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posted by NCommander on Tuesday February 07 2017, @11:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the insert-systemd-rant-here dept.

So, in previous posts, I've talked about the fact that SoylentNews currently is powered on Ubuntu 14.04 + a single CentOS 6 box. Right now, the sysops have been somewhat deadlocked on what we should do going forward for our underlying operating system, and I am hoping to get community advice. Right now, the "obvious" choice of what to do is simply do-release-upgrade to Ubuntu 16.04. We've done in-place upgrades before without major issue, and I'm relatively certain we could upgrade without breaking the world. However, from my personal experience, 16.04 introduces systemd support into the stack and is not easily removable. Furthermore, at least in my personal experience, working with journalctl and such has caused me considerable headaches which I detailed in a comment awhile ago.

Discounting systemd itself, I've also found that Ubuntu 16.04 seems less "polished", for want of a better word. I've found I've had to do considerably more fiddling and tweaking to get it to work as a server distro than I had to do with previous releases, as well as had weird issues with LDAP. The same was also true when I worked with recent versions with Debian. As such, there's been a general feeling with the sysops that it's time to go somewhere else.

Below the fold are basically the options as we see them, and I hope if the community can provide some interesting insight or guidance.

Right now, we have about three years before security updates for 14.04 stop, and we are absolutely forced to migrate or upgrade. However, we're already hitting pain due to outdated software; I managed to briefly hose the DNS setup over the weekend trying to deploy CAA records for SN due to our version of BIND being outdated. When TLS 1.3 gets standardized, we're going to have a similar problem with our frontend load balancers. As such, I want to get a plan in place for migration so we can start upgrading over the next year instead of panicking and having to do something at the last moment

The SN Software Stack

As with any discussion for server operating system, knowing what our workloads and such is an important consideration. In short, this is what we use for SN, and the software we have to support

  • nginx - Loadbalancing/SSL Termination
  • Apache 2.2 + mod_perl - rehash (we run it with a separate instance of Apache and Perl, and not the system copy)
  • MySQL Cluster for production
  • MySQL standard for secondary services
  • Kerberos + Hesiod - single-signon/authetication
  • Postfix+Squirrelmail - ... mail

In addition, we use mandatory application controls (AppArmor) to limit the amount of stuff a given process can access for critical services to try and help harden security. We'd like to maintain support for this feature to whatever we migrate, either continuing with AppArmor, switching to SELinux, or using jails/zones if we switch operating systems entirely.

The Options

Right now, we've floated a few options, but we're willing to hear more.

A non-systemd Linux distro

The first choice is simply migrate over to a distribution where systemd is not present or completely optional. As of writing, Arch Linux, Gentoo, and Slackware are three such options. Our requirements for a Linux distribution is a good record of updates and security support as I don't wish to be upgrading the system once a week to a new release.

Release-based distributions

I'm aware of the Devuan project, and at first glance, it would seem like an obvious choice; Debian without systemd is the de-facto tagline. However, I've got concerns about the long-term suitability of the distribution, as well as an intentional choice to replace much of the time-tested Debian infrastructure such as the testing archive with a git-powered Jenkins instance in it's place. Another option would be slackware, but Slackware has made no indication that they won't adapt systemd, and is historically very weak with in-place upgrading and package management in general. Most of the other distributions on without-systemd.org are either LiveCDs, or are very small minority distros that I would be hesitant to bet the farm on with.

Rolling-release distributions

On the other side of the coin, and an option favored by at least some of the staff is to migrate to Gentoo or Arch, which are rolling-release. For those unaware, a rolling release distribution basically always has the latest version of everything. Security updates are handled simply by updating to the latest upstream package for the most part. I'm not a huge fan of this option, as we're dependent on self-built software, and it's not unheard of for "emerge world" to break things during upgrades due to feature changes and such. It would essentially require us to manually be checking release notes, and crossing our fingers every time we did a major upgrade. We could reduce some of this pain by simply migrating all our infrastructure to the form of ebuilds so that at least they would get rebuild as part of upgrading, but I'm very very hesitant about this option as a whole, especially for multiple machines.

Switch to FreeBSD/illumos/Other

Another way we could handle the problem is simply jump off the Linux ship entirely. From a personal perspective, I'm not exactly thrilled on the way Linux as a collective whole has gone for several years, and I see the situation only getting worse with time. As an additional benefit, switching off Linux gives us the possiblity of using real containers and ZFS, which would allow us to further isolate components of the stack, and give us the option to do rollbacks if ever necessary on a blocked upgrade; something that is difficult to impossible with most Linux distributions. As such, I've been favoring this option personally, though I'm not sold enough to make the jump. Two major options attract me of these two:

FreeBSD

FreeBSD has been around a long time, and has both considerable developer support, and support for a lot of features we'd like such as ZFS, jails, and a sane upstream. FreeBSD is split into two components, the core stack which is what constitutes a release, and the ports collection which is add-on software. Both can be upgraded (somewhat) independently of each other, so we won't have as much pain with outdated server components. We'd also have the ability to easy create jails for things like rehash, MySQL, and such and easily isolate these components from each other in a way that's more iron-clad than AppArmor or SELinux.

illumos

illumos is descended from OpenSolaris, and forked after Oracle closed up the source code for Solaris 11. Development has continued on it (at a, granted, slower place). Being the originator of ZFS, it has class A support for it, as well as zones which are functionally equivalent to FreeBSD jails. illumos also has support for SMF, which is essentially advanced service management and tracking without all the baggage systemd creates and tendrils throughout the stack. Zones can also be branded to run Linux binaries to some extent so we can handle migrating the core system over by simply installing illumos, restoring a backup into a branded zone, and then piecemeal decommissioning of said zone. As such, as an upgrade choice, this is fairly attractive. If we migrate to illumos, we'll either use the SmartOS distribution, or OpenIndiana.

Final Notes

Right now, we're basically on the fence with all options, so hopefully the community can provide their own input, or suggest other options we're not aware of. I look forward to your comments below!

~ NCommander

 
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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by canopic jug on Tuesday February 07 2017, @01:13PM

    by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 07 2017, @01:13PM (#464015) Journal

    FreeBSD hasn't been niche for ages. It runs Netflix, is on the PS4, used to run HotMail during its growth phase, ran the now defunct Yahoo, runs WhatsApp, is one of the systems used by Verisign, used in Juniper, and Experts-Exchange (mind the dash). It's just a bit weird to set up and needs reading its handbook to make that possible, though it does have a really good handbook.

    --
    Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
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  • (Score: 2) by Pino P on Tuesday February 07 2017, @02:19PM

    by Pino P (4721) on Tuesday February 07 2017, @02:19PM (#464050) Journal

    I thought that because of the paywall, the user base abandoned Expert S-ex Change in favor of Stack Overflow and the rest of the Stack Exchange network, which runs Windows Server [stackexchange.com].

    • (Score: 2) by canopic jug on Tuesday February 07 2017, @02:24PM

      by canopic jug (3949) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 07 2017, @02:24PM (#464056) Journal

      I've never even looked at it, but do recall the noise about the hyphen. I guess that was a while ago. However, they do have a testimonial up about FreeBSD [freebsdfoundation.org].

      --
      Money is not free speech. Elections should not be auctions.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07 2017, @03:27PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07 2017, @03:27PM (#464088)

        Well, without the hyphen they would be inaccessible from quite a few places with stupid filters. I guess they learned that the hard way.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07 2017, @08:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07 2017, @08:06PM (#464244)

      that explains why the rules/mods are so old school douchetastic.

  • (Score: 2) by TheGratefulNet on Tuesday February 07 2017, @02:57PM

    by TheGratefulNet (659) on Tuesday February 07 2017, @02:57PM (#464072)

    I worked at juniper back in 2000 or so and their whole eng dep ran on freebsd (desktop, mail, etc). the router itself ran freebsd!

    at that time, other networking companies I was at were using netbsd (for power-pc or some other non-intel chip).

    now, linux is all the rage ,but linux is not as stable as it once was (oddly enough). I'd go with bsd.

    --
    "It is now safe to switch off your computer."
  • (Score: 2, Disagree) by schad on Wednesday February 08 2017, @12:56AM

    by schad (2398) on Wednesday February 08 2017, @12:56AM (#464381)

    When you can rattle off a near-complete list of every major deployment, present or recent past, you're kind of making my case for me.

    I love FreeBSD. I like it better than Linux, and I always have. It fits better with my sense for how computers ought to operate. But... I'm sick of fighting with Linux people. They know only one way: The Linux Way. They won't learn FreeBSD not because they can't, but because they don't want to. They get pissy at having to type "netstat -r" instead of "route" (never mind that the former works in Linux just fine). They bitch about "ps -ef" not working the way they expect. And God help you if they have to write a shell script. They'll come to you in a blind fury about how /bin/sh isn't bash, and what kind of idiotic system doesn't even have bash, and so they installed it from "this 'ports' thing, which by the way took forever," but it went into /usr/local/bin/bash instead of replacing /bin/sh like it should, so they made /bin/sh a symlink to /usr/local/bin/bash and now the system won't even boot, and what kind of idiot designed this shit, and why the fuck can't we just use Linux which just works and you don't have to fight with it all the time?

    (You may be able to tell that I've been in this situation with a coworker.)

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by TheRaven on Wednesday February 08 2017, @01:18AM

      by TheRaven (270) on Wednesday February 08 2017, @01:18AM (#464388) Journal
      He didn't rattle off anything close to the whole list, just the biggest names. Netflix is worth mentioning because it's responsible for over a third of all Internet traffic in North America and that all comes from FreeBSD boxes (and because they could saturate dual 40GigE NICs from a single commodity FreeBSD box at about the same time that the iPlayer guys were really pleased to be getting 10Gb/s from a similarly spec'd Linux machine). Verisign is worth mentioning because they run a 50:50 mix of Linux and FreeBSD for the DNS root servers that they run and they get better performance from their FreeBSD machines. He didn't mention the fact that all of the storage appliance vendors use FreeBSD on their systems, for example. He didn't mention any of the ARM users (there's a reason that Cavium and ARM are both FreeBSD Foundation donors).
      --
      sudo mod me up