OpenPKG Project
OpenPKG ProjectProjectHistory


The Roots

1996: RSE creates BnP, a Perl-based software installation scripting facility. The roots of OpenPKG, including some early packaging specifications, date back to the Build'n'Play (BnP) facility, developed in 1996 by Ralf S. Engelschall (RSE) while working for software design & management (sd&m) in Munich. BnP was a rudimentary but flexible Perl-based software installation scripting facility. For BnP there existed just about 30 packaging scripts for installing particular pieces of software, but it already helped a lot for regularily and repeatably deploying Unix software.

The Trigger

Although still not named OpenPKG at that time, the OpenPKG project was de-facto kicked-off on November 15th, 2000 by Ralf S. Engelschall while working together with Christoph Schug on the goal of uniting and enhancing software installation approaches for the Hosting team of the Internet Services division in the Cable & Wireless Internet Solution Center (ISC) in Munich.

2000: RSE finally wants to solve the problem of uniform and repeatable software deployments under Solaris, Linux and BSD. There the installation and maintenance of Unix software installations on top of Solaris, Linux and BSD platforms was a daily requirement. Before OpenPKG's invention, software packages were manually installed on demand by different Internet Engineers in the Hosting team. Each Internet Engineer had different knowledge and preferences, so the unique (and often not well documented) software installations and configurations differed greatly. It was consequently almost impossible to upgrade the installation later. Additionally, constructing a new server for a customer required some days because of the lack of repeatable installation procedures.

2001: RSE chooses RPM as it is not the best since sliced bread, but covers best the life-cycle of a software package. Ralf S. Engelschall immediately considered a cross-platform Unix software packaging approach as the ultimate solution. But instead of the home-brewn and less elegant facility BnP he has chosen the RedHat Package Manager (RPM) after lots of evaluations in early 2001. The reason simply was because RPM covered already about 80% of the software package life-cycle while every other packaging technology at this time covered just about 50%. Additionally, RPM is rather portable, has just a small set of external dependencies and with its single package specification files together with the built-in macro machanism provides a very concise and elegant packaging style.

Development Phase I

2001/Q1: RSE builds the tricky bootstrapping procedure and the first 50 RPM packages. In the first quarter of 2001 Ralf S. Engelschall under heavy pressure both builds the tricky OpenPKG bootstrapping process ("rpm") and codes the initial set of about 50 RPM packages on top it it. The first packages were GNU make ("make"), the GNU Compiler Collection ("gcc"), the Perl language, the OpenSSL cryptography toolkit and the OpenSSH remote control facility.

After the chosen approach showed great results, RSE finally coined the name "OpenPKG" in allusion to "OpenSSL" — another project he successfully founded some years ago --, registered the domains openpkg.{org,com,net,de} and renamed everything to reflect the new world order (the bootstrap package "rpm" was now known as "openpkg"). 2001/Q2: C&W already officially switches onto OpenPKG. Additionally, at this point in time Cable & Wireless, under Hosting management of Peter Kajinski, already officially switched all software installations in their Munich Internet Solution Center (ISC) onto the brand-new OpenPKG technology.

Development Phase II

In April 2001 Thomas Lotterer (THL), one of Ralf S. Engelschall's best youth friends, joined the team. Since this time the OpenPKG project progressed dramatically because while Ralf S. Engelschall strongly focused on the further 2001: Thomas Lotterer joins the team and OpenPKG progressed to about 200 packages. package development side, Thomas Lotterer established the project environment (aka "build farm") and Christoph Schug daily pulled the trigger as the project mentor by demanding new features directly out of his daily Unix system administration practice. Additionally, Michael Schloh von Bennewitz and Peter Smej joined the team and helped Ralf S. Engelschall in developing the initial set of about 200 packages during 2001.

OpenPKG becomes Open Source

2002: OpenPKG goes Open Source and is already able to fully self-host itself. As the OpenPKG project shows great success and itself heavily depends on Open Source software anyway, Peter Kajinski and Ralf S. Engelschall in January 2002 are finally able to let Cable & Wireless officially release OpenPKG 1.0 as Open Source software, licensed under a liberal MIT/BSD-style distribution license. Additionally, Cable & Wireless takes over the role as the primary project sponsor by continuing to provide both manpower, computing and networking resources.

OpenPKG now is also fully self-hosting, i.e., its complete own project environment runs under a dedicated OpenPKG instance where all software is deployed with OpenPKG exclusively.

Development Phase III

2002/2003/2004: OpenPKG boots in size and scope. End of 2004 OpenPKG reaches about 850 packages. In 2002, 2003 and 2004 and OpenPKG boosts in both size and scope. In a four to six month cycle, seven full-size major OpenPKG releases are provided. Lots of additional services are established, including a browsable CVS repository, a community Wiki, a PGP key server, mailing lists, etc.

Also, Ralf S. Engelschall and his developers from scratch now have developed about 850 high-quality OpenPKG RPM software packages. In early 2004 OpenPKG also finally switches from the core technology RPM 4.0.2 to RPM 4.2.1 and reaches OpenPKG 2.0.

Restructuring & Consolidation

2005: OpenPKG is restructured and the resources consolidated by switching to a new sponsor and establishing both the OpenPKG Foundation e.V. and the OpenPKG GmbH. In 2005 the long-year sponsor Cable & Wireless reduces its business activity in Germany and hence both the core OpenPKG developers Ralf S. Engelschall and Thomas Lotterer have to change their employer and the OpenPKG has to switch to the new hosting and networking sponsor SpaceNet AG in Munich.

2005: The OpenPKG Foundation e.V. bundles the social network of OpenPKG. To consolidate the manpower and computing resources of OpenPKG, Ralf S. Engelschall and Thomas Lotterer — together with 7 other founding members — in February 2005 found and establish the OpenPKG Foundation e.V., a non-profit association which from now on bundles the social network around OpenPKG and owns and drives the necessary computing resources for OpenPKG.

2005: The OpenPKG GmbH provides professional services to OpenPKG business customers. Additionally, to finally meet the demands for professional services, Ralf S. Engelschall and Thomas Lotterer in December 2005 found and establish the OpenPKG GmbH, a corporation with the dedicated goal of providing commercial services to OpenPKG business customers.

Also, in November 2005 the download policy on had to be slightly changed in order to allow the OpenPKG project to better identify its effective user community. This was absolutely vital for the future of the OpenPKG project and every long-term OpenPKG user is now called to support the OpenPKG project with both a simple, free of charge and one-time registration and an identification during downloads.

2006: After finishing the restructuring, the OpenPKG WWW appearance was completely worked off and the product OpenPKG Enterprise 1 was made available. Finally, in March 2006 the World Wide Web appearance of OpenPKG is finally re-created from scratch with both a completely new visual style and by a consolidated and cross-referenced set of three related websites: OpenPKG Project on, OpenPKG Corporation on and OpenPKG Foundation on

In Q4/2006 the commercial product OpenPKG Enterprise 1 was made available, targeting the business customer market. The OpenPKG Enterprise distribution series is now the companion to the OpenPKG Community distribution series. Its sales has to protect the continued development of the OpenPKG.

In Q2/2007 the spin-off product OpenPKG Enterprise 1 Pro was made available. It is an inexpensive online versions of the OpenPKG Enterprise 1 product and hence directly based on the rock-solid E1.0-SOLID packaging pool. It replaces the OpenPKG Community 2-STABLE series and internally is declared OpenPKG 3.

Transition & Separation

2007/2008: The OpenPKG GmbH backs the RPM 5 project with a new infrastructure and pushed the development of RPM 5.0/5.1. As OpenPKG 3 still was RPM 4.2.1 based and the RPM 4 development got totally stuck in 2007, Ralf S. Engelschall and Thomas Lotterer took action. In spring 2007 the OpenPKG GmbH provided a completely new project infrastructure for the RPM project — under the head of its long-term maintainer Jeff B. Johnson — and subsequently pushed the development of RPM 5. As a result, really all of the many RPM enhancements and adjustments of OpenPKG were taken over upstream. Finally, an RPM 5.0 release in 2008 and RPM 5.1 in 2009 were released.

2009/2010: OpenPKG 4 becomes available and finally is split into the distinct parts OpenPKG Framework and the OpenPKG Packages. With the availability of RPM 5, OpenPKG 4 was born in 2008/2009. It is fully based on RPM 5.1.9 and runs on a completely worked off bootstrapping package developed by the OpenPKG GmbH. Additionally, with OpenPKG 4 — and based on customer feedbacks with OpenPKG Enterprise 1 (OpenPKG 3) --, the OpenPKG software distribution was finally split into two distinct parts: the commercially licensed (but still available also under free-of-charge licenses) OpenPKG framework (the "boostrap" package plus its companion tools) from the OpenPKG GmbH and the Open Source licensed OpenPKG package set from the OpenPKG Foundation e.V.

The Future

Even after 10 years, the future of OpenPKG is more than promising. Nervertheless, lots of efforts are a still required to keep OpenPKG successful and to further increase both its community users and business customers. Because only with enough users the necessary awareness for OpenPKG exists in the Unix market. And only with enough business customers a large-scale software distribution project like OpenPKG can be financially backed…