zimbra turnkey question? Old school guy needs help with some concepts.

Nate's picture

I have successfully downloaded installed the zimbra appliance on an old ibm t30 in my office here. I'm impressed it went sooo smooth.

Being kind of "old school" I want to ask you guys a few questions, because, my brain is just having a hard time getting my head around the appliance concept for zimbra? I’ve read the forums and just have a few gaps that I hope you can help me with. I’m sure these questions will benefit others as well. This may seem stupid to some people but this is where I am currently. If you could point me in the right direction I would really be appreciative. Thank you in advance.

Here is my situation:

1. I have a dell 1950 bare metal that I plan on using for an email server to replace or current Kerio mail solution for company email, <500 users. Licensing is becoming cost prohibitive and the zimbra community edition will be enough functionality for our small business.

For the appliance should I have installed on the bare metal box ubuntu 1st then put the appliance? Or just the appliance? What is the best practice? And if I just install the appliance can I install others on the same server as well? I’m missing something here conceptually how this all works together. I’m use to the model of installing a root operating system and managing everything inside that operating system. Conceptually I’m struggling with, is a virtual appliance a self contained server on my server? Or is it separate and isolated and need to be treated like a separate server even though its on the same hardware? Is anything shared?

You know what I’m asking?

2. Email is mission critical to a company. How does one manage the file system on the appliance. Is there a gui available to access manage the appliance. I can use ssh but that is painful. How about managing performance, etc.?

3. Once the appliance is installed can I hack up the code as need to customize the build? Is there anything that prevents me from doing customization to zimbra source code in the appliance after its installed?

4. Has anyone run zimbra using VirtualBox on a windows server? Lessons learned?

5. Is this really safe for production email? What are the downsides of using an appliance?


thanks again if you cna help.




Don Kidder's picture



First welcolme to the Turnkey environment. I have not tried the zimbra appliance so I do not have specifics. In general I have learned a few things. The Turnkey appliances are Ubuntu 8.04 LTS server environemt pre-configured for particular applications. You can add other packages generally through apt-get (a Linux command), but you do have to be carefull with version dependacies that may exist in certain packages. You may want to start with the Ubuntu site ( particularly 8.04, if you haven't worked with Linux a general book will help.

With bare bone machines make sure you have enough ram for the app (1gig is enough to start).

Ubuntu servers are used all over in production but you have to follow production environment procedures like backup restore.

I set up the Wordpress appliance in no time, the Ruby on Rails one is another issue but related to the Ruby on Rails and Mysql password format. It takes some playing, studying and sometimes help but I think the appliances are a great tool for getting something up in a hurray. In a large environment you do need to do the necessary planning and have support. You could set up demos and protypes with the Turnkey appliances and then use the commercial support through Ubuntu's commercial support Canonical for a production environment. 

Good luck!



Jeremy Davis's picture

Hi, here's my 2c....

  1. It can be either. You have the choice of bare-metal install (a waste in my mind) or as a VM running in top some hypervisor type of OS (where you can run as many VMs as the hardware will support). You could create your own if your keen (this thread may give you some ideas - much of that software will install on Ubuntu). There are also a number of preconfigured OSs available, my preferred option is Proxmox (links and reading in this thread).
  2. TKL Appliances come preconfigured with SSH, SFTP, Webmin (web UI which is pretty powerful but I don't think it has any Zimbra specific config) and Webshell (as the name suggests, a web based shell). Proxmox allows for easy backups and clustering too which allows you to move the VM between servers without downtime.
  3. Liraz and Alon (the TKL Devs) are commited to OpenSource (and AFAIK all the appliances here are, including Zimbra). So short answer: you can do whatever you want (and/or whatever you're capable of), but if you work out something really cool, come back and share eh!?
  4. No I haven't and I preface my comments with the fact I haven't used Zimbra ever and it was 2.x last time I used VirtualBox. From what I've heard Zimbra is a RAM hog. I have a number of VMs installed on VMware Server running on Win Server 2k3 and it works ok but they're pretty low load. I'd much prefer my Proxmox Server, no fancy UI but a fairly comprehensive and powerful web UI and its based on x64 Debian (with their own custom kernel).
  5. As stated above I don't know about Zimbra myself but I've heard good things about it (except its a bit resource intensive). As for TKL appliances generally, the idea is that they're a prepackaged system based on free opensource software components. You could go away and build the same or similar appliance yourself, but it'd take a damn sight longer. This way almost all of the initial heavy lifting is done. It's based on arguably the most popular Linux platform (Ubuntu) and includes all OpenSource components (many come straight from the repos) so the expectation is that it's pretty sweet! And that has been my experience of TKL!

Good luck



Nate's picture

Just want to thank you both for your input here on this thread. It's been about a week and I am much further along in every respect.

The hypervisor layer was giving me the most dificulty in learning what would work for me. vmWare xen all seem pretty complicated. I really like the Proxmox VE solution as its free and straightforward.

Since Im picking that to use do you have any lessons learned you can share on what not to do? My server for this 1 cloud machine is Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} DELL PowerEdge 1950 v2 2x E5320 1.86GHz 4GB. Thinking about upgrading the ram.

I have to say I am pretty excited about the possibility P2V and the ability to move evniroments between hardware. One thing that I am stuggeling with conceptually is drive size. Applications that are self contained take up more space. 

Most of my servers have 150G drives on 1 partition. Have you guys moved any existing physical servers to ProxMox? I have win and linux platforms. Any lessones learned on this topic would be most helpfull. How do you handle drive space in the cloud with NAS? Whats your approach?


Jeremy Davis's picture

 I found Promox VE incredibly easy to setup and don't recall any gotchas.

Depending on how many VMs you plan on running you may not immediately need extra RAM. Although I've found Windows machines to suck heaps of resources (compared to Linux ones running in OpenVZ). OpenVZ containers still use a bit of HDD space but use very little RAM.

My servers all run on a LAN with limited external access. As such I don't use external storage as my server has 2 1.5TB drives and thats all I need (and then some!)

As for converting physical servers, I would use a different approach for Win and Linux ones.

For Win you will need to use KVM virtualisation, have a look here on how to convert an XP machine to KVM (I haven't tested this but should work, should apply to Server 2k3 too, not sure about later OSs).

For Linux I would convert to OpenVZ, the instructions I posted on how to create TKL OpenVZ templates should work for a physical machine too (but is untested). If they aren't Debian based distros then not sure how it'll go but I'd be interested to hear. I can't stress enough though the importance of backing up important data though as the process is destructive - the physical machine will never boot again! The sources I used when I created that wiki entry are at the bottom of the page which may contain more info.

Also you can download precreated TKL OpenVZ templates if you wish, have a look here.

Don Kidder's picture

I have been working on the Ubuntu Cloude running under Eucalptus. Have either of you tried it?

A biit messy on the setup and lack of usefull documentation as yet. New stable 10.04 LTS Cloud coming out at the end of April. Nathan, I started looking at Proxmox VE thanks to you. It has been around a lot longer (more stable?) and has a lot of GUI support. Not that I mind command line, but all it is doing is maintaining tables so why not from a GUI. Looks like Proxmox supports KVM and Openvz (whick Parallels Inc uses a version of).

Back to the search for the perfect internet deployment world!


Jeremy Davis's picture

and whilst it looks interesting I wasn't overly impressed at this stage (I imagine it'll be a bit more polished for 10.04). I think it holds promise but as you say, a little messy on the setup and I found that the documentation lacks clarity and some specifc details (that I couldn't sus out). Also it may be great for Enterprise and other big organisations but from what I could gather is a bit overkill for smaller organisations.

Proxmox VE OTOH appears to scale well for larger organisations but functions beautifully on a single server. I agree that it is a robust solution.

Having the option of container virtualisation (OpenVZ) is great for running Linux VMs and keeping resource usage to a minimum. Also I like to option to be able to over allocated resources.

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