With the final release of Fedora Core 2 out the door, and on schedule no
less, now might be a good time to take stock of the project and where it's
going. Unfortunately, that's not as clear as one might hope.
It's easy to see where the project is now, but the future is a bit more
murky -- at least for those outside the project. For the most part, the
Fedora Project seems to be meeting its goals. A quick glance at the objectives for
Fedora Core shows that the project is meeting nearly all of its
objectives. Fedora Core 2 contains a wide range of open source packages on
the "leading edge" of development. The project has done well at sticking to
release schedules, and at putting together a fine Linux distribution that
more or less picks up where Red Hat Linux left off.
What Fedora has not yet achieved, however, is a significant level of
community involvement beyond simple testing of releases.
The situation has not been helped by the project's recent change in
leadership; Cristian Gafton assumed
the position of Technical Lead in January, but some have
complained about a lack of communication from Gafton about the
project. A quick search of the Fedora devel archives gives some credence to
this complaint: Gafton has only posted twelve messages to the Fedora devel
lists since he assumed the Technical Lead position -- six in January, and
six in May.
We contacted Gafton to see if we could get a glimpse at the roadmap and
find out whether the community will have an opportunity to become more
involved in the development of Fedora Core 3 (FC3) and future
releases. Here's what we learned.
LWN: How long will FC1 remain "supported" now that FC2 is being released?
Our current plans are calling for issuing security updates for FC1 for
two-three months after Fedora Core 2 has been released. Realistically, once
the Fedora Core 3 test1 is out (or shortly after) I would expect the
development interest in the Fedora Core 1 to diminish and we will take a
formal look at declaring the End of Life for Fedora Core 1.
LWN: It looks like the project managed to stick to the schedule set for FC2
pretty well. In retrospect, was the schedule too aggressive or just right?
Will the schedule for FC3 be as aggressive as this one? Any breathing room
between FC2 and starting FC3?
We're all very happy with the fact that we have not run into any major
issues in our quest to incorporate the features we have planned for the
Fedora Core 2. Of course, the desire for more development time will always
be there, but I think that we have managed to put together a very good
schedule and we have managed to stick successfully to it. This is one of
those times where we come to appreciate the Red Hat developers' experience
and leadership in planning and managing an OS release, as well as the
resourcefullness demonstrated by Fedora development community.
LWN: Speaking of FC3, what can we expect to see in the next release? Do you
have a clear picture of what the next release will include?
We will start having a public debate about what we will plan for FC3 pretty
shortly. As far as I am concerned, I will pay attention to the deployment,
testing and migration to the new GCC 3.4 SSE compiler base, further
refining of the SELinux techonlogy, and - of course - the new versions of
Gnome, Evolution, KDE that are planned for release in the next few
months. As of right now we have encouraged every developer to build up the
wish list for the next round, and through a public debate process we will
get a clearer picture of a feature list in the next couple of weeks.
Planning the release will require us to figure out what will be reasonable
to expect to include and what would be our stretch goals. We will start
this process in very short order, because we want to get a tentative
schedule out as soon as possible, so that developers around the world will
know what to expect. For the Fedora Core 2 release I have been happy to
notice that some projects have attempted to syncronize their release
schedules so that we will have an easier time integrating their new code
bases in the Fedora Core. It is my sincere hope that this trend will
continue, and we are aware of the fact that we have to give people plenty
of time to plan ahead.
LWN: According to the FC2 schedule, the SELinux functionality was
considered "stop-ship" -- but it was disabled by default in the last test
release. Is SELinux ready for mass consumption in the final FC2 release, or
does it still require some polish before it's ready for prime time?
I think the SELinux functionality is pretty well cooked and I encourage the
seasoned users and developers to play with it. Unfortunately at this stage,
the implementation and management of the SELinux security policies are
complex tasks that require an advanced degree of familiarity with the inner
workings of the operating system.
The challenge we face in developing a default security policy is the
balance one needs to strike between the level of security barriers deployed
and the functionality people would reasonably expect out of this
release. For example, can we subject third party applications, that are not
aware of the security contexts, to a paranoid policy that most likely will
prevent them from functioning correctly, or do we provide a more relaxed
policy at which point the security advantages of SELinux are not so readily
apparent? Also, the legacy of the discretionary access control setups will
be a tough nut to crack - we found out that a lot of users still expected
that the root account will be able to do and fix everything - an
assumption no longer valid when running under SELinux.
So, for the Fedora Core 2 we have decided to court the experienced users
and developers to help us figure out the lines of compromise between the
challenges posed by the SELinux policy - a sort of a continued beta program
for refining what would be an acceptable set of defaults. Of course, this
does not preclude the development of very strict or more relaxed policies
as alternatives to the balanced default set.
LWN: No doubt you've seen the parody published by Konstantin
Ryabitsev about Fedora/Red Hat's interaction with the community. Though
it's a bit over the top, it has raised quite a bit of discussion. Is it
likely that RH will seek more involvement from the community in terms of
setting the direction of Fedora? Will there be any changes in the way
Fedora is managed in the near future?
This is and continues to be one of the challenges Red Hat faces - how do we
build an effective way of engaging more of the external development
community and how do we enable them to participate in this project. The
parody you are referring to, while an entertaining read, assumes a
political conflict out of the current state, when in fact the challenges we
are facing are logistical. We are talking about deploying a parallel
development process for the Red Hat developers, geared and built to support
external parties contributing code on various sections of the operating
system. This means planning and executing a huge change in everything
infrastructure-related inside Red Hat engineering, which has the potential
of causing big impacts in the other corners of our business, like support,
professional services and even sales. We are working hard on opening up our
infrastructure, but we have to do it responsibly and we have to be mindful
of the business impact we are going to cause on the commitments Red Hat
needs to fullfill as a publicly traded company. Oftentimes we internally
compare this process to working on a jet engine while it is running...
Our short-term plans include the opening of a source code management
repository where the interested developers can follow closely the
development activity of the Red Hat engineering team. We will also be
revamping the fedora.redhat.com website, adding dynamic content to it and
allowing people to start participating in forums and start oganizing
according to their common interests. These are steps that are going to
happen in the very few next weeks, in time for the start of the Fedora Core
3 development process.
LWN: On the same topic, a lot of discussion has been comparing Fedora to
Debian -- obviously, there are some serious differences in the way that
both distros are put together. Would you say that the Fedora approach is
better, or just different? Why?
Well, some things are better, some things are "different." The Red Hat
engineering team is more experienced at putting together high-quality,
commercial distributions. The planning, scheduling and focus we bring to
the process are superior, and by transforming the Fedora Project into a
community-focused release we now also have the flexibility of doing more of
what is right when it comes to setting up a schedule.
In the software development process there are always three factors that are
at play: features, quality and development speed. In commercial software
development one can always have only two of those three. I believe that the
community focus of the Fedora Project allows us to seek a more reasonable
balance between those three objectives. Our background in commercial
releases will allow us to keep focus on the fact that we need to have
timely releases and we need to manage aggressively against the schedules we
set. As far as Debian goes, they have been more successful at engaging the
open source development community and there is a lot we can and will learn
from their experiences. There is no question that as of now Fedora and
Debian are very different in the way we put things together - but I think
in the near future we will start to look more and more alike as far as the
level of involvement with the development community.
That may yet happen, but the Fedora project is going to have to open up
significantly before it can begin to shake off its image (in some quarters,
at least) as a beta test program for Red Hat's enterprise products. With
luck and work, perhaps Fedora can begin to approach Debian's level of
community involvement. If this can be done while retaining Fedora's rather
more predictable release schedule, so much the better.
to post comments)