After Linux civil war, Ubuntu to adopt systemd

After Linux civil war, Ubuntu to adopt systemd

Summary: After months of often bitter debate, Ubuntu will follow Debian in using systemd instead of its own Upstart for Linux start-up and shutdown routines.


It was an ugly fight at times. On one side you had Ubuntu favoring its Upstart program to replace the old Unix/Linux init daemon, which oversees the operating system's start-up and shutdown processes. On the other side, you had the Red Hat and SUSE supported systemd.

Finally, after Debian, Ubuntu's parent Linux distribution, voted for systemd, Ubuntu's founder Mark Shuttleworth announced that Canonical would support systemd rather than continue to push for Upstart.

Say hi to systemd, tomorrow's start-up program for all major Linux distributions.

To understand why this battle grew so heated you need to know something about init. This process is the first one the kernel starts when you boot up a Linux or Unix computer. All other processes are child processes of init. This, in turn, means it oversees implementing file systems configuring the network, and all the other background services and programs. Once that's done, init -- and its successors -- continues to run and watch for special commands such as 'shutdown," which causes the system to close up shop gracefully before turning off the power.

As time went on, it became clear that init was getting too slow and inflexible for today's computers. So, first Upstart, in 2006, and then systemd in 2010 were proposed to replace it. For a time it appeared that Upstart would become the default init replacement, but systemd quickly gathered support. This led to conflict between those who supported one or the other. And, as such things do from time to time in tech circles, it became a flame war.

Even Shuttleworth got involved. In late 2013, Shuttleworth scorned systemd writing, "By contrast, those same outraged individuals have NIH'd [Not Invented Here] just about every important piece of the stack they can get their hands on ... most notably systemd, which is hugely invasive and hardly justified."

Shuttleworth eventually backed off his harsh words, but there was still no love lost between the feuding Linux developers.

This conflict is part of a greater fight between Canonical and Red Hat over the future of Linux. Another argument, still ongoing, is whether the X Window System -- the foundation of Unix and Linux's graphics system -- should be replaced by Ubuntu's Mir or Red Hat/Fedora's Wayland.

With systemd, however, Shuttleworth is taking the high road.

Shuttleworth wrote: "I’d like to thank the committee for their thoughtful debate under pressure in the fishbowl; it set a high bar for analysis and experience-driven decision making since most members of the committee clearly took time to familiarize themselves with both options. I know the many people who work on Upstart appreciated the high praise for its code quality, rigorous testing and clarity of purpose expressed even by members who voted against it; from my perspective, it has been a pleasure to support the efforts of people who want to create truly great free software, and do it properly. Upstart has served Ubuntu extremely well – it gave us a great competitive advantage at a time when things became very dynamic in the kernel, it’s been very stable (it is after all the init used in both Ubuntu and RHEL 6 and has set a high standard for Canonical-lead software quality of which I am proud."

"Nevertheless, the decision is for systemd, and given that Ubuntu is quite centrally a member of the Debian family, that’s a decision we support," continued Shuttleworth. "I will ask members of the Ubuntu community to help to implement this decision efficiently.... It will no doubt take time to achieve the stability and coverage that we enjoy today and in 14.04 LTS with Upstart, but I will ask the Ubuntu tech board (many of whom do not work for Canonical) to review the position and map out appropriate transition plans."

"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. I trust the new stewards of pid [process identifer] 1 will take that responsibility as seriously as the Upstart team has done, and be as pleasant to work with," concluded Shuttleworth.

Shuttleworth couldn't resist one last jab, however, adding that "today our [Canonical/Ubuntu] focus is on the cloud and on mobile, and we are quite clearly leading GNU/Linux on both fronts."

Still, this technical war is now over and systemd will be init's replacement on all mainstream Linux distributions going forward. Ubuntu will start using it with its October 2014 release, Ubuntu 14.10

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Linux, Open Source, Software Development

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  • After Linux civil war, Ubuntu to adopt systemd

    No open telnet port.

    I see Mint making this move also.
    • Linux civil war

      unsuppressed chuckleing ... me thinks this war is not over. Meanwhile the other wars rage on.
  • Still a lot of work ahead ...

    A major part of the dissatisfaction over systemd centers around its expansiveness. It has more than a few times been compared to Windows registry. There are genuine concerns with both stability and security as a result of that expansive scope. An additional problem that complicates the whole thing and it also related to that expansiveness is the immaturity of its code and the amount of effort that it will take to achieve that level of maturity. I have been using systemd for over a year and a half now and so far no insurmountable problems. But there are multiple minor issues that need fixing and a lot of enhancements that would be desirable. Hopefully getting everyone on board will move all of this along. In the mean time, there are going to be more than a few loose ends.
    George Mitchell
    • Shuttleworth should learn his lesson which is...

      he and his Ubuntu-project is not near "the leading GNU Linux on both fronts". The leading GNU LINUX strong points are of course still Debian, Red Hat and Google.

      Who is respective person enough to tell Shuttleworth that he's playing all the time that pathetic "corporate visionary" role of Linux? Actually his great dreams have been time after time demolished by reality of life. His Canonical can't make money and great deal of former Ubuntu loyalists have left his Ubuntu Unity spyware-addware mess. His great dream to become "Steve Jobs of Linux" makes me so sad indeed. However he seems to be great story teller (just like Stalin). He has created a myth that his Ubuntu has made the great breaktrough of Linux. Actually Ubuntu has hardly nothing to do with success of Linux. Big business wants Linux, that's sure. Developers see Android as much better platform for apps than rivals. More than 1½ billion Android mobiles have been sold. Red Hat is great money maker. Linux is now everywhere. At the same time industry and corporates seems to care not at all about Shuttlewortsh great dream - Ubuntu. After all these fact it looks like Shuttleworth is becoming more likely a clown than hero of Linux.
      • He has so far been unable to deliver with Ubuntu

        Big hat. No cattle.

        I will admit that I liked the idea for an Ubuntu phone, but again, he is unable to deliver anything. Pretty sad when even MS can release a phone OS faster than he can.
        • How is it sad?

          Microsoft has far more money, and they started sooner. It would be sad if Microsoft didn't have one out before them.
          Michael Alan Goff
          • @Michael Alan Goff no this is open source we are talking about

            You use other codes to build on what you want so you can be fast but he just wanted to reinvent everything! He could simply use Wayland (see jolla) if he did we could see an Ubuntu phone by now which would be compatible by other Linux communities too...sigh :\
          • You're living in a fantasy world

            Wayland just recently got implemented in Desktop Environments.
            Michael Alan Goff
          • I thought open source meant faster dev time

            Likewise Shutty talked about how the investors and carriers were all over Ubuntu phone, but then when it came time for them to pony up the dough, nobody came to invest.

            Just when will a phone be available from them?

            What is taking them so long? Ubuntu not ready for the real mobile world?
          • Where did you hear that?

            Seriously, I'd like to know where people get this misconception that OSS means "faster dev time" and how they expect it to actually work.
            Michael Alan Goff
      • MacBroderick: "Shuttleworth should learn his lesson ..."

        At DistroWarch, Ubuntu trails Linux Mint and is, more or less, tied with Debian for 2nd. The 2013 Linux Journal reader's choice awards had Ubuntu as both the most popular distro *and* the most popular desktop distro. And the Unity desktop that defaults with Ubuntu did well too, although it did not win most popular.

        Linux Mint (distinct from Mint Debian edition) fanbois should be thankful for Ubuntu since it is *derived* from Ubuntu, not Debian, although Debian is the base distro for both. Remember that it was Canonical that initially worked with Valve to bring native Steam games to the GNU/Linux desktop. Like it or not, Canonical has had, and continues to have, an important and positive impact on the GNU/Linux desktop. For many GNU/Linux desktop users, Ubuntu was their first distro, even if they have since moved on to another. Even Google uses the Ubuntu desktop with its Goobuntu shell, including enterprise support from Canonical. Employees aren't required to use Unity and they simply choose the desktop environment that suits them best. Why isn't Google using the RHEL desktop/workstation, SLED or Chrome OS for its enterprise desktop systems?
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • One more thing ...

          Canonical's Upstart is also used in Google's Chrome OS:

          " All of the user-land services are managed by Upstart. By using Upstart we are able to start services in parallel, re-spawn jobs that crash, and defer services to make boot faster."

          Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Stalin reference? Seriously?

        You need to get outside and get your Vitamin D levels up before your rickets get worse.

        Ubuntu has contributed quite a bit to Linux, and I am glad to have Shuttleworth on board. He did a great job of making an easy to use desktop, and througout the late 2000's their installer was by far the best of any distro. I was a huge fan of their server product up until the 9.10 release (upstart, introduced in 10.04, was so terrible that I quit using Ubuntu altogether)

        Ubuntu owned the Linux Desktop market, but unfortunately he wasn't able to displace Windows. Hopefully he will keep trying -- due to the GPL licensing, everybody wins. He has been good at identifying the right problems at least... I would love to be able to use my phone as a desktop, and X could definitely use a replacement.

        When he finds a way to starve millions of people, then break out the Stalin references.
  • Not just the stack, either . . .

    "By contrast, those same outraged individuals have NIH'd [Not Invented Here] just about every important piece of the stack they can get their hands on ... most notably systemd,"

    Not just the stack, either - pretty much every part of Linux has, in my experience, a lot of "NIH."

    If something was invented outside of their particular group, it immediately sucks. Doubly so if it was invented by a large corporation. Triply so if it was invented by a large corporation for use in proprietary software. Quadruply so if it was invented by Microsoft.
  • Now that's resolved...

    Could systemadm be amended so that it's easier to find particular services?

    I always figured one of the advantages of UNIX and friends was that all of the configuration files were plain text. Hence, I've never been thrilled at the prospect of a Linux registry.
    John L. Ries
  • After Linux civil war, Ubuntu to adopt systemd

    More fighting between linux distros. And they wonder why no one uses it. Its because they can't ever agree on anything so they spend all the time arguing instead of coding.
    • Nope

      Nobody uses Linux. Not even the people who commented on this article.

      A Talkbacker who shall remain nameless recently defended the use of "nobody uses..." as rhetoric and polemics. I call it lying.
      John L. Ries
      • Nobody uses Linux on the desktop

        Statistically speaking "nobody" is within the margin of error when computing the tiny percentage of PC's running Linux.
        • Nobody means zero

          And statistically, nobody in the sample doesn't mean "nobody" either; it merely means "none encountered" and if it's statistically significant, means there are probably not more than X persons.
          John L. Ries
          • What's really meant when people say "nobody" is...

            ...nobody that matters; ergo if you're part of "nobody", you don't matter.

            Stupid bandwagon games.
            John L. Ries