Using systemd drop-in units

There are two methods of overriding default Container Linux settings in unit files: copying the unit file from /usr/lib64/systemd/system to /etc/systemd/system and modifying the chosen settings. Alternatively, one can create a directory named unit.d within /etc/systemd/system and place a drop-in file name.conf there that only changes the specific settings one is interested in. Note that multiple such drop-in files are read if present.

The advantage of the first method is that one easily overrides the complete unit, the default Container Linux unit is not parsed at all anymore. It has the disadvantage that improvements to the unit file supplied by Container Linux are not automatically incorporated on updates.

The advantage of the second method is that one only overrides the settings one specifically wants, where updates to the original Container Linux unit automatically apply. This has the disadvantage that some future Container Linux updates might be incompatible with the local changes, but the risk is much lower.

Note that for drop-in files, if one wants to remove entries from a setting that is parsed as a list (and is not a dependency), such as ConditionPathExists= (or e.g. ExecStart= in service units), one needs to first clear the list before re-adding all entries except the one that is to be removed. See below for an example.

This also applies for user instances of systemd, but with different locations for the unit files. See the section on unit load paths in official systemd doc for further details.

Example: customizing fleet.service

Let's review /usr/lib64/systemd/system/fleet.service unit (you can find it using this command: systemctl list-units | grep fleet) with the following contents:

[Unit]
Description=fleet daemon

After=etcd.service
After=etcd2.service

Wants=fleet.socket
After=fleet.socket

[Service]
ExecStart=/usr/bin/fleetd
Restart=always
RestartSec=10s

Let's walk through increasing the RestartSec parameter via both methods:

Override only specific option

You can create a drop-in file /etc/systemd/system/fleet.service.d/10-restart_60s.conf with the following contents:

[Service]
RestartSec=60s

Then reload systemd, scanning for new or changed units:

systemctl daemon-reload

And restart modified service if necessary (in our example we have changed only RestartSec option, but if you want to change environment variables, ExecStart or other run options you have to restart service):

systemctl restart fleet.service

Here is how that could be implemented within cloud-config:

#cloud-config
coreos:
  units:
    - name: fleet.service
      drop-ins:
        - name: 10-restart_60s.conf
          content: |
            [Service]
            RestartSec=60s
      command: start
CoreOS cloud-configs can validated using the online validator.

Here is how that could be implemented via Ignition:

{
  "ignition": { "version": "2.0.0" },
  "systemd": {
    "units": [{
      "name": "fleet.service",
      "enable": true,
      "dropins": [{
        "name": "10-restart_60s.conf",
        "contents": "[Service]\nRestartSec=60s"
      }]
    }]
  }
}

This change is small and targeted. It is the easiest way to tweak unit's parameters.

Override the whole unit file

Another way is to override whole systemd unit. Copy default unit file /usr/lib64/systemd/system/fleet.service to /etc/systemd/system/fleet.service and change the chosen settings:

[Unit]
Description=fleet daemon

After=etcd.service
After=etcd2.service

Wants=fleet.socket
After=fleet.socket

[Service]
ExecStart=/usr/bin/fleetd
Restart=always
RestartSec=60s

cloud-config example:

#cloud-config

coreos:
  units:
    - name: fleet.service
      command: start
      content: |
        [Unit]
        Description=fleet daemon

        After=etcd.service
        After=etcd2.service

        Wants=fleet.socket
        After=fleet.socket

        [Service]
        ExecStart=/usr/bin/fleetd
        Restart=always
        RestartSec=60s
CoreOS cloud-configs can validated using the online validator.

Ignition example:

{
  "ignition": { "version": "2.0.0" },
  "systemd": {
    "units": [{
      "name": "fleet.service",
      "enable": true,
      "contents": "[Unit]\nDescription=fleet daemon\n\nAfter=etcd.service\nAfter=etcd2.service\n\nWants=fleet.socket\nAfter=fleet.socket\n\n[Service]\nExecStart=/usr/bin/fleetd\nRestart=always\nRestartSec=60s"
    }]
  }
}

List drop-ins

To see all runtime drop-in changes for system units run the command below:

systemd-delta --type=extended

Other systemd examples

For another real systemd examples, check out these documents:

Customizing Docker Customizing the SSH Daemon Using Environment Variables In systemd Units

More Information

systemd.service Docs systemd.unit Docs systemd.target Docs