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Eight great virtual appliances for VMware, free for the downloading

Frank J. Ohlhorst | Sept. 2, 2010
The combination of free open source and virtual machines is hard to beat; here are some of the handiest virtual appliances you'll find


WebGUI is an open source Web application framework and Web CMS (content management system), licensed under the GPL, that is available as a VMware appliance free of charge. WebGUI is aimed at businesses, universities, and schools that need an easy-to-use Web publishing system. WebGUI functions as a full-fledged CMS and offers the ability to publish articles, create forums, build photo galleries, conduct surveys and polls, manage projects, create interactive event calendars, create complex data entry forms, sell and advertise products, sell and maintain subscription services, maintain site security through users and groups, and manage individual user interface levels.

Normally, a CMS is complex to install, configure, and use, but WebGUI overcomes those three challenges by offering the server as a virtual appliance that runs under VMware's virtualization products. A community-based, open source approach has steadily improved the product to the point where its browser based interface is one of the easiest for end users to use. That same interface powers administrative features, keeping setup and changes relatively easy.

WebGUI includes a multitude of integrated applications that allow users to build websites and intranets the way they want. There are tools for creating e-commerce sites, sites with dynamic content, and editors for end users that eliminate the need to learn HTML to create Web content. WebGUI is one of the most complete CMS products available, and will require little modification to meet an organization's basic Web publishing needs. It will prove to be ideal for nonprofits and other businesses with limited budgets.

BitNami WordPress

WordPress is a Web publishing platform that focuses on aesthetics, Web standards, and usability, which is a long way of saying WordPress makes it easy to put content up on the Web. Although WordPress has been around since 2003, it has been rather complex to set up and deploy. However, BitNami offers WordPress (and many other applications) as a VMware virtual appliance, which contains a minimal Linux operating system (either OpenSuse or Ubuntu) and the fully configured Apache-MySQL-PHP stack that WordPress requires. 

WordPress specializes in creating "static" Web content, i.e. Web pages with a focus on text. Thousands of themes and plug-ins are available to help users create custom sites that organize information in the way they prefer. WordPress offers a browser based dashboard that includes tools to edit and post content, manage images, and track comments. Most users will find WordPress easy to use and a simple way to manage their own content online.

As a virtual appliance, WordPress can be deployed in a matter of minutes, and users can be creating content for the Web or an intranet within an hour. WordPress is completely free and several distributions of it are available, allowing users to transition from the virtual appliance to a full fledged Linux implementation of the product. However, most smaller, straightforward sites may never need to move away from BitNami's virtual appliance version.


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