Re: play the ball not the player?
Systemd is both the spawn of the devil (Poettering) and something bordering on a useful technology. Here's a quick rundown:
1) The systemv init sytem in Linux is awful. Truly awful. A replacement is needed.
2) Poettering decided he had the One True Plan to replace it, and set about doing so...he even had some truly great ideas. He also had some real stinkers.
3) Poettering refused to listen to anyone about what might be good or bad ideas, and proceeded to push forward with creating a massive blob of interdependent and interconnected binaries that together form something suspiciously close to a second kernel living in userland. The thing isn't done yet, but if Poettering accomplishes everything he claims he is setting out to do, systemd will functionally become a second kernel: something that almost all Linux systems hook into and rely upon to work.
4) This places Poettering - and thus Red Hat - in a position of central control over Linux that has traditionally only ever been occupied by Linux Torvalds, with his control over the kernel.
5) Poettering is an ass, has behaved poorly when interacting with other devs, and has earned the wrath of Torvalds. In return, he has complained that everyone are big meanies and - more critically - they'll just all have to learn to fucking cope, because he's going to do what he wants, and damned be the first that says "hold, enough".
6) Which brings us to today. Today we are in the "in between time". today you can (sort of) build a distro without systemd, though you need shims to do so, and you'll need even more shims tomorrow. Poettering/Red Hat have completely cut off the rest of the community and have simply resorted to calling everyone who disagrees with them "loonies" because you can theoretically roll a systemd-less distro today. Red Hat claims that anyone worried about it "infecting" Linux and becoming a userland kernel are nuts. Look at it today, it's not there yet! But don't talk about tomorrow, or what the developers have discussed, etc. Because that isn't in the code, so there's no need to worry your pretty little head. Trust Red Hat and Poeterring. They know best.
What the whole debate boils down to, at it's core, is that Poettering and Red Hat honestly believe they know what's best for us (which, completely incidentally, is something that places Red Hat in control of virtually the entire Linux ecosystem). Thus any objections are considered the objections of people mentally unfit to make objections.
There are lots of bent feelers on all sides and discussions about the technology itself - which has both good and bad elements to it - are completely subsumed by politics.
The systemd debate is, at it's core, about who is in charge of Linux. The community, gated by Torvalds as a last sanity check at the kernel layer, or Red Hat and Poettering? Is it okay for Linux to become a web of interdependent choke points and lock-in gated by someone who is outright hostile to the Linux community? Is it okay for Linux to almost entirely come under the control of employees from one commercial entity?
This is what the debate is really about, and I can even tell you how it will play out: LInux will fracture (again).
Linux itself is currently "Android" and "Linux". (Heretofore referred to as Android/Linx and GNU/Linux, as while GNU/Linux is not 100% accurate, it does reflect the idea that it's main goal was to provide something that was an open source alternative to Unix, and adhered to many/most of the Unix principles.)
Nobody really looks at Android/Linux and says "wow, that's Linux". So much has changed in the basic architecture, toolchains, even file layouts that it doesn't look, feel or behave like LInux anymore. It is its own thing. It is walking its own path.
GNU/Linux is in the process of a very messy, very public fracture into GNU/Linux and systemd/Linux. Systemd/Linux will be the dominant flavour, used by all commercial distros because that's where the bulk of the paid developers are going to be working.
GNU/Linux will splinter off and become a much smaller community (similar to Linux when it first started). They will have to completely scrap everything infected by systemd and rebuilt them. Many things (like Gnome) will take crazy amounts of effort to replace. It will be a decade, maybe more before a commercial distribution emerges based around GNU/Linux.
Once the first one is GNU/Linux distribution is launched, most commercial systemd/Linux distributions (those few that are left which aren't Red Hat) will switch to GNU/Linux. They will have by this point discovered that they don't have a voice in an ecosystem in which Red Hat has crowned itself emperor and will attempt to embrace GNU/Linux in order to seek differential and commercial advantage.
Eventually, one of those commercial GNU/Linux distributions will try to pull some systemd-like shit one more time and the cycle will repeat.
The systemd thing is an argument of philosophies. To whom does Linux belong? The company that puts the most money into development and strategised the most about controlling all aspects of it? Or to the community?
Is Linux a means to preserve freedom/liberté, or merely a means to a commercial end?
So there you have it: the Great Debate. I hope that clears some things up.