Google Developing New Debian-Based Linux For Internal Use

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Web giant Google announced at the DebConf17 Linux conference that it will be changing over to a Debian-based distribution of GNU/Linux internally, known as gLinux. One of the key developers involved with Google’s internal specialized Linux distribution efforts took the stage to make the announcement. It’s worth noting that this team member formerly worked for Canonical, the team behind the popular Ubuntu distribution. That is because Google is dumping Ubuntu as its base and moving to Debian, the distribution that Ubuntu is forked from. The move will be gradual; some of Google’s most mission-critical computers, including desktops, laptops, and servers, currently run on Goobuntu, and it will take time to develop gLinux and deploy it across Google’s internal Linux fleet.

Google’s massive staff uses a wide variety of different operating systems, and Linux-based systems are among the most popular. While Googlers are allowed to use any distribution they want, from the dead-simple Elementary OS all the way to the highly advanced Gentoo Linux, the use of Goobuntu has always been encouraged among Linux users on staff. According to a Goobuntu Tech Lead Thomas Bushnell, it’s a “light skin” on top of the same Ubuntu that you can download from Canonical’s website and flash onto just about any computer, but Google gears most of its internal development tools toward Ubuntu. Many Googlers also use Chromebooks, with a healthy dose of Macbooks and even Windows laptops thrown in for good measure.

This change ultimately means little for most Googlers who choose to use Goobuntu and will in turn use gLinux; Debian is a bit less bloated than Ubuntu when it comes to preloaded applications and eye-candy features, and uses a different screen compositor, window manager, and desktop environment. While things will look different outside of applications and updates will come from a different source, the workflow will mostly be the same. The most important takeaway actually pertains to security, and even though it’s a footnote, it’s a fairly big deal; gLinux will be built on the Testing branch of Debian, providing more timely security and driver updates. Essentially, this change will make Googlers’ computers eat slightly less power and be slightly more secure.