As the owner of the Mozilla build system, I get to hear endless moaning about how byzantine the build system is and how it would be nice to use something more modern. I sympathize with the problem: our build system is difficult to set up, has a very steep learning curve, and uses lots of unusual languages. On the other hand, our build system works amazingly well: we have grown a set of rules that build an amazing variety of file types, and works on a wide variety of platforms. Out build system is complex for the very good reason that our needs are complex.
A few of the more aware complainers have suggested alternatives such as SCons. I have avoided making huge changes to our build system because it is overwhelming to contemplate migrating our existing build logic to a new build system. Any new build system would have to compare favorably to our existing system, which has years of bugfixes and features to its credit.
I was excited when I was asked to help implement a cross-platform build system for the Tamarin project. Tamarin was released with platform-specific Visual Studio and XCode project files. I thought that perhaps this was a perfect opportunity to try one of the newer build systems, without paying the cost of porting our entire existing build system over.
I created a requirements list. Unfortunately, I don’t think that any of the existing tools are going to meet our needs without extensive customization. I’m going to continue to examine SCons and WAF more over the next few days, but it looks like the path of easiest success is still going to be an old-school autoconf + make build system. Hopefully at least I’ll be able to fix some issues with recursive make while implementing the new system.