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Appliance package builder on SUSE Linux

We have a complex open source server that we want to install on top of SUSE linux.   This application and OS stack will be part of a solution we provide to our customers.

We have found that it can take hours if not days to successfully install and configure all of the packages needed by this system.

We have attempted to write down all of the steps required to build the system.   But in practice it is very difficult for us to generate a concise list of configuration steps for each package.    Let’s say we that 3 packages.  We install package 1 then package 2. At this point we have to update the configuration for package 1 before we can attempt to install package 3.  In reality we have 15 to 20 packages and the amount of back and forth is overwhelming.    

We have a short term goal and a long term goal.  The long term goal will be to have this full set of instructions on how the system is built, step by step.  

But in the short term were looking for a tool that can help us do something like this.
-      We build the baseline SUSE based system.
-      We run a program to take a snapshot of the system
-      We install all of the packages without writing down what we install and what configuration files we updates.
-      We run this magic program again, that can determine all of the system changes

What would be best is if this program could write us a list of steps to bring the system from one snapshot to another.   We would be happy to accept a program that would convert the two snapshots into a single package that we could provide to our customers.  

We have found that Novell and Rpath are working on products that appear to solve some of  these issues.

I just would like a simpler approach, but will be swayed if someone says that these systems will solve the issues I described.

Does anyone have any experience with these systems?

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I recommend you to use partimage, that should solve your problem..

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Scott Kunau
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Partimage is like ghost, it will take a snapshot of your installed and configured system and then use this image on every location you want to install. There are two main advantages in your case.
Partimage can be run as a stand-alone from the live since it has a boot image on it.
Partimage will only copy data from the used portions of the partition.