Some months ago when I looked at the Devuan efforts I thought they’re directed at eradicating any traces of systemd and the Red Hat agenda from Debian. After all, the wounds were fresh and hatred still strong. However, the problem Devuan bravely tries to address is much deeper and echoes across the whole of the GNU/Linux ecosystem. Articles covering systemd merely graze the tip of the iceberg that is *software compatibility*.
GNU/Linux distributions power most of world’s servers, workstations, mainframes and supercomputers. In such mission critical environments it is absolutely mandatory that the computer is up and running most of the time. Update downtime should be minimized and process supervision for key services simplified (less resources needed for maintenance, less possibilities for bugs via human error, etc.). While systemd may seem like it addresses above problems, there are 2 main problems:
1. The simplified process supervision is only superficial. Systemd “seems” simpler, but in fact it does a lot more than a mere supervisor + init. Therefore, the surface for bugs is in reality far greater. In addition, process supervision is not a new concept and many alternative (and simpler!) suites exist.
2. Systemd breaks compatibility with former service scripts (from sysVinit) and has absolutely no intention of fixing this. The goal is unification and streamlining of the whole GNU/Linux ecosystem, not making things work.
The first point is an obvious bait for administrators who are tired of fighting with inflexible Shell scripts and overall hackery. The second point, however, should serve as a MAJOR deterrent to anyone looking for a reasonable process supervisor. There is plenty of intermittent options like OpenRC and sanely written go-to supervisors like s6, nosh or runit. Those are some low-hanging fruits, just ready to be picked…
Devuan is an important project, because it acts as a nucleator, not against systemd, but for preserving what Unix is all about – maintainability, efficiency and modular design. It tries to encourage people to care about the “Unix way” more and be aware that current mistakes will prove costly soon enough. Nowadays, we have several program packages that do what systemd offers, though in a much more elegant and non-intrusive fashion. They can be seamlessly merged with existing OS frameworks and used interchangeably.