If you look around Google’s offices in Mountain View, California, you’ll see Windows machines, Chromebooks, Macs — and gLinux desktops. G what, you ask? Well, apart from relying on Linux for its servers, Google has its own Linux distribution for desktop computers.

You can’t get it—Damn it! — but for more than a decade, Google has been baking and eating its own homegrown Linux desktop distribution. The first version was Goobuntu. (As you might guess from the name, it is based on Ubuntu.)

In 2018, Google moved its in-house Linux desktop from Goobuntu to a new Linux distribution, Debianbased on gLinux. Why? Because, as Google explained, Ubuntu’s two-year long-term support (LTS) release “meant we had to upgrade every machine in our fleet of over 100,000 devices before the operating system’s end-of-life date.”

That was a pain. Add in the time-consuming need to fully customize the engineers’ computers, and Google decided it cost too much. Additionally, “efforts to upgrade our Goobuntu fleet would normally take the better part of a year. With a two-year support window, there was only one year left until we had to go through the same process again for the next LTS. This whole process was a huge stressor for our team as we received hundreds of bugs asking for help with corner cases.”

So when Google had enough, it moved to Debian Linux (though not just vanilla Debian). The company created a rolling Debian distribution: GLinux Rolling Debian Testing (Rodete). The idea is that users and developers are best served by providing the latest updates and fixes when they are built and considered production ready. Such distributions include Arch Linux, Testing Debianand openSUSE Tumbleweed.

For Google, the immediate goal was to get out of the two-year upgrade cycle. As a move to Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) showed that these incremental changes work well. They are also easier to control and revert if something goes wrong.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.


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