[arch-general] Arch Linux on servers?

Paul Gideon Dann pdgiddie at gmail.com
Tue Jul 9 07:22:23 EDT 2013

On Tuesday 09 Jul 2013 11:13:08 M Saunders wrote:
> I'm writing a feature about Arch for Linux Format, a UK-based newsstand
> Linux magazine. I've been using Arch myself for a while for testing new
> app releases, and it's brilliant for that purpose.
> I'm still left wondering though: who uses it on production servers? I
> mean, the distro's overall simplicity and trimmed-down base installation
> are plus points here, but surely a rolling release poses problems. After
> installation you just want security and critical bug fix updates for
> software, and not major version bumps, right?
> www.archserver.org seems to be on hold, and I've also seen this page:
> https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Enhancing_Arch_Linux_Stability
> which has some useful tips. But it'd be interesting to hear from people
> running Arch on production servers, how well it works for them and what
> (if any) problems they've faced.

Hi Mike! I am subscribed to Linux Format, and also listen to the TuxRadar
podcasts. Keep up the good work! I am chronically one issue behind, so tell
Graham to feel free to skip a month to save me the pang of guilt I feel
when a new issue lands on our mat.

Now to business:

I run Arch on two servers at work. One is a general-purpose server running
some internal web-apps, server-room monitoring, and source code repository.
The other is a beowulf cluster server that has 36 diskless nodes connected
to it for heavy number-crunching. I haven't seen any significant downtime
for a long time. The recent /usr switch was a little hairy, but went off
without a hitch in the end, although it meant I had to finally switch from
Legacy Grub to Syslinux. I tend to reboot them every month or two, to keep
the kernel up-to-date, but mostly they just keep going.

I've found Arch fantastic for tweaking. Its flexibility and simplicity
was a great help in getting the cluster working (in a way that I actually
understand and can trouble-shoot). Over the last few years, I've invested
quite some time writing maintenance scripts, automation, backup system,
etc. to keep everything ticking over smoothly, and to send me notifications
when things don't seem quite right. It would be a major pain to port all of
that to a new install, or to deal with the breakage of a big upgrade every
year or so.

The downside is that it does take a decent chunk of time to keep everything
well-maintained and up-to-date.

To be fair, the only servers I've ever set up myself have been Arch
servers. I inherited a production FreeBSD server for a while when I
worked briefly for a small web design company, and the strategy there was
basically not to bother updating it at all, as far as I could tell. I have
started worrying more recently that if I move on at some point, Arch may be
too much for whoever takes over.

I'd probably try Debian in future on a new server if the server's task
isn't too exotic. I don't think I'd enjoy it so much myself, but it
would certainly be much more install-and-forget, which sometimes is more


P.S.: Apologies to Gaetan for top-posting on my first attempt. I'm picking
up bad habits from a non-technical mailing list that I recently joined :)

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