Yep, There's A Linux Appliance For That

Purpose-built Linux distros are appearing faster than zombies in a first-person shooter. Need a drop-in replacement for Microsoft's Primary Domain Controller? Try the Domain Controller Appliance. Working with the public schools? Now you can install Moodle for e-learning and course management in minutes thanks to the Moodle Appliance. Customer wants a Wiki? Download the TWiki enterprise wiki platform and you're good to go.

These systems exist today because someone has taken the trouble to do the work of assembling, installing and integrating the application stack, testing and debugging them and bundling them as ready-to-deploy VMs for VMware, Xen and other hypervisors, as ISOs for bare metal, or directly to Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud for access through a browser.

But how did we get here? Since its emergence in the 1990s as a free, flexible and secure alternative to Windows, Linux has taken many forms and still dominates the server realm with a majority share of Internet servers, according to most counts. Linux also has done incredibly well as an embedded system and, because of Google, now occupies more than 50 percent of the world's smartphones as Android.

The desktop is another matter. Despite great advances by Ubuntu and others to develop a user-friendly UI and bullet-proof installation process, adoption on corporate and consumer desktops and laptops has been slow. And tracking adoption by this segment has been difficult because of a lack of reliable data.

It's clear that Linux has found its place as a server platform. And its enormous development community has been hard at work building Linux-based appliances to fill just about any niche a solution provider could imagine. One great example is TurnKey Linux, a library of Ubuntu-based virtual Linux appliances that are 100 percent open source and free of charge. Here are a few good examples.

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