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Ruby and Rails Software Stacks Overview

by Mirko Stocker on Aug 21, 2008 |
While programming in Ruby is fun most of the times, setting up and configuring all the needed software components usually isn't. Fortunately, there exist an increasing number of Ruby software stacks in various flavors: Amazon EC2 images, virtual machine images, or simple installers for an existing system.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but should give an overview of the different kinds of Ruby software stacks available.

RubyWorks

The RubyWorks Production Stack is an offering from ThoughtWorks and consists of a several open source products, already configured to work together and easily installable and updateable via your Linux distribution's regular tools. It is offered for RedHat Enterprise Linux 4 and 5, CentOS, Debian Etch, and Ubuntu Feisty. Once you've installed the rubyworks package, you'll have a cluster of Mongrels behind HAProxy and monitored using monit. ThoughtWorks also offers paid support for this software stack.

EC2 on Rails

As the name gives away, EC2 on Rails is an image for Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud EC2. It's an Ubuntu Linux server image and will run a Mongrel cluster behind Apache 2.2, mysql, memcached, monit, and much more for you. It also creates a backup of your data to Amazon S3. The management is done with Capistrano; you'll get all that's needed with the ec2onrails gem.

Elastic Server On-Demand

Elastic Server On-Demand, from CohesiveFT, lets you customize your own server before you can download an image for VMWare, Parallels, Xen, or EC2. You can also download images from other users and rate their images. Certainly a very interesting solution if you want to get a customized system quickly, without the need to install everything by hand.

Bitnami RubyStack and JRubyStack

Bitnami offers a whole range of software stacks, including one for Ruby with Rails, MySQL, Subversion and several gems. The JRuby stack includes JRuby, Rails, Java, Tomcat, GlassFish gem, MySQL and Subversion. Bitnami's stacks are based on an installer and work with Linux, OS X, and Windows, so you don't need a virtual machine to run them.

Engine Yard Express

If you're interested in Engine Yard's hosting services and want to know how one of their slices works, then you should try the Engine Yard Express VMWare image. It starts four mongrels, two of them Rails instances and the other two Merb.

What's your opinion of such software stacks? Are they a good thing or is it better to install or configure everything yourself? Do you know of other stacks?

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FiveRuns Install by Dean Cruse

And, the FiveRuns Install stack, available at fiveruns.com/products/install.

Ruby build tools? by Kevin Teague

For Python projects/web apps I use zc.buildout, which is a build tool that allows you to specify all of the parts of a project in a config file(s). You can include everything that makes up your app in a single config file: database, web framework, libraries, web server, http cache, process manager, ldap, even the Python interpreter. Typically the recipes to install these parts build from source, the advantage of this approach is you can check into version control a complete description of the exact parts (and versions) required to run your app - and developers can match their dev and test environments up exactly with what's in production by simply checking out the project and running the build.


For a Rails app that I support, our devs put together a simple bash script, since we couldn't find any Ruby equivalents to this approach. Installing from source is a bit more of a hassle than a pre-packaged stack, but in the long run it can pay off since it can suck to be too closely tied to a particular platform, especially when working w/ distributed teams where the developers may be running a variety of operating systems and you want them to easily reproduce all of the parts of the stack on their system.

Heroku?? by Kurt Christensen

Heroku, anyone?? I've heard nothing but nice things about their service.

Stacks are a good thing, yes by Douwe Vonk

As you mentioned it lets you try out software much faster without first delving into all the component downloads/setups. Also in a corporate environment managing and testing all software components can be a hassle - e.g. when upgrading (you can't fool around here). I can imagine that a stack can be of help here also: 1) you probably (hopefully) get a stack where the versions of all components work together OK and 2) if the stack also delivers some migration tool for your current applications you will be very happy.

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