[CentOS] OT: systemd Poll - So Long, and Thanks for All the fish.

Thu Apr 20 21:55:42 UTC 2017
Warren Young <warren at etr-usa.com>

On Apr 20, 2017, at 7:33 AM, James B. Byrne <byrnejb at harte-lyne.ca> wrote:
> When a vendor ... fundamentally changes the way the administration
> of an operating system is presented

I’ve gotten the sense from this other part of the thread that the answer to my question, “What are you moving to?” is FreeBSD.

If you think FreeBSD system administration hasn’t changed over the past 10 years, you must not have been using it that long.  What makes you think it won’t change again in the next 10 years, possibly in very large breaking ways?

> vanishingly few firms in my
> experience (i.e.NONE) have ever had operational programming staff
> write or even modify a device driver.

My company is very small.  I’ve modified device drivers to make them work properly on Linux, purely in a “scratch my own itch” kind of way.

I assure, you, many larger organizations also do this or something similar.  Netflix is famous for using FreeBSD on their streaming servers and for tuning the FreeBSD kernel heavily for that purpose.

> A business is in existence to
> make money for its owners not dick around with esoteric computer
> theory and practice.

I’m not glorifying change for its own sake.  I’m just saying it happens, and however inessential it may be to your business’ operations is really not on-point.  The fact is that it happens everywhere in this industry, so your only choice is in which bag of changes you want to deal with, not whether you get a bag of changes.

> The idea that one has to rebuild from scratch entire host systems and
> then laboriously port over data and customised portions to a new host
> simply to upgrade the underlying OS is absolutely ludicrous.

I find that most hardware is ready to fall over by the time the CentOS that was installed on it drops out of support anyway.

That is to say, I think the right way to use CentOS is to install one major version on the hardware when it’s built, and then ride it for the 7-10 years until that OS version drops out of support.  (7 being the worst case, when you install a new system juuuust before the next major OS version comes out.)

Then there’s all the change that is outside the OS proper.  For example, there’s all the current changes in the way encryption is handled, which would require operational changes anyway.  You can’t keep running BIND 4 on your public-facing DNS servers, for example, even if all the security problems were somehow fixed without changing any user interface.

Ditto mail, HTTP, and many other critical services, since old versions often don’t even speak today’s required protocols.  (TLS 1.1 minimum, DMARC, DKIM, SPF, etc.)

FreeBSD, this supposed bastion of stability, now actively discourages you from using BIND in the first place, for example.  Now they want you to migrate to NSD + Unbound.  Oh noes, more change!

> Consider
> the tremendous labour costs regularly incurred in accomplishing what
> amounts to maintaining the status quo.

If you only wanted the status quo ante, why upgrade at all?

Obvious answer: because you actually do want *some* change.

> We just upgraded a FreeBSD host from 10.3 to 11.0 in situ without
> problem

Lucky you.  I’ve had such upgrades take a system out for a day, working around all the breakages.

Upgrading FreeBSD is historically one of the most painful things about it.  It’s getting better, but only by changing how everything about packaging was done.  Holy ChangeLogs, Batman!

Don’t get the wrong idea that I don’t like FreeBSD, by the way.  I know these things about it because I use it regularly.  This is one of those “bags of changes” I referred to above.  Sometimes I want the Linux bag, and sometimes I want the FreeBSD bag, and I know going into the decision that each bag implies a future bag of changes I’ll have to deal with.

> It was the OS running the metal for multiple BHyve virtual machines

Ah, more change.  Bhyve only goes back to FreeBSD 10, so if you were using FreeBSD prior to that, you’d have had to either drag forward whatever VM manager you were using or migrate to bhyve.

> given we use ZFS in FreeBSD, and that we snapshot regularly, getting
> back to 10.3 would have been, and still could be, nearly
> instantaneous.

That’s a great reason to pick FreeBSD.  Just don’t fool yourself that by switching that you’ve somehow gotten off the upgrade treadmill.  You’ve only switched bags.

> Systemd is not the problem.  It
> is a symptom of a deeper malaise, indifference.

systemd offers benefits to certain classes of end users which could not have been achieved without *some* kind of change.

We can argue about how well systemd did its job — I share many of the negative opinions about it — but I think you’ll have a very tough time convincing me that we could have gotten all the benefits without changing the user interface.

Again it comes back to the bag of features: if you didn’t want any of the features systemd brought, then you may be right to abandon Linux.  (“May” because it feels like being a one-issue voter, to me.)  It is good that we still have substantially different OSes to choose from.

And that’s why I use *all* the major OSes and several weird ones besides.  None of it is perfect, yet it all has its place.