The users doth protest too much

Ubuntu switching to Systemd

Natali Vlatko
Protest image via Shutterstock

Some might consider Systemd to be controversial, but Ubuntu will be going ahead with its plan to implement the system management tool over the home-grown Upstart event-based init system. Let the protests begin.

Today, Monday March 9, Ubuntu will proceed to modify code base for the forthcoming operating system in order to adopt the systemd management daemon and configuration platform. This means that when Ubuntu 15.04 comes out around April, all new Ubuntu installs will be running systemd by default.

Systemd vs. Upstart

To say this decision is a controversial one is an understatement: Debian’s initial announcement about their own move to systemd triggered protests from old-school Unix devs who believed that sticking with the trusty and familiar Unix System V–style init software was the way to go.

Debian stuck to their guns however, forcing the init software purists to create a new, systemd-free fork of Debian, known as Devuan. Looking at Ubuntu, who used the alternative upstart until recently, a similar grumbling from naysayers emerged.

The upstart platform is an event-based replacement for the /sbin/init daemon which was developed and maintained by Canonical since the 2006 release of Ubuntu 6.10. Some sysadmins believe the pros outweigh the cons with upstart, and that systemd basically sucks. One of the main arguments against systemd is its violation of the Unix philosophy, which stresses writing code that is short, modular, extensible and easily maintained.

Ubuntu chieftain Mark Shuttleworth commented on the switch, saying that the decision for systemd, given that Ubuntu is quite centrally a member of the Debian family, is a “decision we support”. He also acknowledged the debate between the two, noting the changes required:

Technologies of choice evolve, and our platform evolves both to lead (today our focus is on the cloud and on mobile, and we are quite clearly leading GNU/Linux on both fronts) and to embrace change imposed elsewhere. Init is contentious because it is required for both developers and system administrators to understand its quirks and capabilities. No wonder this was a difficult debate, the consequences for hundreds of thousands of people are very high. From my perspective the fact that good people were clearly split suggests that either option would work perfectly well.

The move over to systemd won’t be without bumps in the road. Users are urged to file a proper bug report in Launchpad (ubuntu-bug systemd) if they encounter any issues. It has been said that if there are too many issues or regressions after the initial switch, Ubuntu can still revert back to upstart.

Most major Linux distros are now running the same stuff. Ubuntu Cloud has also switched to systemd by default, as well as the Ubuntu CI (Continuous Integration) infrastructure.

Natali Vlatko
An Australian who calls Berlin home, via a two year love affair with Singapore. Natali was an Editorial Assistant for (S&S Media Group).

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