Evergreen VMWare image -- oh so close!

Posted on Wed 18 April 2007 in Libraries

Many of you know that I have been working on step-by-step instructions for installing Evergreen on Gentoo on the official Evergreen documentation wiki. At the same time, I have been working on using that documentation to create a VMWare image of Evergreen -- this avocation dates all the way back to the ILS Symposium hosted by the University of Windsor in November, 2006. I owe endless thanks to miker, berick, bradl, and phasefx from the Evergreen development team for all of their assistance with my annoying questions over the past months.

Obligatory defining of terms: What is a VMWare image, and why should I care? VMWare is a virtualization product (the "VM" stands for "virtual machine"). Virtualization is a technology that allows you to run one or more "guest" operating systems on top of a "host" operating systems. So, let's say you're really interested in trying out Evergreen, but don't have a spare computer to install Linux on, or don't have the time or interest in learning how to compile packages from source on Linux, or don't have much Linux experience -- you can install the free (zero dollar, but not open source) VMWare Server on any Windows computer, download an Evergreen VMWare image to your computer, and start up the Evergreen image. In less than an hour (assuming you have good banwidth to download VMWare Server and the Evergreen image), you can have Evergreen-running-on-Linux, running in a virtual machine on top of Windows. That's the basic testing / evaluation test case for virtualization, anyways. For some small libraries, this may in fact be all that they need for a production library system -- but that's a discussion for another blog post.

One more note on virtualization technology: there are other virtualization options, like Xen or Bochs. But VMWare is the 900-pound gorilla on the scene, and it's what I happen to have the most experience and success using, so that's why I'm working with it. But it's an open community, so if you've got the skills to create images for other virtualization software, go for it!

The good news is that Evergreen appears to be running cleanly on my system. The OPAC works, albeit without any bibliographic entries at the moment as I'm still pestering miker with questions about the MARC record and holdings import process. But getting a working install seemed like the more important first task. Importing holdings and patron information is going to require different steps depending on which ILS you are currently using, so this should be a reasonable starting point for an image.

In my documentation, I haven't attached the exact set of configuration files that I have used in the VMWare image, but I can do that if people indicate that they are desired. If you have questions about anything that seems missing from my documentation or why I made certain choices, I would be glad to share that information with you and correct the docs. But rather than supplying just the docs and config files, I suspect the whole VMWare image would be more generally useful in the short term. I'm guessing that most libraries interested in kicking the tires of Evergreen don't want to spend a large chunk of their evaluation period working out the installation kinks, but just want to get right to the hands-on portion of the evaluation.

So, Sunday night I uploaded my first version of the image and shared the URL with a few close contacts, asking them to flush out any bugs. Kudos to dmcmorris for indirectly leading me to discover that I had missed a minor dependency. Another upload last night, and I'm anxiously awaiting the feedback from my comrades in arms. If all goes well, a VMWare image of Evergreen should be available for download by the end of the week. Crossing fingers...