Posted on Mo 23 August 2010

systemd for Administrators, Part 1

As many of you know, systemd is the new Fedora init system, starting with F14, and it is also on its way to being adopted in a number of other distributions as well (for example, OpenSUSE). For administrators systemd provides a variety of new features and changes and enhances the administrative process substantially. This blog story is the first part of a series of articles I plan to post roughly every week for the next months. In every post I will try to explain one new feature of systemd. Many of these features are small and simple, so these stories should be interesting to a broader audience. However, from time to time we'll dive a little bit deeper into the great new features systemd provides you with.

Verifying Bootup

Traditionally, when booting up a Linux system, you see a lot of little messages passing by on your screen. As we work on speeding up and parallelizing the boot process these messages are becoming visible for a shorter and shorter time only and be less and less readable -- if they are shown at all, given we use graphical boot splash technology like Plymouth these days. Nonetheless the information of the boot screens was and still is very relevant, because it shows you for each service that is being started as part of bootup, wether it managed to start up successfully or failed (with those green or red [ OK ] or [ FAILED ] indicators). To improve the situation for machines that boot up fast and parallelized and to make this information more nicely available during runtime, we added a feature to systemd that tracks and remembers for each service whether it started up successfully, whether it exited with a non-zero exit code, whether it timed out, or whether it terminated abnormally (by segfaulting or similar), both during start-up and runtime. By simply typing systemctl in your shell you can query the state of all services, both systemd native and SysV/LSB services:

[root@lambda] ~# systemctl
UNIT                                          LOAD   ACTIVE       SUB          JOB             DESCRIPTION
dev-hugepages.automount                       loaded active       running                      Huge Pages File System Automount Point
dev-mqueue.automount                          loaded active       running                      POSIX Message Queue File System Automount Point
proc-sys-fs-binfmt_misc.automount             loaded active       waiting                      Arbitrary Executable File Formats File System Automount Point
sys-kernel-debug.automount                    loaded active       waiting                      Debug File System Automount Point
sys-kernel-security.automount                 loaded active       waiting                      Security File System Automount Point
sys-devices-pc...0000:02:00.0-net-eth0.device loaded active       plugged                      82573L Gigabit Ethernet Controller
sys-devices-virtual-tty-tty9.device           loaded active       plugged                      /sys/devices/virtual/tty/tty9
-.mount                                       loaded active       mounted                      /
boot.mount                                    loaded active       mounted                      /boot
dev-hugepages.mount                           loaded active       mounted                      Huge Pages File System
dev-mqueue.mount                              loaded active       mounted                      POSIX Message Queue File System
home.mount                                    loaded active       mounted                      /home
proc-sys-fs-binfmt_misc.mount                 loaded active       mounted                      Arbitrary Executable File Formats File System
abrtd.service                                 loaded active       running                      ABRT Automated Bug Reporting Tool
accounts-daemon.service                       loaded active       running                      Accounts Service
acpid.service                                 loaded active       running                      ACPI Event Daemon
atd.service                                   loaded active       running                      Execution Queue Daemon
auditd.service                                loaded active       running                      Security Auditing Service
avahi-daemon.service                          loaded active       running                      Avahi mDNS/DNS-SD Stack
bluetooth.service                             loaded active       running                      Bluetooth Manager
console-kit-daemon.service                    loaded active       running                      Console Manager
cpuspeed.service                              loaded active       exited                       LSB: processor frequency scaling support
crond.service                                 loaded active       running                      Command Scheduler
cups.service                                  loaded active       running                      CUPS Printing Service
dbus.service                                  loaded active       running                      D-Bus System Message Bus
getty@tty2.service                            loaded active       running                      Getty on tty2
getty@tty3.service                            loaded active       running                      Getty on tty3
getty@tty4.service                            loaded active       running                      Getty on tty4
getty@tty5.service                            loaded active       running                      Getty on tty5
getty@tty6.service                            loaded active       running                      Getty on tty6
haldaemon.service                             loaded active       running                      Hardware Manager
hdapsd@sda.service                            loaded active       running                      sda shock protection daemon
irqbalance.service                            loaded active       running                      LSB: start and stop irqbalance daemon
iscsi.service                                 loaded active       exited                       LSB: Starts and stops login and scanning of iSCSI devices.
iscsid.service                                loaded active       exited                       LSB: Starts and stops login iSCSI daemon.
livesys-late.service                          loaded active       exited                       LSB: Late init script for live image.
livesys.service                               loaded active       exited                       LSB: Init script for live image.
lvm2-monitor.service                          loaded active       exited                       LSB: Monitoring of LVM2 mirrors, snapshots etc. using dmeventd or progress polling
mdmonitor.service                             loaded active       running                      LSB: Start and stop the MD software RAID monitor
modem-manager.service                         loaded active       running                      Modem Manager
netfs.service                                 loaded active       exited                       LSB: Mount and unmount network filesystems.
NetworkManager.service                        loaded active       running                      Network Manager
ntpd.service                                  loaded maintenance  maintenance                  Network Time Service
polkitd.service                               loaded active       running                      Policy Manager
prefdm.service                                loaded active       running                      Display Manager
rc-local.service                              loaded active       exited                       /etc/rc.local Compatibility
rpcbind.service                               loaded active       running                      RPC Portmapper Service
rsyslog.service                               loaded active       running                      System Logging Service
rtkit-daemon.service                          loaded active       running                      RealtimeKit Scheduling Policy Service
sendmail.service                              loaded active       running                      LSB: start and stop sendmail
sshd@  loaded active       running                      SSH Per-Connection Server
sysinit.service                               loaded active       running                      System Initialization
systemd-logger.service                        loaded active       running                      systemd Logging Daemon
udev-post.service                             loaded active       exited                       LSB: Moves the generated persistent udev rules to /etc/udev/rules.d
udisks.service                                loaded active       running                      Disk Manager
upowerd.service                               loaded active       running                      Power Manager
wpa_supplicant.service                        loaded active       running                      Wi-Fi Security Service
avahi-daemon.socket                           loaded active       listening                    Avahi mDNS/DNS-SD Stack Activation Socket
cups.socket                                   loaded active       listening                    CUPS Printing Service Sockets
dbus.socket                                   loaded active       running                      dbus.socket
rpcbind.socket                                loaded active       listening                    RPC Portmapper Socket
sshd.socket                                   loaded active       listening                    sshd.socket
systemd-initctl.socket                        loaded active       listening                    systemd /dev/initctl Compatibility Socket
systemd-logger.socket                         loaded active       running                      systemd Logging Socket
systemd-shutdownd.socket                      loaded active       listening                    systemd Delayed Shutdown Socket
dev-disk-by\x1...x1db22a\x1d870f1adf2732.swap loaded active       active                       /dev/disk/by-uuid/fd626ef7-34a4-4958-b22a-870f1adf2732                                  loaded active       active                       Basic System                              loaded active       active                       Bluetooth                                   loaded active       active                       D-Bus                                  loaded active       active                       Login Prompts                              loaded active       active                       Graphical Interface                               loaded active       active                       Local File Systems                             loaded active       active                       Multi-User                                loaded active       active                       Network                              loaded active       active                       Remote File Systems                                loaded active       active                       Sockets                                   loaded active       active                       Swap                                loaded active       active                       System Initialization

LOAD   = Reflects whether the unit definition was properly loaded.
ACTIVE = The high-level unit activation state, i.e. generalization of SUB.
SUB    = The low-level unit activation state, values depend on unit type.
JOB    = Pending job for the unit.

221 units listed. Pass --all to see inactive units, too.
[root@lambda] ~#

(I have shortened the output above a little, and removed a few lines not relevant for this blog post.)

Look at the ACTIVE column, which shows you the high-level state of a service (or in fact of any kind of unit systemd maintains, which can be more than just services, but we'll have a look on this in a later blog posting), whether it is active (i.e. running), inactive (i.e. not running) or in any other state. If you look closely you'll see one item in the list that is marked maintenance and highlighted in red. This informs you about a service that failed to run or otherwise encountered a problem. In this case this is ntpd. Now, let's find out what actually happened to ntpd, with the systemctl status command:

[root@lambda] ~# systemctl status ntpd.service
ntpd.service - Network Time Service
	  Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/ntpd.service)
	  Active: maintenance
	    Main: 953 (code=exited, status=255)
	  CGroup: name=systemd:/systemd-1/ntpd.service
[root@lambda] ~#

This shows us that NTP terminated during runtime (when it ran as PID 953), and tells us exactly the error condition: the process exited with an exit status of 255.

In a later systemd version, we plan to hook this up to ABRT, as soon as this enhancement request is fixed. Then, if systemctl status shows you information about a service that crashed it will direct you right-away to the appropriate crash dump in ABRT.

Summary: use systemctl and systemctl status as modern, more complete replacements for the traditional boot-up status messages of SysV services. systemctl status not only captures in more detail the error condition but also shows runtime errors in addition to start-up errors.

That's it for this week, make sure to come back next week, for the next posting about systemd for administrators!

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