This post is part of a series of older draft posts from a few months ago that I’m just getting around to publishing. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a build system that meets my requirements (see the last paragraph).

At work, we have a handful - currently a really small number - of RPM packages that we need to build and deploy internally for our CentOS server infrastructure. A number of them are just pulled down from specific third-party repositories and rebuilt to have the vendor set as us, and some are internally patched or developed software. We run websites, and on the product side, we’re a Python/Django shop (in fact, probably one of the largest Django apps out there). We don’t deploy our Django apps via RPM, so building and distributing RPMs is definitely not one of our core competencies. In fact, we really only want to do it when we’re testing/deploying a new distro, or when an upstream package is updated.

Last week I pulled a ticket to deploy node.js to one of our build hosts, and we’ve got a few things in the pipeline that also rely on it. I found the puppetlabs-nodejs module on Github that’s supposed to install it on RHEL/CentOS, but it pulls packages from, and the newest version of nodejs there is 0.6.18, which is quite old. I can’t find any actively maintained sources of newer nodejs packages for RHEL/CentOS (yeah, I know, that’s one down side to the distributions…). However, I did find that nodejs 0.9.5 is being built for Fedora 18/19 in the Fedora build system, is already in the Fedora 18 Testing and Fedora Rawhide repos, but is failing its EL6 builds in their system. The decision I’ve come to is to use the puppetlabs-nodejs module to install it, but try and rebuild the Fedora 18 RPMs under CentOS 5 and 6.

So that’s the background. Now, my current task: to search for an RPM build system for my current job. My core requirements, in no specific order, are:

  • Be relatively easy and quick to use for people who have a specfile or SRPM and want to be able to “ensure => present” the finished RPM on a system. i.e., require as little per-package configuration as possible.
  • Be able to handle rebuilding “all” of our RPMs when we roll out a new distro version. Doesn’t necessarily need to be automatic, but should be relatively simple.
  • Ideally, not need to be running constantly - i.e. something that will cope well with build hosts being VMs that are shut down when they’re not needed.
  • Handle automatically putting successfully built packages into a repository, ideally with some sort of (manual) promotion process from staging to stable.
  • Have minimal external (infrastructure) dependencies that we can’t satisfy with existing systems.

So, the first step was to research existing RPM build systems and how others do this. Here’s a list of what I could find online, though most of these are from distributions and software vendors/projects, not end-user companies that are only building for internal use.

  • Koji is the build system used by Fedora and RedHat. It’s about as full-featured as any can be, and I’m familiar with it from my time at Rutgers University, as it’s used to maintain their CentOS/RHEL packages. It’s based largely on Mock. However, setting up the build server is no trivial task; there are few installations outside of Fedora/RedHat, and it relies on either Kerberos or an SSL CA infrastructure to authenticate machines and clients. So, it’s designed for too large a scale and too much infrastructure for me.
  • PLD Linux has a builder script that seems to automate rpmbuild as well as fetching sources and resolving/building dependencies. I haven’t looked at the script yet, but apparently it’s in PLD’s “rpm-build-tools” package.
  • PLD Linux also has a CVS repository for something called The README and ARCHITECTURE files make it sound like a relatively simple mainly-Python system that builds SRPMS and binary packages when requested, and most importantly, seems like a simple system that uses little more than shared filesystem access for communication and coordination.
  • ALT Linux has Sisyphus, which combines repository management and web interface tools, package building and testing tools, and more.
  • The Dries RPM repository uses (or at least used… my reference is quite old) pydar2, “a distributed client/server program which allows you to build multiple spec files on multiple distribution/architecture combinations automatically.” That sounds like it could be what I need, but the last update says that it isn’t finished yet, and that was in 2005.
  • Mandriva Linux has pretty extensive information on their build system on their wiki and a build system theory page, but it seems to be largely a hodgepodge of shell scripts and cronjobs, and is likely not a candidate for use by anyone other than its designers.
  • Argeo provides the SLC framework which has a “RPM Factory” component, but I can’t seem to find much more than a wiki page, and can’t tell if it’s a build automation system or just handles mocking packages and putting them in a repo on a single host.
  • Dag Wieers’ repositories use (or used) a set of python scripts called DAR, “Dynamic Apt Repository builder”. They’re on github but are listed as “old” and haven’t been updated in at least 2 years. The features sound quite interesting, and though it’s based on the Apt repo format, it might provide some good ideas for implementing a similar system.

Update four months later: I’ve yet to find a build system that meets my requirements above. For the moment I’m only managing \~20 packages, so my “build system” is a single shell script that reads in some environment variables and runs through using mock to build them in the correct order (including pushing the finished RPMs back into the local repository that mock reads from) and then pushing the finished packages to our internal repository. Maybe when I have some spare time, I’ll consider a project to either make a slightly better (but simple) RPM build system based on Python, or get our Jenkins install to handle this for me.


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