As part of the 2014 USENIX Release Engineering Summit West, I presented a talk about packaging software and what's wrong with current trends.
Here's the abstract:
Reliably distributing software is a notoriously difficult problem, and almost every operating system and programming language vendor has tried to solve it. This has led to a herd of packaging systems, almost none of which are cross-compatible; some manage system-level software, while others focus on extending their own language (often by trampling on system-level software). And like all competing standards, every packaging system comes with its own sharp corners, dull edges, and hidden idiosyncrasies to deal with along the path to packaging happiness. In an attempt to answer the question "How do I install this software and ensure that its dependencies are fulfilled?", some novel solutions have begun to see popular adoption. But a lot of these newer tools and techniques tread the same ground as their predecessors while overlooking the lessons that were learned along the way.
I'll talk about the state of native packaging systems on some popular platforms (Debian/Ubuntu, RHEL/CentOS/Fedora, and Mac OS X), packaging systems for popular languages (Ruby, Python, Perl, and Node) and the ways that developers are attempting to work around the limitations of these systems. I'll review the reasons that tools like curlbash, FPM, and omnibus packages have become popular by sharing lessons I've learned while working through these systems. While this will be an amusing presentation, I'll show how native packages can address the concerns that have pushed Release Engineers and Developers away. I will also talk about what native packaging systems can learn from the next generation of packaging tools.
The original abstract is available here: