Last July, Red Hat let it be known the Red Hat Linux, as a retail product,
was coming to an end. Red Hat's customers would be steered, instead, at
the company's "enterprise" products, which are aimed at corporate needs
and, incidentally, bring in a lot more revenue to the company. The
company's strategy has had some success; Red Hat's recently announced
quarterly results show an increase to about 26,000 Enterprise Linux
subscriptions. Those subscriptions brought in almost $15 million in
revenue over the quarter (enterprise services brought in another
What replaced Red Hat Linux at that time was the "Red Hat Linux Project,"
an attempt to transform the process of making Red Hat's core distribution
into a more open, community-oriented project. Now, this distribution has
gone through another change, as announced
on September 22:
Red Hat and Fedora Linux are pleased to announce an alignment of
their mutually complementary core proficiencies leveraging them
synergistically in the creation of the Fedora Project, a paradigm
shift for Linux technology development and rolling early deployment
The rest of the announcement, thankfully, is in English.
The old Fedora Linux
Project was an independent effort to create a set of high-quality
add-on packages for Red Hat Linux. Fedora had managed to put together a
set of policies, a development community, and an initial set of packages.
Red Hat, in its effort to kick-start the Red Hat Linux Project, saw value
in all of those things. So now the two projects have merged into a single
entity called the Fedora project.
The project stuck with the Fedora name, among other reasons, so that the
resulting distribution would not run into trademark problems with the Red
Hat name. (There may yet be confusion with the Fedora Project hosted at Cornell, which is
developing a free digital repository management system.)
Red Hat is still putting together policies and documentation for the new
project, so some of the details are still coming into focus. The project
leadership role will be in the capable hands of Michael K. Johnson, one of
the Red Hat originals. There will be a a steering committee appointed by
Red Hat; it currently consists of Karen Bennet, Cristian Gafton, Michael
K. Johnson, Jeff Law, and Stephen Tweedie. The plan also calls for an
advisory committee, the makeup and duties of which has not yet been
determined. Finally, there will be a "technical committee," which is
simply the union of the steering and advisory committees.
The Fedora project's output will consist of three distinct sets of
- The Fedora Core will be something that looks like the current
Red Hat Linux distribution. It will be the basic distribution that is
released by the Fedora project; everything that is in the core
distribution will be approved by the steering committee.
- The Fedora Extras is a set of additional packages which
complement the core distribution. The Extras are strict add-ons; they
cannot conflict with or replace packages in the core distribution.
Among other things the Extras will be a sort of staging ground for
packages (and their maintainers) to prove themselves before being
admitted to the Core
distribution. The technical committee will decide which packages get
to be in the Extras.
- The Fedora Alternatives is the "contrib" area of the Fedora
project; just about any package can be in the Alternatives as long as
it is free software and doesn't run into legal problems.
The project planners also foresee a "Fedora Legacy" area for the
maintenance of older packages, and a "third party" area that will become
the Fedora equivalent of Debian's non-free. Red Hat will have nothing to
do with the non-free code, however.
According to the posted schedule, the
"test 2" release of the Fedora core is due on September 25.
There is a third test release planned for October 13, and the final
release should be out on November 3. Then work begins on "Fedora
Core 2", which will be, with luck, based on the 2.6 kernel.
To succeed, Fedora must attract a significant amount of community interest
and input. Red Hat needs external developers to help with the maintenance
of the distribution and bring in new packages. It also very much needs
an active user community which will test and deploy the Fedora
distribution; to a great extent, Fedora will be part of the quality control
process that packages go through before becoming part of the enterprise
Bringing in developers will require making them feel like something other
than unpaid Red Hat employees. That means giving Fedora a life outside of
the company. Red Hat seems to understand that need;
for example, Red Hat's Havoc Pennington says:
Red Hat will be doing a lot of development and other work on the
Fedora Project, but it's not a product that you can buy from
us. We're working on the Fedora Project in the same way that we
work on other projects such as Mozilla or the Linux kernel.
Of course, this claim is not entirely true: Red Hat does not name, by fiat,
the members of any "steering committees" for Mozilla or the kernel. But
the idea the company is trying to get across is clear: Fedora, as a
project, is separate from Red Hat and its products.
degree to which that is true, and to which Red Hat can step back and let
Fedora find its own path will
be crucial to Fedora's success. Letting go could be hard for Red Hat to do;
almost anybody who has done business with that company will attest that Red
Hat, while well-intentioned, very much likes to retain control over the
projects it works on. Red Hat also has a history of working well with the
free software community, however; they understand well how the free
development process works. So when the company says
Anyway, it's not just about what Red Hat developers work on
anymore. Anybody can drive the project in a different direction by
developing the code and making a case for including it.
There is a good chance that things will work out that way.
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