Spotlight Feature: Building Appliances for the Cloud with Fedora 15

May 19, 2011

Fedora Team

Fedora 15 is just around the corner, and as with previous Fedora releases, we'll be taking a closer look at some of the new features as we approach Fedora 15's release day. First up: BoxGrinder. BoxGrinder comes to Fedora from our friends in the JBoss Community, and we're thrilled to be working with them!

BoxGrinder is a set of tools for making appliances, typically used in virtualized environments, or for use in a cloud environment. In a nutshell, it "grinds" out a preconfigured disk image, including the operating system and required software, ready for deployment - and can even deliver the appliance to a targeted location.

There are a few "subprojects" which make up BoxGrinder. BoxGrinder Build is a command-line tool, which is responsible for actually building the appliances. BoxGrinder REST is a server with a farm of builder nodes -- when building the appliance, build tasks are distributed to nodes where BoxGrinder Build is used to build the appliance. The resulting appliance is then transferred to a configured destination. And if command-line isn't your cup of tea, BoxGrinder Studio provides a web front-end to BoxGrinder Rest to facilitate a user-friendly, graphical user interface experience.

One of the best features of BoxGrinder is its flexibility in appliance locations, operating system support, and virtualization platforms. Created appliances can be sent to a variety of location types, such as a remote SFTP server or Amazon EC2. It currently supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora, and CentOS, and multitude of platforms including KVM/Xen, VMWare, VirtualBox, and EC2. A number of public cloud providers are supported as well, and the list is rapidly growing.

The simple appliance definition concept is great for sysadmins, particularly for those interested in repeatable deployments. "...having a simple appliance definition makes it possible to build the appliance in a repeatable fashion later. Or you can just rebuild the appliance for a different platform or deliver it to a different location. It's up to you how you want to use BoxGrinder's features," says Marek Goldmann, the BoxGrinder project leader and senior software engineer at Red Hat. "BoxGrinder helps you create the appliances with the software you want and configure it in the way you want. BoxGrinder saves you time. You don't need to install the operating system and configure all of your stuff afterward manually - BoxGrinder does this for you."

True to its open-source roots, BoxGrinder has a growing community, with responsive maintainers always looking to lend a hand. It was designed with a plugin architecture, so adding features like a new operating system, platform, or delivery method is easy to do -- and your tips can be shared right back with the community. The BoxGrinder community page has all of the information to get you started with engaging the community.

Want to read more? Check out the Fedora team's interview with Marek Goldmann about BoxGrinder here. You can also hop over to the BoxGrinder webpage to take a look at the project's latest news, and get more details on usage.

Try out BoxGrinder now! Download the Fedora 15 Beta here, and keep an eye out for the release of Fedora 15 in just a few days.

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