Documentation

Host your Application in the Amazon Cloud with XAMPP and Bitnami

Introduction

If you’re a PHP developer building a public-facing Web application, there are a number of good reasons why the cloud should be on your radar. It’s highly scalable, allowing you to quickly scale up if you application turns out to be a hit. It’s cost-efficient, because you only pay for the resources - bandwidth, CPU cycles, memory - you use. And it’s secure, because cloud providers have invested a great deal of time and thought into ring-fencing applications and user data.

However, if you’re new to the cloud or do most of your development locally, getting your PHP application from your local XAMPP box to the cloud can be a bit challenging. That’s where this tutorial comes in. Over the next few pages, I’ll walk you, step by step, through the process of deploying a PHP/MySQL application running on your local XAMPP server, to a cloud server running Bitnami’s LAMP Stack. Keep reading!

What You Will Need

Before we begin, a few quick assumptions. This tutorial assumes that you have a XAMPP installation with a working PHP/MySQL application. It also assumes that you’re familiar with the MySQL command-line client and that you have a working knowledge of transferring files between servers using FTP.

If you don’t have a custom PHP/MySQL application at hand, use the example application included with this tutorial: it’s a simple to-do list, created with Twitter Bootstrap and PHP. You can download it from here.

Now, if you’re new to the cloud, you might be wondering what Amazon Web Services and Bitnami are. Very briefly, Amazon Web Services is a cloud platform, which allows you to easily create Windows and Linux virtual servers online. Bitnami provides pre-packaged server images for these cloud servers, so that you can become productive with them the moment they come online. In short, Amazon provides the cloud infrastructure, and Bitnami provides the server images and software. And since both Amazon and Bitnami have a free tier, you can run and manage a full-featured PHP server for free for 1 year.

For this tutorial, I’ll be using the Bitnami LAMP Stack, which is Linux-based and bundles PHP, MySQL and Apache, together with key applications and components like phpMyAdmin, SQLite, Memcache, OpenSSL, APC and cURL. The LAMP stack also includes a number of common PHP frameworks, including the Zend Framework, Symfony, CodeIgniter, CakePHP, Smarty and Laravel.

To deploy your application to the Amazon cloud with the Bitnami LAMP Stack, here are the steps you’ll follow:

  • Register with Amazon Web Services (AWS)

  • Register with Bitnami

  • Connect your AWS and Bitnami accounts

  • Provision an AWS cloud server with the Bitnami LAMP Stack

  • Validate the cloud server

  • Deploy and test your application on the cloud server

The next sections will walk you through these steps in detail.

Step 1: Register with Amazon Web Services

At the end of this step, you will have signed up for the Amazon Web Services free tier.

Begin by creating an AWS account, by browsing to http://aws.amazon.com and clicking the "Sign Up" button at the top of the page. You will need an existing Amazon account to log in and sign up; if you don’t have one, create one to proceed.

Once you’ve signed in to Amazon, sign up for AWS by providing some basic contact information and your mobile phone number.

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Once that’s done, proceed to the next stage by entering your credit card information.

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If you’re worried about how much you’ll be billed for services, relax. When you first sign up for AWS, you get automatic access to the AWS free tier, which entitles you to 12 months of free usage up to certain limits. This includes 750 hours per month of free usage of Amazon EC2 micro servers, which come with 2.5-3.3 GHz Intel Xeon processors, 1 GB of memory and 1 virtual core - just right for development or low-traffic website hosting. So long as your usage falls within the limits of the free tier, your credit card will never be billed. However, Amazon still needs your credit card information for security purposes, to avoid service misuse and to confirm your identity.

You should fully understand the limits of the AWS free tier to avoid being unduly charged for service usage.

Amazon will now verify your identity, by making an automated call to your mobile phone number and prompting you to enter the PIN number displayed on the screen.

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Once your identity is verified, choose the "Basic" support plan (also free) and confirm your account.

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The AWS account registration machine will churn away for a minute or so, and you will then be redirected to a welcome page, which includes a link to the AWS management console. You should also receive an account confirmation email, which tells you that your account is good to go.

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Step 2: Register with Bitnami

At the end of this step, you will have created a Bitnami account.

The next step is to create a Bitnami account, so that you can launch a cloud server with Bitnami’s LAMP Stack image. If you have a Google, Facebook, Yahoo! or Github account, you can use your credentials from those services with OpenID to create your Bitnami account.

If you don’t have accounts with those services (or you don’t want to use them), you can use your email address and password to create a Bitnami account, as described below:

  • Head to the Bitnami sign-up page.

  • Enter your name and email address.

  • Choose a password.

  • Review and agree to the Bitnami terms of service.

Then, use the "Sign up" button to create your account.

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Bitnami will send you an email with a verification link which you’ll need to click or browse to, to activate your account. This will also sign you in to your Bitnami account.

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Step 3: Connect your AWS and Bitnami Accounts

At the end of this step, your Bitnami Cloud Hosting account will be configured and you will be ready to provision a cloud server.

The easiest way to set up your AWS cloud server with Bitnami’s LAMP Stack is via Bitnami Cloud Hosting, which gives you a simple control panel to provision, start, stop and check status of your AWS cloud servers. Bitnami Cloud Hosting also has a free tier that allows you to deploy, monitor and backup your AWS servers for free. However, to use it, you must first connect your AWS and Bitnami accounts, by obtaining security credentials for your AWS account and saving those credentials in your Bitnami Cloud Hosting account.

To obtain security credentials for your AWS account:

  • Log in to your AWS account if you’re not already logged in.

  • Launch the AWS management console, by browsing to https://console.aws.amazon.com/

  • Click your user name in the top menu bar and from the resulting menu, click "Security Credentials".

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  • On the resulting page, select the "Access Keys" sub-menu and the "Create New Access Key" command.

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  • AWS will generate a new key pair for your account, which you can see by selecting the "Show Access Key" command in the resulting pop-up window.

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  • Note the Access Key ID and Secret Access Key.

You’re now ready to connect AWS with Bitnami. To do this:

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Bitnami Cloud Hosting will recognize your Bitnami credentials and automatically sign you in.

The next step is to set up an administrative password for your Bitnami Cloud Hosting account and connect your AWS account with your Bitnami account.

  • Click the "Dashboard" menu item in the left sidebar menu, then the big green "Create a Server" button on the resulting page.

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  • Since this is your first time, you’ll be prompted to enter your AWS credentials and an administrative password. You can also later access this screen from the "Clouds" menu item.

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  • Enter the credentials from the previous step, as well as a hard-to-guess administrative password.

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The administrative password offers an additional level of protection against misuse: you’ll need to enter it when performing certain operations, such as creating new AWS server instances. Again, make sure you note it down for future reference.

Your AWS and Bitnami accounts will now be connected.

Step 4: Provision an AWS Cloud Server

At the end of this step, your AWS cloud server will be running and you will be able to access it through your Web browser.

To provision your AWS cloud server:

  • Select "Servers" in the left sidebar menu.

  • On the Server Management screen, click "New" and then "Launch Regular Server" to launch a new server.

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  • Define a name and domain name for your AWS server. The default server configuration is a "Micro" server with Ubuntu, 1000 MB RAM and 10 GB EBS storage, which is eligible for the AWS free tier.

The Bitnami Cloud Hosting dashboard does not yet have the ability to detect whether your AWS servers are in the free tier or not, as Amazon does not provide an API to retrieve this information from AWS. Therefore, it calculates and displays estimated charges for your AWS cloud server as per normal conventions. So long as your usage does not exceed the limits of the AWS free tier, nothing will actually be charged to your credit card and you can safely ignore the estimated charges shown in the Bitnami Cloud Hosting dashboard.
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Should you wish to pay for a more sophisticated server, you can choose from a "Small" server (1 dedicated virtual core) all the way up to a "8xLarge" server (32 dedicated virtual cores) depending on the needs of your application. For more information, refer to the AWS pricing sheet.

"Micro" servers work just fine for most PHP application development tasks.
  • Confirm your selection by hitting the "Build and Launch" button.

Bitnami Cloud Hosting will now begin spinning up the server. The process usually takes a few minutes: a status indicator on the page provides a progress update.

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Once the cloud server has been provisioned, the status indicator will show that it’s "running", and the "Go to Application" button in the lower panel of the dashboard will become an active link.

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At this point, you should be able to browse to the cloud server, either by clicking the "Go to Application" button or entering the cloud server host name directly into your browser’s address bar. You should see a welcome page like the one below (just so you know, it’s served up by Apache, which is part of the Bitnami LAMP Stack).

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Once the server is provisioned, you need to gather the security credentials you will need to begin using it. To do this:

  • Go back to your Bitnami Cloud Hosting dashboard and in the "Servers" section, select the running server and then click the "Manage" button in the top menu. This will launch the Manage Server screen. Click the "Connect" button.

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  • In the resulting pop-up window, download the .ppk file which contains the SSH access credentials you will need to connect to the server. Typically, this file is named bitnami-hosting.ppk.

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  • By default, Bitnami Cloud Hosting creates a user account named 'user' and an auto-generated password when a new server is provisioned. You will need this password when accessing Bitnami-supplied applications (including MySQL). Go back to the "Manage Server" screen, look in the "Properties" tab in the lower panel, and display and make a note of the application password.

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Step 5: Test PHP and MySQL

At the end of this step, you will have logged in to your cloud server and verified that PHP, MySQL and phpMyAdmin are working correctly.

You can now connect to the cloud server and test PHP to make sure it’s working correctly and has all the extensions you need. The easiest way to do this is with PuTTY, a free SSH client for Windows and UNIX platforms.

  • Download the PuTTY ZIP archive from its website.

  • Extract the contents to a folder on your desktop.

  • Double-click the putty.exe file to bring up the PuTTY configuration window.

  • Enter the host name of your cloud server into the "Host Name (or IP address)" field, as well as into the "Saved Sessions" field.

  • Click "Save" to save the new session so you can reuse it later.

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  • In the "Connection → SSH → Tunnels" section, create a secure tunnel for the phpMyAdmin application by forwarding source port "8888" to destination port "localhost:80".

  • Click the "Add" button to add the secure tunnel configuration to the session.

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  • In the "Connection → SSH → Auth" section, select the private key file (*.ppk) you saved in the previous step.

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  • In the "Connection → Data" section, enter the username 'bitnami' into the "Auto-login username" field.

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  • Go back to the "Session" section and save your changes by clicking the "Save" button.

  • Click the "Open" button to open an SSH session to the server.

  • PuTTY will first ask you to confirm the server’s host key and add it to the cache. Go ahead and click "Yes" to this request.

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You should now be logged in to your cloud server.

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By default, the Bitnami LAMP stack includes running Apache and MySQL servers, and all the packages that come with the stack are located in the /opt/bitnami directory. Your first step should be to create a phpinfo.php file in the Apache web server root at /opt/bitnami/apache2/htdocs directory to verify PHP’s capabilities.

shell> cd /opt/bitnami/apache2/htdocs
shell> echo "<?php phpinfo(); ?>" > phpinfo.php

Once the file has been copied, browse to http://[your-cloud-server-hostname]/phpinfo.php and you should see the output of the phpinfo() command.

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With this, you know that your PHP installation is configured and working correctly.

You can also check that MySQL is working by launching the MySQL command-line client at the shell prompt.

shell> mysql -u root -p

When prompted, enter the application password retrieved in the previous step. The client should start up and connect to the local MySQL server, displaying a welcome message as shown below.

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You should also be able to access phpMyAdmin through the secure SSH tunnel you created, by browsing to http://127.0.0.1:8888/phpmyadmin.

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To log in, use username 'root' with the application password from the previous step.

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In case you’d like to troubleshoot errors or modify the configuration for Apache, PHP or MySQL - for example, adjusting the maximum upload file size in PHP or changing the path to the MySQL data directory - here are the locations for key configuration and log files in the Bitnami LAMP Stack:

Configuration file(s)

Log file(s)

Apache

/opt/bitnami/apache2/conf/httpd.conf

/opt/bitnami/apache2/logs/error_log

PHP

/opt/bitnami/php/etc/php.ini

-

MySQL

/opt/bitnami/mysql/my.cnf

/opt/bitnami/mysql/data/mysqld.log

Usually, you’ll need to restart your server(s) for your changes to take effect. The Bitnami LAMP Stack includes a control script that lets you easily stop, start and restart Apache, MySQL and PHP. The script is located at /opt/bitnami/ctlscript.sh. Call it without any arguments to restart all services:

shell> sudo /opt/bitnami/ctlscript.sh restart

Or use it to restart a specific service only by passing the service name as argument - for example 'mysql':

shell> sudo /opt/bitnami/ctlscript.sh restart mysql
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Step 6: Deploy the XAMPP Application to the Cloud Server

At the end of this step, your PHP/MySQL application will be running in the cloud.

Your cloud server is now provisioned, secured and has a functional PHP/MySQL environment. All that’s left is for you to transfer your application code from your local XAMPP environment to your cloud server and set up the database.

The easiest way to transfer files to the server is with FTP or SFTP. Although you can use any FTP/SFTP client, I like FileZilla, a cross-platform, open source and feature-rich client. Download it from the FileZilla website and install it using the automated installer - it’s a quick process, only requiring you to agree to the license, choose the components (the default selection is usually fine) and specify the installation directory.

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Once FileZilla is installed, launch it and you’ll arrive at the main split-screen interface, one side for your local directories and the other for remote directories.

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To connect to the cloud server and deploy your application, follow these steps:

  • Use the "Edit → Settings" command to bring up FileZilla’s configuration settings.

  • Within the "Connection → SFTP" section, use the "Add keyfile" command to select the private key file for your server. FileZilla will use this private key to log in to the cloud server.

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  • Use the "File → Site Manager → New Site" command to bring up the FileZilla Site Manager, where you can set up a connection to your cloud server.

  • Enter your server host name or IP address and user name.

  • Select "SFTP" as the protocol and "Normal" as the logon type.

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  • Use the "Connect" button to connect to the cloud server and begin an SFTP session.

  • On the remote server side of the window, change to the /opt/bitnami/apache2/htdocs directory

  • On the local server side of the window, change to the directory containing your application code.

  • Upload your XAMPP application code to the remote directory by dragging and dropping the files from the local server to the cloud server (you can back up the original contents of the directory if you wish, by downloading them first).

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  • Once the files are transferred, log in to the server console using PuTTY.

  • Create a database for the application using the MySQL command-line client (you can use phpMyAdmin if you prefer a graphical interface). For example, since the application is a to-do list, let’s call the database 'tasks'.

mysql> CREATE DATABASE tasks;
  • Follow best practices and create a separate MySQL user with privileges to access only this database.

mysql> GRANT ALL ON tasks.* TO 'tasks'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'klio89';
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  • If required, update database credentials in your application. Then, install the application schema in the new database (assuming you already uploaded it with the application code). For example, you can use the following command with the MySQL command-line client:

shell> mysql -u tasks -D tasks -p < schema/tasks.sql
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If you’re logged in to phpMyAdmin, you can also import the database schema from your local XAMPP system. To do this, select the "Import" tab of the phpMyAdmin dashboard, select the file containing the schema, and click "Go" to have the tables created in your selected database.

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Browse to your cloud server’s host name and your application should be active. Here are a few screenshots of the example to-do list application running on the cloud server.

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Congratulations! You’ve successfully deployed your XAMPP application in the cloud.

Understand the Bitnami Cloud Hosting Dashboard and Monitoring Tools

To help you get the most out of your cloud server, Bitnami makes a number of administrative and monitoring tools available. These help you keep track of your application’s performance in the cloud and optimize your server and software configuration as needed.

To see these tools in action:

  • Browse to the Bitnami Cloud Hosting dashboard and sign in if required using your Bitnami account.

  • Select the "Servers" menu item.

  • Select your cloud server from the resulting list and click the "Manage" button.

  • Click the "Monitoring" tab in the lower pane.

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This tab provides an overview of CPU, memory and disk usage over the last 3 hours or 24 hours. You can also use the toolbar in the upper pane to restart, shut down, delete or clone the cloud server.

You can also use the Bitnami Cloud Hosting dashboard to resize your virtual server. To do this:

  • Select the "Resize" button in the toolbar in the upper pane.

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  • Select a new "Server Type" and "Disk Size" on the resulting page.

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  • Click the "Resize" button at the bottom of the page.

Bitnami Cloud Hosting will resize and restart your cloud server with the new configuration.

Finally, Bitnami Cloud Hosting also includes tools to clone and back up your servers.

  • Cloning allows you to make an exact copy of your server so that you can experiment with different settings without affecting the original server. You can clone the server by clicking the "Clone" button on the server management screen.

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  • Backups allows you to recover from accidental or malicious server failures. Backups can be performed ad-hoc or scheduled. You can backup the server by clicking the "Create Backup" button on the "Backups" tab of the server management screen.

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Improve Application Performance

Web application performance problems are hard to debug at the best of times, and more so when your server is in the cloud and running a pre-packaged stack. The responsiveness of your application at any given moment depends on numerous factors: server type, network bandwidth, cloud provider load, database load, caching system in use, application code structure, query structure and various other variables.

The Bitnami LAMP Stack already uses the Apache Event MPM and PHP-FPM for reduced memory usage and an increase in the number of simultaneous requests that the server can handle (more information). It also comes with the mod_pagespeed Apache module activated to rewrite pages on the fly and improve latency.

If you’re finding that your PHP/MySQL application’s performance is not up to scratch, here are a few general tips you can consider:

  • The Bitnami LAMP Stack includes APC, a popular PHP bytecode cache. Usually, when a PHP script is executed, the PHP compiler converts the script to opcodes and then executes the opcodes. APC provides a framework for opcode caching, thereby speeding up PHP applications without needing any code changes. Make sure your APC cache has enough memory and a long TTL. Read more about APC and how to use APC with PHP and Bitnami.

  • The Bitnami LAMP Stack also includes the PHP memcache extension. Memcache is a high-performance, distributed memory object caching system. Consider using memcache to store frequently-accessed fragments of data in memory as arrays, thereby reducing the load on your MySQL database server. Read more about memcache in PHP and how to use memcache with PHP and Bitnami.

  • Turn on MySQL’s slow query log and set MySQL’s 'long_query_time' variable to a low number. This lets you track which of your queries are performing inefficiently and adjust them, either structurally or by applying table indexes as needed, to improve performance. You can use tools like mysqldumpslow or mysql-slow-query-log-visualizer to parse and analyze the slow query logs generated.

  • If your application is database-heavy, you’ll gain performance by giving the MySQL server more memory. Use a tool like MySQLTuner to identify which server parameters need tuning, and incrementally make changes to your server’s cache and buffers to improve performance. If your tables are all MyISAM, disable InnoDB in your my.cnf file to save further memory.

  • Unload Apache modules which you don’t need to save memory, and adjust the log level to errors only.

  • Minify your JavaScript code, and consider using a CDN for static content like images.

Good luck, and happy coding!

About the author

Vikram Vaswani is the founder of Melonfire, an open source software consultancy firm, and the author of seven books on PHP, MySQL and XML development. Read more about him at http://vikram-vaswani.in/.