If an organization is running a pre-configured software stack as a virtual image in Microsoft Azure or as an Amazon EC2 image, there is a high probability the software in question was freely pre-configured by the folks at Bitnami. They've been giving away complex software stacks for years, but giving away installers, virtual machine images and preconfigured instances is only part of the Bitnami story. The other part is their surprise emergence as a competitive provider of enterprise server management systems and software-stack hosting services in the cloud.
What it does
Nobody knows a Bitnami system better than Bitnami, so it only makes sense that organizations using a free Bitnami image would also turn to the company for its cloud-based hosting services. For its customers, the Bitnami cloud hosting service provides a variety of server management functions, including monitoring, alerting, capacity management, backup automation and disaster recovery, all of which are essential when an organization looks to move their operations to the cloud.
By using Bitnami hosting services, organizations can move content management services, continuous integration functions and even their entire production systems to the cloud using Bitnami images. At the same time, organizations can leverage Bitnami's in-depth knowledge of images – as well as the cloud provider on which the image is hosted -- to provide expert support and service.
What sets it apart
Two characteristics set Bitnami apart from its competition; the first is its history, and the second is its reputation within the IT community.
Anyone who has ever owned a computer knows how frustrating it can be when a given piece of software won't install correctly. But when you're a software developer who needs to download and install five or six different software products from three or four different vendors or open source projects, the frustration will increase by orders of magnitude. No stranger to this type of frustration, Bitnami started with no other objective than to offer free downloads that would include four or five different pieces of software all bundled together, along with a simple installer. For an individual or IT team interested in working with a fully configured development or production environment that included MySQL, Apache Tomcat and a PHP processor or an authentication system and preconfigured SSL support, they could go to Bitnami.com, download one file, run one installer, and all of the products would be seamlessly installed and configured on a Windows- or Linux-based system. Bitnami has generated tremendous goodwill within the IT community, having relieved so many individuals, teams and organizations of the hundreds of lost man-hours that would have otherwise been wasted by unproductively downloading, installing, configuring and integrating complex systems.
Bitnami was providing bundled software and system installers long before Amazon even coined the term EC2. When VMware popularized the idea of a virtual machine, rather than just providing installation packages, Bitnami made entire virtualized instances available for download. Simply by running their download on a virtual machine client, anyone could have a free, Linux-based environment with a fully configured LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) stack. As more open source projects emerged, Bitnami offered more pre-configured images, including Tomcat systems, Liferay Portal images, pre-configured content management systems and the popular Wordpress systems.
When Amazon introduced the Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2 images, it was a natural progression for Bitnami to move from providing virtual machines to providing Amazon instances. "We started with installer. Then we added virtual machines. Then the next logical step was providing Amazon machine images," said Bitnami CEO Daniel Lopez Ridruejo.
In fact, much of EC2's success is owed to the fact that Bitnami was there from the start, providing more than empty Windows and Linux images. "Cloud providers are like television networks; they provide channels, but those channels require content. Our images provide the content to cloud providers such as Amazon, Azure and other new partners we haven't announced yet," Ridruejo said. So today, if you're looking to run a Joomla or Jenkins or JRuby system in AWS or Azure, it's more likely than not that you'll end up using a Bitnami image to do it. If you're happy using a Bitnami image, the next logical step is to go directly to the source for your cloud computing needs and sign up for Bitnami Cloud Hosting Service.
What users say
"What's not to love?" asked Fred Zimmerman, a research scientist who is using Bitnami stacks to help launch his robo-authoring system PageKicker. "Speed to market, ease of use, good customer service and a nice dashboard" are just some of the reasons Zimmerman choose Bitnami. "I'd add that the range of stacks available is a great feature too," said Dan Bashaw, digital strategist. With almost 100 technology stacks available -- covering everything from Subversion-based source code management to media-sharing systems like ownCloud -- how could anyone argue that fact? Bitnami-configured systems backed by Bitnami cloud hosting systems is a winning proposition all the way around, with over one million new installations every month.
For its cloud-based hosting systems, Bitnami provides three separate pricing tiers to meet the needs of basic, business and enterprise users. A basic plan in which users can provision up to three micro and small server instances starts at $24 a month. Enterprise packages allow for provisioning up to 50 server instances of any size and can max out at $1199 a month, but can be as low as $99 a month when only three instances are provisioned. The business plan is designed to meet the needs of those organizations that fall somewhere between the basic plan and the enterprise plan, ranging from $49 a month for three instances, to $599 a month for 50 instances of varying sizes.
Figuring out where an organization falls on this range of options requires some expert insights. Bitnami encourages organizations to contact them to put together a custom plan for all hosting needs.