Sakai Install: Preparing the System

We chose Linux as the platform for Sakai. The main reason was cost — no licenses for the server OS and the availability of low cost server hardware. We opted for CentOS 5 as the flavour of Linux. It is basically Red Hat Enterprise and has proven to be robust in the past.

CentOS is easy to install. I began with a virtual machine running in VMWare Fusion on my iMac. This allowed me to walk through the install process as a dry run, test out tools and steps, and to roll back if anything broke.

I opted for a 64-bit build of CentOS, so that we could take advantage of large amounts of memory later on if needed.

After installing CentOS using the GUI, the next step was to prepare the system for installing Sakai from source.

To install Sakai 2.5.x from source, we need several things (with caveats):

  • Java JDK/JRE 5.0 Update 18 (Java 6 will NOT work)
  • Apache Tomcat 5.5.26 or greater (Tomcat 6 is NOT compatible with Sakai)
  • Maven 2.0.6 or better (for building Sakai source code)
  • MySQL 4.1 or 5.0.x

Out of the box, CentOS has both Java 1.4 and Java 6 installed. Java JDK/JRE 5.0 needs to be downloaded from Sun and installed (Note that Sun Microsystems is withdrawing Java 5.0 as of September 2009, so if you want it, download and archive a copy now).

Installing a new version of Java involved unpacking the distribution in a local directory (e.g. /opt or /usr/local) and the using the “alternatives –install” command to make the system aware of the version and to select it as the default Java version. Use “java -version” to confirm that the correct java version  is selected.

Next: Installing Tomcat 5.5

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Upgrading an existing Sakai installation

The next few posts will chronicle the process of creating a fresh install of the Sakai portal/course management system and then importing content from an existing installation.

The organization that I went through this process for had a Sakai instance that had been installed by a vendor/consultant as a binary distribution. We relied on the vendor for troubleshooting, upgrades and tool/portlet installations. We decided a few months back to develop the expertise “in-house” to install, configure and upgrade Sakai so that we would no longer be reliant on a vendor.

We wanted to go through the entire process of installing Sakai from source in order to learn how to do it, and to allow us to add tools using source code later on.

Sakai is not that difficult to install on its own, but there are a number of issues that arose during the process that I felt it was important to document.

Stay tuned!

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