Tag: ec2

VuFind in 8 minutes using Amazon EC2

I’ve created a screencast showing how easy it can be to install VuFind. Here I go from nothing (no server, no OS) to full VuFind install in under 8 minutes.

It would probably take less than two minutes (under 10mins in total) to add MARC records to the installation, but I didn’t have any to hand at the time.

This demo cheats a bit by using a script that does the heavy work, the script was a mash up I created taking existing scripts and commands that come with VuFind with a few tweaks. It probably would have been only slightly slow to run most commands manually.

The script in question is at http://www.nostuff.org/vufind-install.txt and of course anyone is free to download (and improve, please share changes). There’s lot of potential to improve it’s ability to work on different flavours of Linux.

Multi Instance

One of the key aspects of the script is that is allows you to easily install multiple instances of VuFind on to a server. By default VuFind installs in to /usr/local/vufind and has other things (databases, apache conf) names vufind. The script prompts for an ‘instance name’ and then uses that in place of ‘vufind’.

The rational for this is my feeling that VuFind is an excellent tool for creating niche catalogues that are a subset of the full Library collection (or as someone put it a ‘tranche of the catalogue’). A branch Library, particular collection, rare books, a particular School, Core reading (short loan books), specialist resources (AV / laptop items for loan) etc. The idea of a organisation’s records being in system, rather than many (of varying quality) makes sense, but it’s reasonable for those moving their records to a central system to want to be able to search their records independently of other records (and expecting users to go to an Advanced search of using a refine option of the main catalogue is not really not an option). VuFind seems like an obvious answer to this. Especially if new instances can be set up quickly.

In fact it seems to be a failing of most of the main Library Manage Systems (ILS) and their web interfaces that being able to create lots of interfaces (slicing and dicing the underlying single large pool of records). Most require a large amount of effort to create a second web interface to a catalogue. This seems like such an obvious flaw and a barrier to moving to one system to manage resources such as books and other items for an entire organisation.

Amazon EC2

Amazon AWS is a great tool to use for this. A small instance will cost around $0.10 an hour, the micro instance is even cheaper (just over $0.02). Create an instance for ten hours and you have spent around a dollar. Mess it up, just destroy it and create a new one. No risk and no hassle (for first time users the hardest thing is probably the ssh private keys).

Amazon AWS EC2 and vufind

Today I saw a tweet from juliancheal, which mentioned he was setting up his virtual server on slicehost. I hadn’t heard of this company but their offering looks interesting. This got me thinking about cloud hosting and I decided it was time to actually try out Amazon’s AWS EC2.This allows you to run a virtual server (or multiple servers) in the Amazon cloud, servers can be created and destroyed by a click of a button.

First thing is to get a server ‘image’ to run in the cloud. Thankfully many have already been created. I went for a recent ubuntu server by Eric Hammond. This is basically a ubuntu server vanilla install, but with a few tweaks to work nicely as a EC2 virtual server. Perfect!

Signing up is quick and easy, it just uses your Amazon (the shop) credentials. Once created, you are taken back to the main control panel where you can see your new instance, including details like the all important public DNS name.  Just save a private key to your computer and use it to ssh in to your new server.

e.g.: ssh -i key1.pem root@ec2-174-129-145-xx.compute.amazonaws.com

(you may need to chmod 400 the key file, but all this is documented)

Once in, well it’s a new server, what do you want to do with it?

I installed a LAMP stack (very easy in ubuntu: apt-get update and then tasksel install lamp-server). I initally couldn’t connect to apache (but could from the server itself using ‘telent localhost 80’). I presumed it was a ubuntu firewall issue, but it turned out you also control these things from the AWS control panel. The solution was to go to ‘security groups’ and modify the group I had created when setting things up and adding HTTP to ‘Allowed Connections’. This couldn’t of been easier. And then success, I could point my browser at the DNS name of the host and saw my test index page from the web server.

Amazon aws control panel, modify to allow http connections

So now what? I pondered this out loud via Twitter, and got this reply:


Excellent idea!

Good news: vufind has some good – and simple – documentation for installing on ubuntu;


Following the instructions (and editing them as well, they specified an earlier release and lacked a couple of steps if you weren’t also reading the more general install instructions) I quickly had a vufind installation up and running. Took around 20-25 minutes in all.

Now to add some catalogue data to the installation. I grabbed a MARC file with some journal records from one of our servers at work and copied it across as a test (I copied it just by using a scp command logged in to my ec2 server). After running the import script I had the following:

vufind results.If the server is still running when you read this then you can access it here:


EC2 is charged by the hour, and while cheap, I can’t afford to leave it running for ever. :)

So, a successful evening. Mainly due to the ease of both Amazon EC2 and Vufind.

A final note that if you are interested in EC2 you may want to look at some notes made by Joss Winn as part of the jiscpress project: http://code.google.com/p/jiscpress/wiki/AmazonWebServices

Both Ec2 and vufind are worth further investigation.