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smartos-live: SmartOS Platform


git clone
cd smartos-live
cp sample.configure.smartos configure.smartos
gmake world
gmake live
ls output/


This is smartos-live, which builds a SmartOS platform image containing the illumos core OS components; a set of "extra" mostly third-party software required by illumos, by other SmartOS software, or for system management; a collection of utilities comprising SmartOS-specific functionality found in projects/local/; and implementation-specific overlays that deliver additional files verbatim.

The build process occurs in two phases; the first phase is a bootstrap phase. The bootstrap phase uses the pkgsrc delivered compiler to build the set of items required to build illumos, this includes the compiler and various other components. This process is driven from the illumos-extra repository and delivered into a subdirectory of the smartos-live root named proto.strap/.

Next, the build process accumulates from those various components a set of objects into a subdirectory of the smartos-live root. This subdirectory is known as the proto area and by default is named proto/. All objects that are delivered by the platform are built against the contents of the proto area, such that they use the interfaces defined by the headers and libraries provided by the software being delivered rather than that installed on the build system. However, not all objects installed into the proto area are delivered by the platform. This allows objects in the platform to be built correctly without forcing us to deliver private objects in the platform that would conflict with objects delivered by pkgsrc into zones.

Each component (illumos, illumos-extra, illumos-live, and each subproject and overlay) includes a manifest. The manifest lists the files installed into the proto area by that component that should be delivered by the platform, along with its type, ownership, and permissions. This includes directories and symlinks; simply creating a directory or symlink in the proto area does not result in that object being delivered by the program. This also means that symlinks in the proto area can be broken without obvious effects on the platform image, which is usually a bug and can result in silent (and not-so-silent) build problems.

The manifests are aggregated and the resulting list of objects assembled into lofi filesystems created in /tmp, which in turn are assembled into the platform image itself. This process is performed mainly by the make live target, described below.


As of June 2012, the Sun Studio compiler should no longer be executed as part of the build process. However, it is still used for building lint libraries and for linting illumos. Hopefully this dependency will be removed in the future.

Additional build tools are required to be present on the build system; configure (see below) will install them if you are building in a SmartOS zone, which is the supported and recommended practice, see Building SmartOS on SmartOS in the wiki for zone setup instructions.

Build Steps

The configure script sets everything up for building including:

  • ensures system has required packages installed (and is running on illumos!)

  • ensures SUNWspro is installed in /opt/SUNWspro

  • ensures that projects/illumos/ exists and creates there

  • ensures that projects/illumos-extra/ exists

  • optional: set the environment variable MAX_JOBS to set build job concurrency (useful for small systems)

The make world Target

The operating system is built using the make world target. This phase is the longest part of the build process, and performs at least the following actions:

  • The subset of illumos-extra required at build time to encode runtime dependencies into illumos is built, starting with gcc 4.4.4, and installed into the bootstrap proto area (by default, proto.strap).

  • The illumos source in projects/illumos/ (can be a link) is built with the aid of tools/build_illumos and installed into the proto area. The compiler used is the one built in the first phase.

  • All illumos-extra components are built and installed into the proto area.

  • The local sources in the src subdirectory are built and installed into the proto area.

  • Any extra projects found in the directory projects/local/, by default kvm and kvm-cmd, are built and installed into the proto area.

The make live Target

The make live target constructs the bootable platform image from the operating system components built by make world. The heavy lifting is mostly implemented in the tools/build_live script, which performs at least the following actions:

  • The manifest is used, directories and links are created and files are taken:

    • from an overlay directory, in the order specified by the configure fragment's OVERLAY variable; then
    • from the proto area; finally
    • from the man/man subdirectory
  • Then the image is packed up and put in output/ with an expanded directory and a compressed tar archive, platform-BUILDSTAMP.tgz.

  • Various customisations to the base operating system are applied, including the generation of /etc/release, /etc/motd, and so on, from templates.

  • A log of the live image creation is written into the log subdirectory containing extensive trace output from the live image build process. It also includes log entries from the builder tool describing the files packed into the image; e.g.,

    FILE: [path/to/file][PERM][owner/uid][group/gid]: OK (/path/to/source)
    LINK(symlink): source => target: OK
    LINK: source => target: OK
    DIR: [path/to/dir][PERM][owner/uid][group/gid]: OK

    If the build fails during this step, tools/build_live attempts to emit diagnostic output describing the problem. If this output is not sufficient, the trace log can often contain further leads to debugging the problem.

Creating Additional Build Artifacts

By default, the build only generates the platform-BUILDSTAMP.tgz file. This may also be transformed into a CD-ROM ISO image and a USB key image. To transform it into a CD-ROM ISO image, one may use the make iso target. To transform it into a USB image, one should use the make usb target.

Known Issues

  • There are still a small number of illumos-extra components that do not use the unified makefile system, and are built against the build system's headers and libraries. (TBD)

  • python should be part of illumos-extra, as there are a small number of tools delivered that use it. (TBD)

  • While there should never be a delivered object with build environment DT_RPATH leakage, there is currently no tool for checking this. (OS-1122)

  • There is also no tool for verifying that all objects delivered within the platform have no dependencies outside the platform. This includes both runtime library linking and the execution of interpreters. (OS-1122)

  • illumos-extra recurses over all components even during an incremental build. This is time-consuming and usually pointless. (OS-1319)

  • The complete set of build-order dependencies within illumos-extra probably has not been enumerated. Doing so would allow for greater parallelism in that portion of the build. In addition, it is likely that many of the components are actually unsafe to build in parallel internally. (TBD)

  • The illumos-extra unified makefile system is not documented.


This repository uses (Gerrit) for new changes. Anyone can submit changes. To get started, see the user guide. This repo does not use GitHub pull requests.

All changes should have an associated issue. You can use the GitHub issue tracker. (Joyent employees use an internal JIRA exposed at

Contributions should be make check clean.

If you are changing something non-trivial or user-facing, you may want to discuss the issue with other developers on one of the following:

Other Notes

  • The resulting image requires a 64-bit x86 machine.

  • The build stamp, as well as a summary of the repositories from which the image was constructed, is available within the live image as /etc/release.

  • There is a manifest of shipped files created in the output area; i.e.,


    This file contains a list of all files, directories, and links in the image, as well as the MD5 hash of the contents of all files. The manifest is also available in the live image itself as /usr/share/smartos/manifest.