Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ubuntu and Mark Shuttleworth: Setting an Open Source Example

You wouldn't think an initialization system would cause a war.  But, for over a year, the debate between the systemd init system and Ubuntu's upstart system has been dividing the Linux community, spawning hundreds of posts on blogs and social media, and fanning the flames of a good old open source war.  At times, it got brutal, with some resorting to name calling and trash talking.  People were invested, often heavily, in one camp or another and there were numerous, solid, technical reasons to adopt either system.

In the end, it came down to a decision by the Debian project. When they announced that they were going to use systemd instead of upstart in the next release of the operating system, it solidified the fact that upstart had, as valiantly as it had fought, lost the war for mind-share and support. systemd would be the init system of the realm and anyone using upstart would ultimately be the odd man out.

With so much passion flowing on both sides, you would think that the decision would have been met with some hostility by those who support upstart. These are people who'd devoted years of their lives to designing a powerful system that how seemed to be being simply tossed away. And, in the open source world, an all-out bloodbath might have even been expected. But that's not how it went down and I'm glad it isn't.

In the end, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth posted a very gracious article discussing the issue and, while praising the efforts of those involved in the upstart project, conceded defeat.  The post was titled 'Losing Graciously' and it was exactly that: someone who'd poured money, time, effort, and man hours, into a project that just didn't work out. It was a great show of class and what is possible within the community when people can step out of their personal camps and focus on what's best for the community.

Some have said that the creation and death of upstart showed that Canonical wasted a lot of time. I don't believe that. I believe systemd is a better system because of upstart. It forced the developers to up their game because they were up against developers who were hell-bent on creating an even more powerful and awesome system. Sure, systemd is a great system but I think it's better because upstart offered it a serious challenge just when it needed it.  So I think instead of seeing upstart as a waste of time, we should honestly view it as yet another contribution that Canonical and the Ubuntu project have made to the community. Thank you, Canonical.

Winning isn't always everything. Sometimes, losing is a contribution in itself.


Praveen said...

Well as the saying goes, with out a loser , there would be no winner..

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