RealTime IT News

Novell 'Auto' Builds Linux For All

Building and maintaining packages for multiple Linux distributions has never been an easy task. But Novell wants to change that with a pair of releases it hopes will make it easier to build Linux application packages and custom Linux distributions.

Novell's openSUSE Build Service and KIWI build-your-own distro efforts are aimed at building community open source participation, as well as SUSE Linux itself.

The openSUSE Build Service was originally announced nearly a year ago as a Novell effort to make its Autobuild service open source. Autobuild is the internal and proprietary Novell mechanism by which it builds its Linux distributions.

Though Novell builds its SUSE distributions with the RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) package format, the openSUSE build service will work with other package formats, as well. By supporting other package formats, such as DEB (Debian package format), the build service is able to produce packages that will work for both RPM-based distributions, such as openSUSE and Red Hat's Fedora, as well as DEB-based distributions, such as Debian and Ubuntu.

"One of our future goals is to even make packages for Windows at some point in time," Holger Dyroff, vice president of outbound product management for SUSE Linux Enterprise at Novell, told internetnews.com. "It's still a research project that is ongoing but we are not limited to just RPM."

The goals for Novell with the openSUSE Build Service are twofold: increase participation and package availability. With the Build Service, Dyroff also expects that Novell is making it easier for developer to maintain their packages.

"Today somebody who is a maintainer for an open source project has the challenge that he has to participate in each of the distributions separately in order to have his package available for different distros," Dyroff explained. "The openSUSE build service allows him to go to one place to maintain the package and there make files and then have an automated build mechanism for the different distributions."

By providing packages in either RPM or DEB, the developer doesn't have to distribute the application as a compressed TAR ball, which is a type of compressed archive that can be difficult to both install and uninstall. Packaged formats allow for simpler installation and uninstallation of applications.

"The benefits for open source developers is one of the key ideas we had around the build service," Dyroff said.

In addition to the build service, Novell released its KIWI open source imaging tool to allow developers to build their own Linux distributions as a LiveCD or as a virtual Xen image.

Building your own Linux distribution is not a new concept. Open source appliance vendor rPath has been pushing it for more than a year. Dyroff said the goal of KIWI is to develop an appliance model, though at this time he didn't have any details on the precise direction of how that commercialization of such an appliance model might occur.

Both the openSUSE Build Service and KIWI are licensed under the GPL v2 open source license. Dyroff noted that while Novell is an active participant in the GPL version 3 process, which is currently ongoing, it's not known yet whether the build service or KIWI will move to GPL v3. But it might not be all that likely, either.

"We're happy with GPL v2 and don't think we need something else going forward for those two particular products," Dyroff said.

The big test for the openSUSE Build Service is still to come, however. To date Novell has used its proprietary Autobuild application to build both SUSE Linux Enterprise and openSUSE. That's about to change.

"The next milestone upcoming for us is openSUSE 10.3," Dyroff said. "And we are beginning with the effort to built openSUSE 10.3 completely inside the build service. That is the first time that we ourselves will build a complete Linux distribution in there."