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Batteries-included CouchDB build system
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Build CouchDB

Build CouchDB is a wrapper or master project which pulls in, from official sources, CouchDB plus all of its dependencies. It is the most straightforward and reliable procedure to build official CouchDB releases from source.

Build CouchDB builds an isolated, independent server. You do not need administrator access to run it. You can run several couches (for example, 0.10, 0.11, 1.0 releases) side-by-side.

Supported Platforms

Build CouchDB is developed and tested on the following operating systems:

  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 5.5 (Tikanga)
  • CentOS 5.5
  • Debian GNU/Linux 5.0 (Lenny)
  • Ubuntu
    • 9.10 (Karmic Koala)
    • 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx)
    • 10.10 (Maverik Meerkat)
    • 11.04 (Natty Narwhal)
    • 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot)
  • Fedora 13
  • Mac OS X
  • OpenSUSE 11.3
  • Scientific Linux 5.3
  • Solaris 10, OpenSolaris

The following systems are planned for support in the near future:

  • MS Windows Vista, Windows 7


You need only a few packages provided by the operating system. Copy and paste the commands below.

On Fedora:

sudo yum install gcc gcc-c++ libtool \
                 zlib-devel openssl-devel rubygem-rake

On Red Hat Enterprise Linux:

The procedure is the same as Fedora, but also install the ruby-rdoc package.

On Debian, first install sudo and add yourself to /etc/sudoers.

su -
apt-get install sudo

On Ubuntu and Debian:

sudo apt-get install make gcc zlib1g-dev libssl-dev rake

On OpenSUSE:

sudo zypper install flex lksctp-tools-devel zip \
            rubygem-rake gcc-c++ make m4 zlib-devel \
            libopenssl-devel libtool automake

On Scientific Linux

sudo yum install --enablerepo=dag gcc gcc-c++ libtool zlib-devel openssl-devel \

On Solaris

This build only supports the OpenCSW toolchain. If you do not use OpenCSW, I wish you the best. If you have success, let me know!

The SunStudio tools are required:

sudo pkg install ss-dev

Also, OpenCSW packages are needed.

pkgadd -d # Answer all questions affirmatively

Add CSW to your path. This must always be in the PATH. Every time you log in, you must set the correct $PATH (or make it automatic in .profile).


Change the package archive (ibiblio URL is down) by running vi /opt/csw/etc/pkg-get.conf and setting url= Save and exit, then run:

pkg-get updatecatalog

Finally, install Rake from OpenCSW:

sudo pkg-get install ruby rake # Also perhaps "git"

On Mac OS X, install Xcode.

Getting the Code

You will need the Git tool. Check out the code and pull in the third-party submodules.

git clone git://
cd build-couchdb
git submodule init
git submodule update

How to Build CouchDB

Just run Rake.


CouchDB and all its dependencies will install in the build/. To uninstall, simply delete that directory.


It's CouchDB! Just type couchdb. (But remember the path)

$ build/bin/couchdb
Apache CouchDB 0.12.0aa63efb6-git (LogLevel=info) is starting.
Apache CouchDB has started. Time to relax.
[info] [<0.33.0>] Apache CouchDB has started on

You can of course call it by absolute path. If your username is amit and you checked out the code in your home directory, you would run:


Conveniently Add CouchDB to the PATH

The build process creates a small shell script, build/ The script will add the buid to your shell's $PATH. This will only affect that shell session, other terminals or shell sessions will not change. (This is on purpose, to isolate CouchDB, so that it is easy to remove, or so multiple versions can be installed side-by-side.)

Simply source the script when you want to use CouchDB.

. build/

Your working directory needn't be anywhere special when sourcing the file. It can be processed from anywhere. The idea is, when you are working, you realize you need couchdb, just type . ~/my/stuff/code/build-couchdb/build/ or whatever and it will work.

You can source the file as often as you like. Subsequent exection will not do anything.

. build/
. build/ # Sourcing with wild abandon!

If the file is read from a script or in a pipeline, it will execute silently (by detecting whether it is connected to a TTY terminal).

Cheat Codes

Build CouchDB supports some fancy tricks by entering cheat codes to the Rake command.

Build any Git branch or tag of Erlang/OTP

Add a erl_checkout parameter with the commit id, branch name, or tag name.

For example, to build with Erlang R13B04 release:

rake erl_checkout="OTP_R13B04"

Build any Git branch or tag of CouchDB

Add a git parameter with the repository URL, then a space, then the branch, tag, or commit hash. (Remember to quote all of those so Rake sees the space.)

Want to build GeoCouch? No problem.

rake git="git:// geocouch"

CouchDB Plugins

Any CouchDB plugin can be loaded remotely from Git, built, and installed into the final CouchDB system.

rake plugin="git:// origin/gc-separate"

Multiple plugins can be processed together:

rake plugins="git:// origin/gc-separate,git:// some_tag"

(Both plugin and plugins supports comma-separated lists; use whichever you remember better.)

Install CouchDB somewhere besides build/.

Add an install parameter to place the final couchdb binaries anywhere.

Build CouchDB makes it simple to install several couchdb versions side-by-side.

rake git="git:// geocouch" install=geocouch
rake git="git:// trunk" install=trunk
for tag in 1.0.1 11.0 11.1; do
    rake git="git:// tags/$tag" install=$tag

Note that install needs to be an absolute path. Use:


e.g. creates the directory geocouch in your current directory.

For side-by-side installs there is a small shortcut to avoid rebuilding Erlang: use the couchdb_build variable instead, which will install CouchDB separately from its dependencies. Just remember never to move or delete the dependencies!

rake install=/dependencies/go/here couchdb_build=/but/couch/goes/here

Get a manifest of all the components

To get a better idea of exactly what is going on, add a manifest parameter.

rake manifest=1

That will produce additional files in build/manifest which indicate which package (icu, erlang, spidermonkey, etc) owns which files within build. A trick I do a lot is cat build/manifest/couchdb | xargs rm to "uninstall" only couchdb so I can try a rebuild.

I have no idea how manifest interacts with install as I have never used them together.

Do not strip down Erlang/OTP

Build CouchDB strips many modules out of the Erlang platform to reduce disk usage. (You can see which ones at the top of tasks/erlang.rake.) To indicate that a package should be kept, set the otp_keep variable to space-separated library names.

rake otp_keep="compiler eunit"

Or, you can keep them all this way:

rake otp_keep="*"

How to build only Erlang, couchjs, and OTP so you can build your own CouchDB elsewhere

There is a special shortcut task to build everything CouchDB needs (i.e. its dependencies).

rake couchdb:deps otp_keep="*"

Be careful not to build the couchdb target because after it completes, it will delete Erlang components needed for building (but not running). Next, there is a simple task which outputs a sh script used to configure any CouchDB checkout.

rake --silent environment:configure

The output will look similar to this:

export PATH="/Users/jhs/src/build-couchdb/build/bin:$PATH"
LDFLAGS='-R/Users/jhs/src/build-couchdb/build/lib -L/Users/jhs/src/build-couchdb/build/lib' CFLAGS='-I/Users/jhs/src/build-couchdb/build/include/js -I/Users/jhs/src/build-couchdb/build/lib/erlang/usr/include' ./configure

In the CouchDB source, paste the above code after running ./bootstrap. Next, you can run make or make dev, or anything.

vim: tw=80

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