The importance of Devuan

A Sunday morning essay

Posted on Dec. 10, 2017

Good morning,

my name is Nico Schottelius, I am the CEO of ungleich glarus ltd. It is a beautiful Sunday morning with the house surrounded by a meter of snow. A perfect time to write about the importance of Devuan to us, but also for the future of Linux.

But first, let me put some warning out here: Dear Devuan friends, while I honor your work, I also have to be very honest with you: in theory, you should not have done this. Looking at creating Devuan, which means splitting of Debian, economically, you caused approximately infinite cost. Additional maintenance to what is being done in Debian already plus the work spent to clean packages of their systemd dependencies PLUS causing headache for everyone else: Should I use Debian? Is it required to use Devuan? What are the advantages of either? Looking at it from a user point of view, you added "a second, almost equal option". That's horrible!

Think of it in real world terms: You are in a supermarket and there is a new variant of a product that you used to buy (let it be razor blades, toilet paper rolls, whiskey, you name it). Instead of instantly buying what you used to buy, you might spend minutes staring at both options, comparing and in the end still being unable to properly choose, because both options are TOO SIMILAR. Yes, dear Devuan community, you have to admit it, you caused this cost for every potential Linux user.

For those who have read until here and actually wonder, why systemd is considered to be a problem, let me give you a real world analogy:

Let's say every car manufacturer recently discovered a new technology named "doord", which lets you open up car doors much faster than before. It only takes 0.05 seconds, instead of 1.2 seconds on average. So every time you open a door, you are much, much faster!

Many of the manufacturers decide to implement doord, because the company providing doord makes it clear that it is beneficial for everyone. And additional to opening doors faster, it also standardises things. How to turn on your car? It is the same now everywhere, it is not necessarily to look for the keyhole anymore.

Unfortunately though, sometimes doord does not stop the engine. Or if it is cold outside, it stops the ignition process, because it takes too long. Doord also changes the way how your navigation system works, because that is totally related to opening doors, but leads to some users being unable to navigate, which is accepted as collateral damage. In the end, you at least have faster door opening and a standard way to turn on the car. Oh, and if you are in a traffic jam and have to restart the engine often, it will stop restarting it after several times, because that's not what you are supposed to do. You can open the engine hood and tune that setting though, but it will be reset once you buy a new car.

Some of you might ask yourselves now "Is systemd THAT bad?". And my answer to it is: No. It is even worse. Systemd developers split the community over a tiny detail that decreases stability significantly and increases complexity for not much real value. And this is not theoretical: We tried to build Data Center Light on Debian and Ubuntu, but servers that don't boot, that don't reboot or systemd-resolved that constantly interferes with our core network configuration made it too expensive to run Debian or Ubuntu.

Yes, you read right: too expensive. While I am writing here in flowery words, the reason to use Devuan is hard calculated costs. We are a small team at ungleich and we simply don't have the time to fix problems caused by systemd on a daily basis. This is even without calculating the security risks that come with systemd. Our objective is to create a great, easy-to-use platform for VM hosting, not to walk a tightrope.

So, coming back to the original title of this essay: the importance of Devuan. Yes, the Devuan community creates infinite economic costs, but it is not their fault. Creating Devuan is simply a counteraction to ensure Linux stays stable. which is of high importance for a lot of people.

Yes, you read right: what the Devuan developers are doing is creating stability. Think about it not in a few repeating systemd bugs or about the insecurity caused by a huge, monolithic piece of software running with root privileges. Why do people favor Linux on servers over Windows? It is very easy: people don't use Windows, because it is too complex, too error-prone and not suitable as a stable basis. Read it again. This is exactly what systemd introduces into Linux: error-prone complexity and instability.

With systemd the main advantage to use Linux is obsolete.

So what is the importance of Devuan? It is not only crucial to Linux users, but to everyone who is running servers. Or rockets. Or watches. Or anything that actually depends on a stable operating system.

Thus I would like to urge every reader who made it until here: Do what we do:

Support Devuan.

Support the future with stability.