid-size databases and data processing. Amazon also offers C-instance types which are intended for high computer-power applications.
The even better news: we've already added the new instance types to our server management options for Bitnami Cloud Hosting. For the uninitiated, Bitnami Cloud Hosting is an application to help you manage application images in the Amazon cloud. It offers convenient features such as automated backups, ease of scaling up or down, and user-friendly controls for managing your storage. Within Bitnami Cloud Hosting you can launch any of our 80+ images or configure a server with different components or databases. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Security fix for Drupal, new versions 7.26 and 6.30 released
The Drupal project has just released two new versions that fix a multiple vulnerabilities and one of them is considered highly critical. You can find more info about these issue at the Drupal blog post by the security team.

We have released BitNami Drupal 6.30 and 7.26 installers, virtual machines and Amazon EC2 and Windows Azure cloud images that fix this issue. It is also available BitNami Drupal 8.x version that allows you update Drupal files to the latest development version with Git. Check out our previous blog post to know how to start developing with Drupal 8.

We continue working on updating and releasing new versions of Drupal-based projects: CiviCRM and OpenAtrium.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New Ghost version 0.4.0 now available on Bitnami

We are happy to announce a new version of the Ghost blogging platform! The latest 0.4.0 version was released in Bitnami.

Ghost is a blogging platform with a simple, clean and focused user interface. Whereas other blogging platforms can also be extended as content management systems, Ghost stays true to its blogging roots and provides a great user experience for publishing. Bitnami Ghost provides a one-click install solution for Ghost. You can download installers for Windows, OS X or Linux, virtual machines or run your own server in the Amazon EC2 or Azure clouds

 Some of the most important features of Ghost 0.4.0 include:

Static pages: You can now toggle any post to be a "page.

Featured posts: You can now mark posts as featured and style them accordingly from your within your theme.

Sexy new loading bar:

Quick edit posts urls:

And many other changes.

Give it a try! You can launch a free cloud demo server in minutes and have a fully configured Ghost 0.4.0 instance to try.