Image Types


Before building an image with KIWI NG it’s important to understand the different image types and their meaning. This document provides an overview about the supported KIWI NG image types, their results and some words about the environment to run the build.

ISO Hybrid Live Image

An iso image which can be dumped on a CD/DVD or USB stick and boots off from this media without interfering with other system storage components. A useful pocket system for testing and demo and debugging purposes. For further details refer to Build an ISO Hybrid Live Image

Virtual Disk Image

An image representing the system disk, useful for cloud frameworks like Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine or Microsoft Azure. For further details refer to Build a Virtual Disk Image

OEM Expandable Disk Image

An image representing an expandable system disk. This means after deployment the system can resize itself to the new disk geometry. The resize operation is configurable as part of the image description and an installation image for CD/DVD, USB stick and Network deployment can be created in addition. For further details refer to: Build an Expandable Disk Image

Docker Container Image

An archive image suitable for the docker container engine. The image can be loaded via the docker load command and works within the scope of the container engine. For further details refer to: Build a Docker Container Image

WSL Container Image

An archive image suitable for the Windows Subsystem For Linux container engine. The image can be loaded From a Windows System that has support for WSL activated. For further details refer to: Build a WSL Container Image

KIS Root File System Image

An optional root filesystem image associated with a kernel and initrd. The use case for this component image type is highly customizable. Many different deployment strategies are possible. For further details refer to: Build KIS Image (Kernel, Initrd, System)

Image Results

KIWI NG execution results in an appliance image after a successful run of kiwi-ng system build or kiwi-ng system create command. The result is the image binary in addition a couple of metadata files that can be handy to describe or identify the resulting image. The output files follow this naming convention:


where <image-name> is the name stated in the Image Description as an attribute of the <image> element. The <arch> is the CPU architecture used for the build, <version> is the image version defined in <version> element of the image description and the <extension> is dependent on the image type and its definition.

Any KIWI NG appliance build results in, at least, the following output files:

  1. The image binary, <image-name>.<arch>-<version>.<image-extension>:

    This is the file containig the actual image binary, depending on the image type and its definition it can be a virtual disk image file, and ISO image, a tarball, etc.

  2. The <image-name>.<arch>-<version>.packages file:

    This file includes a sorted list of the packages that are included into the image. In fact this is normalized dump of the package manager database. It follows the following cvs format where each line is represented by:


    The values represented here are mainly based on RPM packages metadata. Other package managers may not provide all of these values, in such cases the format is the same and the fields that cannot be provided are set as None value. This list can be used to track changes across multiple builds of the same image description over time by diffing the packages installed.

  3. The <image-name>.<arch>-<version>.verified file:

    This file is the output of a verification done by the package manager against the package data base. More specific it is the output of the rpm verification process or dpkg verification depending on the packaging technology selected for the image. In both cases the output follows the RPM verification syntax. This provides an overview of all packages status right before any boot of the image.

More specific the result files for a given image name and version such as Leap-15.1_appliance and 1.15.1 will be:

  • image packages: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.packages

  • image verified: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.verified

In addition to the image binaries itself that depend on the image type:


For this image type the result is mainly a root tree packed in a tarball:

  • root archive: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.tar.xz


The image root tree data is packed into a filesystem image of the given type, hence the resutl for an ext4 image would be:

  • filesystem image: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.ext4


The image result is an ISO file:

  • live image: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.iso


An image representing an expandable disk image. KIWI NG can also produce an installation ISO for this disk image by setting installiso="true" in the <preferences><type>) section or a tarball including the artifacts for a network deployment by setting installiso="true". For further details see Build an Expandable Disk Image. The results for oem can be:

  • disk image: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.raw

  • installation image (optional): Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.install.iso

  • installation pxe archive (optional): Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.install.tar

The disk image can also be provided in one of the various virtual disk formats which can be specified in format attribute of the <preferences><type> section. For further details see Build a Virtual Disk Image. The result for e.g format="qcow2" would be:

  • disk image: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.qcow2

instead of the raw default disk format.


An archive image suitable for the docker container engine. The result is a loadable (docker load -i <image>) tarball:

  • container: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.docker.tar.xz


An archive image that builds a container matching the OCI (Open Container Interface) standard. The result is a tarball matching OCI standards:

  • container: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.oci.tar.xz


An archive image suitable for the Windows Subsystem For Linux container engine. The result is an appx binary file:

  • container: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.appx


An optional root filesystem image associated with a kernel and initrd. All three binaries are packed in a tarball, see Build KIS Image (Kernel, Initrd, System) for further details about the kis archive:

  • kis archive: Leap-15.1_appliance.x86_64-1.15.1.tar.xz

Build Host Constraints

For building images a host system is required that runs the build process. Tools to create the image are used from that host and this creates an indirect dependency to the target image. For example; Building an Ubuntu image requires the apt and dpkg tools and metadata to be available and functional on the host to build an Ubuntu image. There are many more of those host vs. image dependencies and not all of them can be resolved in a clear and clean way.

The most compatible environment is provided if the build host is of the same distribution than the target image. This always applies for the Open Build Service (OBS). In other cases our recommendation is that the build host is of the same distribution than the target and near to the major version (+-1) compared to the target.

In general, our goal is to support any major distribution with KIWI NG. However for building images we rely on core tools which are not under our control. Also several design aspects of distributions like secure boot and working with upstream projects are different and not influenced by us. There are many side effects that can be annoying especially if the build host is not of the same distribution vendor than the image target.


As described in the section above one requirement between the build host and the image when it comes to architecture support is, that the image architecture should match the build host architecture. Cross arch building would require any core tool that is used to build an image to be cross arch capable. To patch e.g an x86_64 system such that it can build an aarch64 image would require some work on binutils and hacks as well as performance tweaks which is all not worth the effort and still can lead to broken results. Thus we recommend to provide native systems for the target architecture and build there. One possible alternative is to use the kiwi boxed plugin as documented here: Building in a Self-Contained Environment together with a box created for the desired architecture. However keep in mind the performance problematic when running a VM of a different architecture.

The majority of the image builds are based on the x86 architecture. As mentioned KIWI NG also supports other architectures, shown in the table below:






yes note:distro


yes note:distro


yes note:distro


no (alpha-phase)


The support status for an architecture depends on the distribution. If the distribution does not build its packages for the desired architecture, KIWI NG will not be able to build an image for it