Introduction to distgen

Distgen is a distribution-oriented templating system.

The problem this project tries to mitigate is “portable” scripting for variety of operating systems (currently Linux distributions only) in the wild. While writing a “universal” script, one needs to take into account small or bigger differences among operating systems (like package installation tools, versions of utilities, expected directories for binaries, libraries, etc.).

The distgen project is thus something like database of OS differences together with convenience tool-set that allows you to instantiate valid script for particular distribution. The concept is to have template file (mostly raw jinja2 template) together with “declarative” spec file (YAML file) that fulfils the needs of particular template.


Stable releases of distgen are available (for Red Hat distributions) in Copr.

You can also run development version directly from Github, simply use the dg shell wrapper available in git root directory. In order to use distgen from git checkout, you’ll need to install dependencies manually. You can do that e.g. using pip: pip install --user -r requirements.txt.

Simple Example with Dockerfile

Typical example is the need to instantiate working Dockerfile for list of supported Fedora/CentOS versions.

  1. Create common.yaml spec:

    # This file provides basic values that are the same for all various rendering combinations
    name: myawesomeimage
    description: "This is a simple container that just tells you how awesome it is. That's it."
  2. Create multispec.yaml spec:

    # This file specifies rendering "matrix" - the different combinations of values
    # that the templates can be rendered for
    version: 1
    # "specs" contains named "spec groups"
      # "distroinfo" is a mandatory "spec group"
      # - each of its members must contain "distros" list
      # - it can also contain any extra values
            - fedora-26-x86_64
            - fedora-25-x86_64
          vendor: "Fedora Project"
          authoritative_source_url: ""
          distro_specific_help: "Some Fedora specific help"
            - centos-7-x86_64
          vendor: "CentOS"
          authoritative_source_url: ""
          distro_specific_help: "Some CentOS specific help"
      # apart from "distroinfo", you can specify as many arbitrary spec groups as you want
      # - any of the members of these spec groups can contain arbitrary values
          version: "2.2"
          version: "2.4"
  3. Create a Dockerfile.template template

# "config.*" values usually come from distribution configs shipped with distgen;
# the config is specified by "--distro" argument to "dg" on command line
FROM {{ config.docker.from }}


ENV NAME=mycontainer VERSION=0 RELEASE=1 ARCH=x86_64

# "spec.*" values are result of merging any specs passed by "--spec" to "dg"
# and values selected from multispec file (if used) - see below
LABEL summary="A container that tells you how awesome it is." \
      com.redhat.component="$NAME" \
      version="$VERSION" \
      release="$RELEASE.$DISTTAG" \
      architecture="$ARCH" \
      usage="docker run -p 9000:9000 mycontainer" \
      help="Runs mycontainer, which listens on port 9000 and tells you how awesome it is. No dependencies." \
      description="{{ spec.description }}" \
      vendor="{{ spec.vendor }}" \
      org.fedoraproject.component="postfix" \
      authoritative-source-url="{{ spec.authoritative_source_url }}" \
      io.k8s.description="{{ spec.description }}" \
      io.k8s.display-name="Awesome container with SW version {{ spec.software_version }}" \
      io.openshift.expose-services="9000:http" \


# We don't actually use the "software_version" here, but we could,
#  e.g. to install a module with that ncat version
RUN {{ commands.pkginstaller.install(['nmap-ncat']) }} && \
    {{ commands.pkginstaller.cleancache() }}

RUN echo '#!/bin/bash' > /usr/bin/ && \
    echo "exec nc -kl 9000 -c 'echo -e \"HTTP/1.1 200 OK\n\";echo \"I am awesome\"'" >> /usr/bin/ && \
    chmod +x /usr/bin/

CMD ["/usr/bin/"]
  1. Run the dg tool to generate a Fedora 26 Dockerfile with software version 2.4:

    # when using "--multispec", "--multispec-selector" must be used for all
    # spec groups except "distroinfo"
    $ dg --template Dockerfile.template \
         --spec common.yaml \
         --multispec multispec.yaml \
         --multispec-selector version=2.4 \
         --distro fedora-26-x86_64.yaml \
    > Dockerfile
  2. Run the dg tool again to generate a CentOS 7 dockerfile with software version 2.2:

    $ dg --template Dockerfile.template \
         --spec common.yaml \
         --multispec multispec.yaml \
         --multispec-selector version=2.2 \
         --distro centos-7-x86_64.yaml \
    > Dockerfile

There are more nuances and features of distgen that you can utilize, all of them are documented in the following sections of this documentation.