Systemd – Introduction to system admin

This article is my own and based on various other sources from the internet. If you have something to say please provide your feedback in the comment section below.

what is systemd:

systemd is a service manager/init process used to bootstrap the userspace and manage all process.
Already systemd is the default init system for many operating systems including redhat, ubuntu, fedora and many others. Systemd is useful for a system administrator, as it provides many features to manage the OS efficiently.

Why systemd:

Here are the few reasons why systemd is needed.
Note: Some of the reasons below are disagreed by the developers and traditional SysV users

  • Speedup the boot by increasing the concurrency of process startup
  • Better process management – by babysitting process
  • Better dependencies management of process during startup
  • Reduce computational overhead of shell script used during boot


Systemd components:




How systemd increases concurrency of process start

In Linux, services can be provided by INET socket or D-bus.

For INET socket:

Each process has dependencies. Example NFS mounts daemon waits for RPC bind.sock and portmapper IP port.
Similarly, each daemon has its own dependencies and it may have to wait for the socket opening. Further, each daemon may have other daemon dependencies, this will further increase the wait time.

So the idea of the systemd is to start the sockets before the daemon start. Although socket has no much dependencies, we can create all the sockets for all daemon at one step. If all sockets are created then we can start all the daemons at the same time currently.

There may be wait time if a daemon needs another daemon dependency the daemon is not started, But that’s ok according to systemd.
We still reduce the wait time of socket creation. By doing this we achieve following things

  • Boot time reduced
  • Dependencies between service no longer exist
  • Startup is parallelized

For D bus

D-bus can also be activated using the same logic of traditional INET socket.
Instead of starting the service at startup, we can start the first time it is accessed using bus activation.
It also provides options for starting up provider and consumer at the same time.


During system boot, there are lots of time spent waiting for filesystem jobs example: mounting, fsck, quota, quotoACL etc.
Only after this, the kernel will start the actual services. To reduce this time spent, systemd will setup an autofs mount and start the service.
when the filesystem finishes the quota etc it will replace by the real mount. This cannot be done for the filesystem like /,/proc where the service binaries are stored.

How daemon escapes init by double forking

Double forking is meant to make a process orphan and making it as a child for init process(PID 1). By this way, we can daemonize a process.
By double forking a process, it’s difficult to identify how the process is originally spawned in SysV. But systemd uses the Cgroups to keep track of the process.
For full application servers like apache which usually spawn many child processes, it is difficult to kill the entire service. Killing the apache process sometimes will not kill all its child process.Here systemd comes to rescue which uses systemctl to easily kill all process of a service.

vikki@trinity:~$ systemctl kill httpd.service

Cgroups also keeps track of cpu/mem utilzation of each process. To see Cgroups cpu/memory details

vikki@trinity:~$ systemd-cgtop
Control Group Tasks %CPU Memory Input/s Output/s
/ – 12.6 3.4G – –
/init.scope 1 – – – –
/system.slice 43 – – – –
/user.slice 546 – – – –
/user.slice/user-1000.slice 546 – – – –

To recursively see Cgroups contents

vikki@trinity:~$ systemd-cgls
Control group /:
│ └─1 /sbin/init splash
│ ├─avahi-daemon.service
│ │ ├─1015 avahi-daemon: running [trinity.local
│ │ └─1040 avahi-daemon: chroot helpe
│ ├─thermald.service
│ │ └─953 /usr/sbin/thermald –no-daemon –dbus-enable
│ ├─dbus.service
│ │ ├─ 970 /usr/bin/dbus-daemon –system –address=systemd: –nofork –nopidfile –systemd-activation
│ │ └─2530 /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/fwupd/fwupd
│ ├─uuidd.service
│ │ └─2651 /usr/sbin/uuidd –socket-activation
│ ├─ModemManager.service
│ │ └─967 /usr/sbin/ModemManager
│ ├─cron.service
│ │ └─1004 /usr/sbin/cron -f
│ ├─wpa_supplicant.service
│ │ └─1218 /sbin/wpa_supplicant -u -s -O /run/wpa_supplicant
│ ├─lightdm.service
│ │ ├─1190 /usr/sbin/lightdm
│ │ └─1268 /usr/lib/xorg/Xorg -core :0 -seat seat0 -auth /var/run/lightdm/root/:0 -nolisten tcp vt7 -novtswitch
│ ├─accounts-daemon.service
│ │ └─1014 /usr/lib/accountsservice/accounts-daemon

To see the time spent in system startup

vikki@trinity:~$/usr/lib/systemd/network$ systemd-analyze time
Startup finished in 6.503s (kernel) + 11.296s (userspace) = 17.799s

To see the time spent by each process during startup

vikki@trinity:~$/usr/lib/systemd/network$ systemd-analyze blame
7.985s postgresql@9.5-main.service
2.450s dev-sda1.device
2.149s mysql.service
1.858s vmware-tools-thinprint.service
1.630s vmware-tools.service


Comparison of different init system:

sysvinit Upstart systemd
Interfacing via D-Bus no yes yes
Shell-free bootup no no yes
Modular C coded early boot services included no no yes
Read-Ahead no no[1] yes
Socket-based Activation no no[2] yes
Socket-based Activation: inetd compatibility no no[2] yes
Bus-based Activation no no[3] yes
Device-based Activation no no[4] yes
Configuration of device dependencies with Udev rules no no yes
Path-based Activation (inotify) no no yes
Timer-based Activation no no yes
Mount handling no no[5] yes
fsck handling no no[5] yes
Quota handling no no yes
Automount handling no no yes
Swap handling no no yes
Snapshotting of system state no no yes
XDG_RUNTIME_DIR Support no no yes
Optionally kills remaining processes of users logging out no no yes
Linux Control Groups Integration no no yes
Audit record generation for started services no no yes
SELinux integration no no yes
PAM integration no no yes
Encrypted hard disk handling (LUKS) no no yes
SSL Certificate/LUKS Password handling, including Plymouth, Console, wall(1), TTY and GNOME agents no no yes
Network Loopback device handling no no yes
binfmt_misc handling no no yes
System-wide locale handling no no yes
Console and keyboard setup no no yes
Infrastructure for creating, removing, cleaning up of temporary and volatile files no no yes
Handling for /proc/sys sysctl no no yes
Plymouth integration no yes yes
Save/restore random seed no no yes
Static loading of kernel modules no no yes
Automatic serial console handling no no yes
Unique Machine ID handling no no yes
Dynamic host name and machine meta data handling no no yes
Reliable termination of services no no yes
Early boot /dev/log logging no no yes
Minimal kmsg-based Syslog daemon for embedded use no no yes
Respawning on service crash without losing connectivity no no yes
Gapless service upgrades no no yes
Graphical UI no no yes
Built-In Profiling and Tools no no yes
Instantiated services no yes yes
PolicyKit integration no no yes
Remote access/Cluster support built into client tools no no yes
Can list all processes of a service no no yes
Can identify service of a process no no yes
Automatic per-service CPU cgroups to even out CPU usage between them no no yes
Automatic per-user cgroups no no yes
SysV compatibility yes yes yes
SysV services controllable like native services yes no yes
SysV-compatible /dev/initctl yes no yes
Reexecution with full serialization of state yes no yes
Interactive boot-up no[6] no[6] yes
Container support (as advanced chroot() replacement) no no yes
Dependency-based bootup no[7] no yes
Disabling of services without editing files yes no yes
Masking of services without editing files no no yes
Robust system shutdown within PID 1 no no yes
Built-in kexec support no no yes
Dynamic service generation no no yes
Upstream support in various other OS components yes no yes
Service files compatible between distributions no no yes
Signal delivery to services no no yes
Reliable termination of user sessions before shutdown no no yes
utmp/wtmp support yes yes yes
Easily writable, extensible and parseable service files, suitable for manipulation with enterprise management tools no no yes