Infrastructure for creating Dockerfiles for package building
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PowerDNS Builder

Build Status

A reusable Docker based distribution package builder.


To only build generic source packages:

./builder/ sdist

To build for CentOS 7:

./builder/ centos-7

Packages will end up in builder/tmp/<version>/.

The build script supports various commandline options. See:

./builder/ -h

Build requirements

  • Docker >= 17.05
  • git
  • bash
  • tree (optional)

How does this work?

The build process for distribution packages consists of three steps:

  1. Create generic source distributions for all components. This step also performs any more complicated generic steps, like building plain dist assets using webpack.

  2. Create rpms or debs from these source packages (and build specs) only, with no other access to the source, in a container with all build dependencies installed.

  3. Install the distribution packages and test them in a clean container without the build dependencies.

The sdist target only performs the first step. The install test is skippable with -s, but using this option is not recommended.

The builder expects to be put in builder/ in the repository to build and to find a builder-support/ directory next to it with all repository specific build configurations.

The implementation uses Docker 17.05+ multi-stage builds to implement these steps. builder-support/dockerfiles/ is expecte to contain simple templates for Dockerfiles that will be combined into a temporary Dockerfile for the build. This allows us to split different build steps and substeps into separate stages, while only having to trigger a single Docker build.

The build script does not know or care how the actual build is performed, it just expects the build artifacts to end up in /sdist and /dist inside the final image after the build.

Autobuild deployment notes

If you want to run these builds on a frequent basis, such as in a buildbot that automatically builds on new commits, keep the following in mind:

Disk usage

Every build will create a fair amount of new Docker layers that will take up disk space. Make sure you have something like 20 GB or more disk space available for builds, and run the included once a day in a cron job to remove containers and images that are no longer referenced by a tag.

Do keep in mind that after a cleanup, a new build will have to start from scratch, so you do not want to run it too often. Once a day is probably a fair compromise between build time and disk usage, assuming you will not be building hundreds of times per day.

Base image freshness

Docker will never pull newer versions of the base images by itself. After a while the base images might become outdated. You could add an apt update && apt upgrade or equivalent to the start of each base image, but this will take longer and longer to execute.

Instead, you could docker pull <image> in a cron job every night for every base image used in the builds. It's best to do this before the docker cleanup script, so that it can cleanup all the old layers from the previous image.

Script to find all official images and pull them:

images=`docker images --format '{{.Repository}}:{{.Tag}}' --filter dangling=false | grep -v '[_/-]'`
for image in $images; do docker pull "$image"; done

You probably do not want to add set -e here.

NOTE: This will also try to pull any images you tagged locally without any -, _ or / in the name, and skip any non-official Docker images. Please adapt to your use case.

Concurrent builds

With the current build script it is unsafe run several builds for the same target at the same time, because the temporary Dockerfile name and image tag will clash. We considered adding the version number to the tag, but this would make cleanup harder. Maybe we need to add an option to the build script to override the tag, if we need concurrent builds.

Concurrent builds for different targets (like oraclelinux-6.8 and centos-7 in parallel) should be safe, though.

Implementation details


The Dockerfile templates are expected in builder-support/dockerfiles/. Note that these Dockerfiles are repository specific and not included with the builder distribution.

The files that start with are used as build targets. For example, would be used for the centos-7 target. is used for the sdist target, but also included by all the other targets to performs the source builds.

To allow for reusability of include files, the following stage naming conventions should be observed:

  • sdist is the final source dist stage that contains all source dists in /sdist, which will be copied by the binary package builder.
  • dist-base is the stage used as base image for both the package builder and the installation test.
  • package-builder is the final binary package build stage that contains binary packages in /dist, which will be installed in the installation test.

The last stage to appear in the Dockerfile will be the resulting image of the docker build. This one must have source dists in /sdist and binaries in /dist, as this is where the build scripts copies the result artificats from. Please keep in mind that the test stage could be skipped, so these also have to exist at the end of the package builder stage.

Docker caching

If editing Dockerfiles, try to maximize the efficiency of docker layer caches. For example:

  • Only COPY/ADD files that are really needed at that point in the build process. For example, the installation tests live in a different folder than the build helpers, so that updating installation tests does not invalidate the layers that build the RPMs.
  • Vendor specs should be built before you COPY your source artifacts, so that they are only rebuilt if their spec files change and not every time your code changes.
  • For the same reason, build ARGs should be set as late as possible.
  • If you have a slow build step, like building an Angular project using Webpack, you should consider doing this in a separate stage and only apply any versioning after the actual build, so that the expensive steps can be cached.

If you have a build step that relies on external, changing state (such as apt-get update), you may want to avoid caching this step forever. To do so, put ARG BUILDER_CACHE_BUSTER= before the step, and pass -b daily or -b weekly to


Templating is done using a simple template engine written in bash.

Example text template:

Lines can start with @INCLUDE, @EVAL or @EXEC for special processing:
@INCLUDE foo.txt
@EVAL My home dir is $HOME
@EXEC uname -a
@EXEC [ "$foo" = "bar" ] && include bar.txt
@IF [ "$foo" = "bar" ]
This line is only printed if $foo = "bar" (cannot be nested)
@INCLUDE bar.txt
Other lines are printed unchanged.   

The commands behind @EXEC and @IF can be any bash commands. include is an internal bash function used to implement @INCLUDE. Note that @IF currently cannot be nested.

The templating implementation can be found in templating/

Post Build steps

When certain steps or commands are needed after building, add an exectuable file called post-build to builder-support. After a build, this file will be run.