systemd is a contentious issue in the Linux world, you don't need to go far to read arguments for or against systemd. This article is not about whether it's good or bad, but in the interests of full disclosiure, I feel it is important to declare that I am a systemd contributor, as at the time of writing I have 1 line of code in systemd. Hence I am biased, as I wouldn't waste my time on something I didn't think was worthwhile.

What's with the title?

One of the lead developers wrote an article series called systemd for administrators. The goal of which is to explain how useful systemd is for system administrators, but the systemd project has widened in scope since then, and the full scope of what systemd provides is not common knowledge.

What is systemd

systemd is both the name of a project to provide the boring bits needed to have a working Linux system, and the name of the init process systemd(1), which is the first process run in a Linux system, and is responsible for starting all others.

systemd as PID 1

systemd(1) for initial start-up and management of services

You configure services by putting systemd.service(5) files in /etc/systemd/system, and do run-time manipulation with the systemctl(1) tool.

systemd.service(5) files are a DSL for all the tricky start-up configurations that were previously encoded in fragile init scripts, and generalises the on-demand service start-up in inetd(8) into socket activation.

One of the trickiest parts of start-up is ensuring correct dependency ordering, so services that depend on other services are started after they are ready.

To handle this, you can set Before= in the service file you depend on, or After= in your unit file, and ensure that your services set the right Type= section to notify when the service is ready.

For one-off commands that you'd still like to benefit from systemd's service management, you can use systemd-run(1).


I emphasised the difference between systemd the project and systemd(1) the daemon that inhabits PID 1, because there are other services provided by the former than just the latter, which will be descibed in future articles.