Debian Appliance Builder
Creating high quality appliances is a difficult task and requires deep knowledge of the underlying operating system. So we created the 'Debian Appliance Builder' to simplify that task. 'dab' is a script to automate the creation of OpenVZ appliances. It is basically a rewrite of debootstrap in perl, but uses OpenVZ instead of chroot and generates OpenVZ templates. Another difference is that it supports multi-stage building of templates. That way you can execute arbitrary scripts between package installation steps to accomplish what you want.
Furthermore, some common tasks are fully automated - like setting up a database server (mysql or postgres). To accomplish minimal template creation time, packages are cached to a local directory, so you do not need a local Debian/Ubuntu mirror (although this would speed up the first run). All generated templates includes an appliance description file. Those can be used to build appliance repositories.
'dab' is licensed under GPLv2 (Open source).
- Fully automated build process with standard 'make' scripts
- Local package cache
- Multi-stage build process
- Creates and includes appliance description files
- Simplifies various tasks like database installation
- Appliances can be certified and integrated into the Proxmox VE download directory
- Supports Debian and Ubuntu based appliances
- Generates 32 or 64 bit appliances
- Automatic dependency resolution
'dab' is an easy way for software vendors and open source project to package their product into a "ready-to-run" appliance. Appliances can be published into the Proxmox VE appliance download directory to reach the target customer. See Download_templates_(Video).
In order to work with 'dab', basic Linux knowledge is needed.
The script needs to be run as root, so it is not recommended to start it on a production machine with running containers.
Prepare your operating system - you can install 'dab' on the following operating systems:
- Proxmox VE (fastest)
- Proxmox VE inside Proxmox VE (KVM) - (most comfortable)
- Proxmox VE inside VMWare/XEN 64bit virtual machine
- Debian 64/Ubuntu 64 with OpenVZ Kernel (not tested)
'dab' and sample template installation
Log into Proxmox VE, and install 'dab' using apt:
apt-get install dab
Or download and install it manually from:
A set of examples is also available. Simple download them:
Unpack with tar:
tar xvf dab-pve-appliances_2009-01-19.tar.gz
'dab' manual pages
The package includes a manual page:
dab(1) User Contributed Perl Documentation dab(1) NAME dab - Debian OpenVZ Appliance Builder SYNOPSIS dab command [OPTIONS] dab init Downloads the package descriptions form the repository. Also trun‐ cates the "logfile". dab bootstrap Bootstrap a debian system and allocate a temporary container (we use IDs 90000 and above). --exim Use exim as MTA (we use postfix by default) --minimal Do not install standard packages. dab veid Print used container ID. dab basedir Print container private directory. dab packagefile Print the appliance file name. dab install pkg ... Install one or more packages. pkg can also refer to a file named "xyz.pkglist" which contains a list of packages. All dependencies are automatically installed. dab unpack pkg ... Unpack one or more packages. pkg can also refer to a file named "xyz.pkglist" which contains a list of packages. All dependencies are automatically unpacked. dab exec CMD ARGS Executes command CMD inside the container. dab enter Calls "vzctl enter CTID" - this is for debugging only. dab task mysql Install a mysql database server. During appliance generation we use "admin" as mysql root password (also stored in /root/.my.cnf). --password=XXX Specify the mysql root password. The special value "random" can be use to generate a random root password when the appliance is started first time (stored in /root/.my.cnf) --start Start the mysql server (if you want to execute sql commands during appliance generation). dab task postgres Install a postgres database server. --version=XXX Select Postgres version. Posible values are 7.4, 8.1 and 8.3 (depends on the selected suite). --start Start the postgres server (if you want to execute sql commands during appliance generation). dab task php Install php5. --memlimit=i Set the php memory_limit. dab finalize Cleanup everything inside the container and generate the final appliance package. --keepmycnf Do not delete file "/root/.my.cfg" (mysql). dab list List installed packages. --verbose Also print package versions. dab clean Remove all temporary file and destroy the used OpenVZ container. dab dist-clean Like clean, but also removes the package cache (except when you specified your own cache directory in the config file) DESCRIPTION dab is a script to automate the creation of OpenVZ appliances. It is basically a rewrite of debootstrap in perl, but uses OpenVZ instead of chroot and generates OpenVZ templates. Another difference is that it supports multi-stage building of templates. That way you can execute arbitrary scripts between to accomplish what you want. Furthermore some common tasks are fully automated, like setting up a database server (mysql or postgres). To accomplish minimal template creation time, packages are cached to a local directory, so you do not need a local debian mirror (although this would speed up the first run). See http://pve.proxmox.com/Debian_Appliance_Builder for examples. This script need to be run as root, so it is not recommended to start it on a production machine with running container. Proxmox VE (http://pve.proxmox.com) is the preferred environment, because it is able to log the console output when a container starts. You wont be able to detect errors during container startup when running on standard OpenVZ. So many people run Proxmox VE inside a KVM or VMWare 64bit vir‐ tual machine to build appliances. All generated templates includes an appliance description file. Those can be used to build appliance repositories. CONFIGURATION Configuration is read from the file "dab.conf" inside the current work‐ ing directory. The files contains key value pairs, separated by colon. Suite: etch|lenny|hardy The Debian or Ubuntu suite. Source: URL [components] Defines a source location. By default we use the following for debian: Source: http://ftp.debian.org/debian SUITE main contrib Source: http://security.debian.org SUITE/updates main contrib Note: SUITE is a variable and will be substituted. There are also reasonable defaults for Ubuntu. If you do not specify any source the defaults are used. Depends: dependencies Debian like package dependencies. This can be used to make sure that speific package versions are available. CacheDir: path Allows you to specify the directory where downloaded packages are cached. Mirror: SRCURL => DSTURL Define a mirror location. for example: Mirror: http://ftp.debian.org/debian => ftp://mirror/debian All other settings in this files are also included into the appliance description file. Name: name The name of the appliance. Appliance names must consist only of lower case letters (a-z), digits (0-9), plus (+) and minus (-) signs, and periods (.). They must be at least two characters long and must start with an alphanumeric charac‐ ter. Architecture: i386|amd64 Target architecture. Version: upstream_version[-build_revision] The version number of an appliance. This field specifies an application area into which the appliance has been classified. Currently we use the following section names: sys‐ tem, admin, www Maintainer: name <email> The appliance maintainer’s name and email address. The name should come first, then the email address inside angle brackets <> (in RFC822 format). Infopage: URL Link to web page containing more informations about this appliance. Description: single line synopsis extended description over several lines (indended by space) may follow. Appliance description file All generated templates includes an appliance description file called /etc/appliance.info this is the first file inside the tar archive. That way it can be eas‐ ily exctracted without scanning the whole archive. The file itself con‐ tains informations like a debian "control" file. It can be used to build appliance repositories. Most fields are directly copied from the configuration file "dab.conf". Additionally there are some auto-generated files: Installed-Size: bytes It gives the total amount of disk space required to install the named appliance. The disk space is represented in megabytes as a simple decimal number. Type: type This is always "openvz". OS: [debian-4.0|debian-5.0|ubuntu-8.0] Operation system. Appliance repositories usually add additional fields: md5sum: md5sum MD5 checksum FILES The following files are created inside your working directory: dab.conf appliance configuration file logfile contains installation logs .veid stores the used container ID cache/* default package cache directory info/* package information cache AUTHOR Dietmar Maurer <firstname.lastname@example.org> Many thanks to Proxmox Server Solutions (www.proxmox.com) for sponsor‐ ing this work. COPYRIGHT AND DISCLAIMER Copyright (C) 2007-2009 Proxmox Server Solutions GmbH Copyright: dab is under GNU GPL, the GNU General Public License. This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; version 2 dated June, 1991. This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MER‐ CHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details. You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA. 1.1 2009-01-19 dab(1)
Build Virtual Appliances
We published several examples to show how to work with 'dab'. To start, just build a first OS template based on our examples. If you understand the basics, you can start customizing your own appliance (based on a standard OS template).
- Choose the best suitable base OS (Debian Etch or Lenny, Ubuntu Hardy)
- Choose the right architecture (32 or 64 bit): unless your appliance needs a lot of RAM choose 32 bit
- Always try to use Debian/Ubuntu packages for applications (instead of tar.gz files)
- Pre-configure applications as much as possible (PHP, Apache, MySql, Postgresql, etc.) - based on the recommendations of the software
- Use unique keys and passwords (auto generate them during first start-up)
- Define the update procedure for users running the appliance in production: if you use Debian packages, update is easy (apt-get update)
- Contact the Proxmox support team for help Proxmox Support Forum
- And finally: Get certified! See Certification Overview
Debian 5 Standard (Lenny, 32bit)
This example shows the basic steps when creating appliances with 'dab'. First step is to create a temporary working directory and cd into that directory (or just cd into the previously un-tared examples):
mkdir debian-5.0-standard cd debian-5.0-standard
Now you need to create/edit the configuration file called 'dab.conf':
Suite: lenny Architecture: i386 Name: debian-5.0-standard Version: 5.0-1 Section: system Maintainer: Proxmox Support Team <email@example.com> Infopage: http://pve.proxmox.com/wiki/Debian_5.0_Standard Description: Debian 5.0 (standard) A small Debian Lenny system including all standard packages.
Next step: Download the available package lists:
Start the creation process with:
Finally build the final appliance package with:
Thats all. Simply upload the final template to your Proxmox VE server (/var/lib/vz/template/cache/) and test what you created. Sure, always check if everything went well before releasing a template. For this purpose all output is logged to a file called 'logfile'.
When finished you may want to cleanup your working directory with:
or use 'dist-clean' if you also want to erase the package cache directory:
You can automate above steps using make. Simply create a file called 'Makefile' (here is an example):
BASEDIR:=$(shell dab basedir) all: info/init_ok dab bootstrap dab finalize info/init_ok: dab.conf dab init touch $@ .PHONY: clean clean: dab clean rm -f *~ .PHONY: dist-clean dist-clean: dab dist-clean rm -f *~
To start template creation you can now simply type:
to cleanup the directory.
Other OS sample Appliances
These example OS templates are included in the dab-pve-appliances_2009-01-19.tar.gz
- Debian 4.0 Standard (Etch, 32bit)
- Debian 4 Standard (Etch, 64bit)
- Debian 5.0 Standard (Lenny, 64bit)
- Ubuntu Hardy Standard (Hardy, 32bit)
- Ubuntu 8.04 Standard (Hardy, 64bit)
Sample Application Appliances
These example application templates are included in the dab-pve-appliances_2009-01-19.tar.gz
- Acquia Drupal (Debian Etch, 32 bit)
- Drupal (Debian Lenny, 32 bit)
- MediaWiki (Debian Lenny, 32 bit)
- Joomla! (Debian Lenny, 32 bit)
- Wordpress (Debian Lenny, 32 bit)
- RT Request Tracker (Debian Lenny, 32 bit)
- X11 Terminal Server (with GNOME, Debian Lenny 32 bit)
Howto certify a Virtual Appliance
Get_support including commercial support offering concerning 'dab'.