Novell Launches Public Build System, Previews SUSE 10.1
Published: April 11, 2006
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
One of the things that Novell got when it acquired commercial Linux distributor SUSE in November 2003 was a content versioning system called AutoBuild, that SUSE used to create its own distribution of Linux, including all of the thousands of applications that go into a distro. When Novell took its SUSE Linux development effort to an open source, community effort, one of the things it promised to do was improve and extend AutoBuild for that project. Last week at LinuxWorld, Novell went one step better.
The AutoBuild system is now known variously as the Open Build Framework and the openSUSE Build Service. According to Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, director of marketing for Linux and open source products at Novell, rather than just being restricted to the openSUSE project, the open build framework and related tools will be thrown wide open to the larger software development community. "Each Linux distro is a little bit different, and often, the projects behind these distributions have to hire specialists to integrate their packages," explained Mancusi-Ungaro. "We are making an open build system to help them, and it is our intent that this system support Debian, Fedora, and other major distros."
So, ironically, the build system that is going to be behind the openSUSE project will be available to competitors of SUSE, including rivals like Red Hat. This may sound counter-intuitive to you. It certainly does to me. But no one will be able to say that Novell doesn't give to the open source community.
Last August, Novell was saying that it would have the updated AutoBuild system to market in early 2006, and the fact that it is previewing it at LinuxWorld in April does not mean it has met that schedule. The expansion of AutoBuild's mission seems to have pushed out its delivery a bit. Earlier this year, when Novell was talking up the openSUSE project, the company said that AutoBuild would not be a full-blown content versioning system, but is rather a server that manages the process of culling updates to the thousands of open source projects that were encapsulated in the commercial SUSE Linux distribution. The package maintainers who work at Novell use AutoBuild to select code from the projects out there in the ether and decide what goes into openSUSE build. After a new feature and the code behind it makes it into openSUSE and then eventually SUSE Linux for desktops and finally--after a lot more tweaking and testing--is moved on up to the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server edition. The big change with the openSUSE project with regard to AutoBuild is that the package maintainers at Novell were in contact with the openSUSE community, who will be submitting bug reports and fixes as well as suggestions for what should be included. Novell said that AutoBuild was not supposed to be a repository of code, like SourceForge or CollabNet, but will rather point to these sources. AutoBuild initially supported only links to source code, not binaries, and was not designed for contributors to make frequent edit-compile-test cycles.
At LinuxWorld last week, Novell said that the openSUSE build service would be rolled out gradually though 2006. A small number of testers are playing with it now, shaking the bugs out, and Novell is putting together the back-end hardware and software systems to support the system, which will be finished sometime in the second quarter. Novell said that many of the components of the code for the build system itself would be open sourced (all of the client code and some of the server code), and that the whole shebang will have a set of open application programming interfaces so it can be integrated with existing programming tools. The build service is comprised of a front-end client that has a command line interface as well as a Web interface, and then a back-end server that hosts pointers to source code for projects, package download and mirroring tools. Public access to the open build system is expected before the end of the year, and it is unclear if Novell will charge for access to it or not. It would be interesting to see if the revised build system encourages the proliferation of Linux distributions and if other Linux distros use the software.
Novell also previewed its forthcoming SUSE Linux 10.1 release for desktop and laptop machines, which is noteworthy in that it is the first SUSE release created using a community development model. SUSE Linux 10.1 will be released electronically at the openSUSE site at the end of April, and will be available as a retail boxed set soon after--Novell has not yet said when--for $59.95. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, which is based on a hardened version of this code, was expected sometime around May. But integration of virtualization components may push that out a bit.
In a separate announcement at LinuxWorld, Novell said that it had worked out a deal with database maker Oracle to deliver an integrated stack of SUSE Linux operating system and Oracle 10g database software aimed at customers who want to get started with grid clustering of their databases. Experts from Novell and Oracle are working with server partners Hewlett-Packard and Egenera to accelerate the deployment of such clusters. Basically, this offering rolls the best practices from existing customer engagements deploying grids on SUSE Linux into a fast-track service for new customers.
Novell's openSUSE Effort Gains Steam
Novell Opens Up Development for SUSE Linux