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
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
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
“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.