Software Factory integrates softwares as RPM packages and this article presents three reasons why it does not use pip, or any other language specific package management system.

System integration and shared libraries

It is arguably useful to use virtualenvs and pip for development purposes. However, when deploying and operating an application in a production environment, virtualenvs adds a lot of complexicity that can be avoided.

First, there is no need to maintain and update each and every virtualenvs. For example, a security fix only needs to be installed once.

Then, shared libraries are available to every user of the system. There is no need to add extra PYTHONPATH environments to each service. Moreover, shared libraries reduce disk/memory usage and they are a bit faster to load.

Less moving parts and reproducibility

When installing software using pip, one ends up pulling the latest version of every dependency. For example, a Zuul virtualenv currently contains 57 packages. The list may keep on growing whenever one of those packages adds a new dependency in its next version. All it takes is one of the many package maintainers to tag and release a new version to get its code in your systems.

Without taking into account the security consideration of this workflow, the biggest issue is the lack of reproducibility. Without careful tooling to freeze the environment, two pip installations may differ and the one which is deployed may very well be broken by an untested release of one of the dependencies. Looking at the requirements.txt git log shows many instances of such un-controlled breakage.

Re-use distribution package manager

Finally, using system packages lets one re-use the package manager included in the Linux distribution. It features battle-tested dependency management and comes with many features that may not be implemented in language specific package management systems like pip:

  • Rollback;
  • Tracability;
  • Integrity verification;
  • Consistency accross all system packages; and
  • Security updates.


Setting up the system to build and distribute system packages may take some time, see this previous article. But it is a one time cost and has been a much benefical decision for the Software Factory project as it solved all the above mentioned issues.