There are many benefits to using open source software for web applications: rapid development cycles, leading functionality in many market segments, and of course the price. But actually deploying those applications can be a huge, daunting nuisance. The WordPress installation instructions, for example, may brag of taking only five minutes – but that presumes you are already running MySQL and PHP and a web server and are comfortable configuring them.
Bitnami is a relatively new effort to do something about this. They’ve created a series of “application stacks” that enable wizard-driven installation of popular open-source software across Windows, Linux, and Mac. Each stack is fully self-contained, including all the necessary servers and management tools, as well as the application in question, and each installs to a separate directory so that it can be isolated from the rest of your computer.
The range of software that BitNami covers is large and growing. It includes WordPress and Roller for blogging, several bug-tracking systems, CMS systems including Drupal and Joomla, the phpBB forum software, DokuWiki and MediaWiki wiki servers, and more. They also have a general-purpose LAMP development stack (as well as Windows and Mac variants) and have recently released a “RubyStack” tuned for Rails development and deployment.
I’ve installed several of the BitNami stacks, and they’ve performed as advertised. You’ll probably find that you want to make some changes if you actually move them into production (for example, to change the URL of the delivered application). Fortunately, BitNami also offers support forums with quick and helpful responses. Recommended if you want to check out some of the software that they’re covering without spending hours on setting up all the dependencies first.