systemd vs init

systemd and init are both initialization systems used in Linux-based operating systems, but they have significant differences in terms of features, capabilities, and design principles.

init, short for initialization, was the traditional and original initialization system used in Unix and Unix-like systems. It is simple and straightforward, primarily responsible for booting the system and starting essential processes. It follows a sequential and linear approach to start services during the boot process.
The most common implementation of init is the System V init system (sysvinit), which uses runlevels to define the system state. Each runlevel represents a different set of services that are started or stopped during boot or shutdown. However, managing services with sysvinit can be cumbersome and slow, as it involves numerous shell scripts and sequential startup.

systemd is a more modern and sophisticated initialization and service management system. It was introduced to address the limitations of traditional init systems and to improve the overall boot performance and service management on Linux systems. systemd was first adopted by major Linux distributions around 2010 and has become the standard initialization system in many Linux distributions.
Key features of systemd include:

  • Parallel and fast boot process: systemd is designed to start services in parallel, taking advantage of modern hardware capabilities and significantly reducing boot times.
  • Unit files: systemd uses unit files (usually with a .service extension) to describe and manage services, targets, and other units. These files are easier to read and maintain compared to the multiple shell scripts used in traditional init systems.
  • Socket activation: systemd allows services to be started on-demand when a client application connects to a socket, reducing memory usage and improving system responsiveness.
  • Dependency management: systemd automatically handles service dependencies, ensuring services start in the correct order.
  • Logging: systemd provides centralized and structured logging with the journalctl command, making it easier to analyze system logs.

Critics of systemd argue that it’s a monolithic and more complex solution, leading to the “systemd controversy” in the Linux community. Some traditionalists prefer the simplicity and predictability of the old init systems like sysvinit.

In summary, systemd is a more powerful and feature-rich initialization system compared to the traditional init systems. It aims to improve boot performance, service management, and logging on Linux systems, but it has also sparked debates within the Linux community due to its design and integration approach.