Package Management Overview: Utilities and Methods

Package Management Overview: Utilities and Methods


When working on a project, you will probably need a number of packages. A web project, for example, can have many packages, and the packages may have many dependencies that you did not install explicitly. An example of a package that your project may need is a piece of code to calculate relative dates as human-readable text. Although it is possible to write this code yourself, there are high chances that someone else has already solved this problem. So, why should you waste your time doing the same thing? Additionally, a third-party package will have been tested in different environments, making it more robust than your own solution.


Without modern package managers, you would need a modern tool to bundle your packages together once they have been released. You would also experience challenges when you want to update your packages to the latest versions. This will even be more painful for larger projects with many packages. Package managers make it easy for you to work with packages. Package managers automate most of the tasks that are involved when using packages during development. In this article, we discuss the utilities and methods for package management.


Packagecloud is a cloud-based service for distributing different software packages in a unified, reliable, and scalable way, without owning any infrastructure. You can keep all of the packages that need to be distributed across your organization's machines in one repo, regardless of OS or programming language. Then, you can efficiently distribute your packages to your devices in a secure way, without having to own any of the infrastructure involved in doing so. This enables users to save time and money on setting up servers for hosting packages for each OS. Packagecloud allows users to set up and update machines faster and with less overhead than ever before.


Sign up for the packagecloud free trial to get your machines set up and updated easily!


What are packages?

A package is a collection of multiple data files that solve a particular problem. Packages put multiple data files into a single archive file for easier storage and portability. Each package comes with a set of binaries that have been precompiled according to the defaults chosen by the developer. The binaries make it possible for package users to install packages without having to compile the source code. Most open-source projects use binaries that can be re-compiled from source code. The pre-compiled binaries are normally set up to be interpreted and executed by popular operating systems and platforms.


Packages also come with metadata such as a description of its purpose, package name, version number, and the list of dependencies needed for the package to run. A package cannot work effectively if its dependencies have not been installed. Most Linux distros have created their own package formats. The most popular package formats include:


  • .rpm: It was initially referred to as the Red Hat Package Manager. It is used by Red Hat, SUSE, Fedora, and other smaller Linux distributions.

  • .deb: It was the first type of package to be invented. It is used by Linux Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, and other derivatives.

  • .tar.xz: It is simply a compressed tarball used by Arch Linux.


Packages are normally stored in software repositories. If you are a smartphone user, you must be familiar with the idea of a “software store”.


A software repository is similar to a software store. It is a centralized listing of software packages. To use a particular package, you must install it by pulling it from the repositories. If the package requires some dependencies to run effectively, you must also go ahead and install them.


Packagecloud is a useful solution because it allows you to easily build packages from any repository in a unified, reliable, and scalable way without owning any infrastructure. It enables users to store all packages required by their organization, regardless of operating system or programming language. The packages can then be distributed to target devices securely. With packagecloud, users can set up and update machines with less overhead than before.


Sign up today for the packagecloud free trial to get your machines set up and updated easily!


What Options do you have for package management?

You have three options for package management:

  • Packagecloud

  • In-house methods

  • Working directly with repos



Packagecloud is a package repository service. It lets you manage all your packages and deploy them to any environment from one interface, either on-premise or in the cloud. It has a single consistent API that you can use to upload your packages and deploy them with ease.


Currently, packagecloud supports different types of packages including RPM packages, DEB packages, Debian source packages (DSCs), Java packages (Clojure, SBT, and “fatjar”), Python packages (wheels, eggs, and source distributions), RubyGems, and Node.js packages. You can use packagecloud to host npm, Java/Maven, RubyGem, apt, yum, and Python repositories without any pre-configuration. Plans are underway to introduce support for additional package formats.


The packagecloud repository is also more advanced than traditional repositories. A single packagecloud repo can have any or all of the supported types; for example, RPM, Debian, Python, and RubyGem packages can exist in one packagecloud repo. It can also have packages for many Linux distributions. The packagecloud repository also issues read tokens to nodes to control how they access the repository.


Check out the packagecloud free trial and see how easy it is to manage packages throughout your organization. You will never worry about installing, updating, or uninstalling packages in your organization again.


In-house methods

You can create your own local repository and deploy packages to it. For example, you can use the createrepo utility to create a yum repository and add RPM files into it. You can also use the dpkg-dev utility to create an apt repository. However, this process may take some time, and technical expertise is needed.


Working Directly with Repos

Software repositories provide remote access to packages. Users can pull packages from the repos when necessary. To pull packages from a repository, you need a package manager. The package managers obtain packages for installation from software repositories. The package managers are also responsible for finding and installing the dependencies of any package.


Package managers provide a way to install new packages, manage where the packages are stored in the file system, and provide you with the capabilities for publishing your own packages. This means that package managers can make the task of working with packages easier. Theoretically, you don’t need a package manager since you can manually download and store your project packages. However, package managers seamlessly handle the process of installing and uninstalling packages.


For example, pip is a package manager for Python. You can use the pip package manager to install a package such as Scikit-learn on your computer. You can issue the command pip install sklearn to install the library, and pip will look for all the dependencies of Scikit-learn, including NumPy, SciPy, and others. It will also automatically select the directory in which to install the package on your computer.


You can also use the same package manager to uninstall the package. You simply issue the pip uninstall sklearn command, and it will be uninstalled from your operating system.


Many repositories have built-in security features for protecting users. For example, a package repo may have an authentication system to protect itself against malicious use. Hosted software repositories such as GitHub, SourceForge, and BitBucket allow users to create software repositories for open source or proprietary products.


What is a package management system?

Local package installation tools like rpm and dpkg can be used for installation of packages, but the process can be tedious when the packages have many dependencies. If you choose to manually download and store your project packages, it means that you’ll be responsible for:


  • Finding the correct package files.

  • Checking to ensure that the package files don’t have any known vulnerabilities.

  • Downloading packages and putting them in the correct locations within your project.

  • Doing the same for all the package dependencies, which can number in the tens or even hundreds.

  • Removing all the files if there is a need to uninstall the packages.


The process of managing packages manually can be difficult. However, there is a solution to this problem, the package management system. A package management system is a collection of tools that automate the process of installing, configuring, upgrading, and removing packages from the operating system of a computer in a consistent manner.


The package management system keeps a database of version information and software dependencies to prevent missing prerequisites and software mismatches. The packages are applications, distributions of software, and data. The packages also contain metadata like the package’s name, purpose description, vendor, version number, checksum, and the list of dependencies needed for the package to run successfully.


Once a package is installed successfully, the metadata is stored in the local package database. The purpose of package management systems is to help companies save time and money through software distribution technology that does not need manual installs and updates and support for remote maintenance. This is very useful for large enterprises that use Linux and other Unix-like systems, consisting of hundreds or thousands of unique software packages.


Examples of tools for package management include packagecloud, fpm, Dist, Gemfury, PyPi, Conan, CloudSmith, aptly, and others.



A software project will require one or more packages. The packages help developers to add specific functionalities to the project. Some software packages require dependencies to run successfully. This means that the dependencies must be installed prior to the installation of the package. There are three options for package management: packagecloud, in-house methods, and working directly with repos.


Packagecloud is a package repository service that lets you manage all your packages and deploy them to any environment from one interface, either on-premise or in the cloud. You can use it to host npm, Java/Maven, RubyGem, apt, yum, and Python repositories without any pre-configuration. In-house package management methods involve creating your own local repository and deploying packages to it. You can also choose to use available package managers to pull packages directly from software repositories.


Packagecloud is the catch-all option for package management. It is more advanced compared to other software repositories. You can store different types of packages in the same packagecloud repo. Additionally, packagecloud is very easy to use, and you can set up and use the repo in no time.


To make the task of package management in your company secure and reliable, use packagecloud. You should sign up for your packagecloud free trial here.

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