The side project I’ve been mentioning for a while now is a new site that delivers Oracle software through prebuilt VMWare virtual machines. Many people say the hardest part of using Oracle software is getting the installation down and functioning properly. I know many people who have been turned off of some wonderful software because its just a pain to configure. My goal with this new site it to remove that pain, allow people to download the prebuilt virtual machines and just start playing with the tools and walking through the demos instead of worrying with how to get everything setup correctly.
However, because I feel the architecture planning, installation, and configuration of the software is extremely important to success in many cases, I’m going to document all the virtual machine installs I do for the new site on here so that people can refer to them when they want to build their own from scratch. So over the next few weeks look for the build up of some of the virtual machines that will appear on the new site listed here.
First thing I would like to discuss is my selection of software for this project in hopes of getting some thoughts from you before I release everything publically. Over year ago when I had this idea originally there were many things in the way preventing me from doing this project with any success.
One of the first issues I struggled with was linux licensing. At the time, the only supported options for linux under the Oracle suite of tools were either Suse or RedHat AS. Both these products cost hundreds of dollars a license and my bank account could not support the fees of people downloading and using my licenses for personal use. Within the last 9 months I’ve stumbled onto a project called CentOS (http://www.centos.org) which aims to provide an open version of the RedHat AS distribution of linux with no licensing fees. While not officially supported by Oracle, there are plenty of people internally and externally (including myself) that use this distribution without a problem. Problem #1 solved.
The second barrier was VMWare and their virtual machine technology. At $200 a license for the Workstation software I knew it wouldn’t be in everyone’s budget to buy and use to “play” with new technologies. I had been using VMWare for years and really loved the product, but knew this would prevent a lot of people from using my prebuilt machines. Luckily enough, EMC (who owns VMWare), saved the day and in December of 2005 launched VMWare Player (http://www.vmware.com/products/player/), a free to use and distribute version of their popular Workstation product that allows users to run any prebuilt virtual machine on their own desktops on either Windows or Linux. And even recently they’ve started a beta version of the product for Mac OSX. Problem #2 solved.
The third major issue was how to distribute the software, with many of the virtual machines I was building nearing 6GB in size it greatly concerned me about the bandwidth costs I would ensue by allowing people to directly download the VMs from my site. Even with 2TB of bandwidth available a month, that was approximately 300 downloads a month and I’d be running into some major bills. And unmetered connections would greatly add to my monthly hosting fees. So because of that I decided to research Torrent networks deeply. I know torrents get a bad name because much of the “underground” uses it to trade music and movies, but the architecture and technology behind the distributed network is pretty amazing. The key to any torrent network is the seeders, they are the people that have entire copies of the download on their machines and seed the network sharing the bandwidth costs and boosting the download speeds for everyone. There are also some torrent tracker technologies that force people to authenticate to the trackers and monitor their contributions to the network. This greatly appealed to me because I could now track who my best users are and reward them with early downloads and also watch and ban the people that were leeching from the servers and the community without being seeders. I know its not the “nicest” solution, but it ensures a great community atmosphere and makes sure everyone is helping each other out (and not sticking me with a bandwidth bill).
So thats the idea, prebuilt Oracle Virtual Machines built using free and open source software, with a bulletin board and blogging community surrounding it. Should be fun, at the least should be an adventure. Consider this my Alpha Release announcement, I’m looking for anyone who would like to be an early adopter and help out with the start of the site. I really need someone to help with site design (I’m horrible with graphics), some beta testers for the torrent tracker and virtual machines, and anyone else who cares to help out I’d be more than happy to welcome you. Send me an email directly at: email@example.com or add a comment to the blog.
Keep your eye out in this space for some new articles about building the virtual machines and hopefully I’ll have the full release out by OracleWorld.