The New Kid

The New Kid

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I'm not sure if Red Hat's decision to join forces with CentOS will turn the whole FOSS world upside down, but as a chess move, it is quite an interesting development. You might say it is one of those events that seems unexpected when it happens, but when you look back, it seems inevitable.

Pardon my surprise, but seriously, less than a year ago, I was sitting in an editorial meeting pondering whether we could safely advertise a CentOS DVD as being "based on Red Hat source code" without getting sued. And by the way, we've never had a Red Hat Enterprise Linux DVD. Why? Because no company that makes its livelihood selling a product wants to see someone else give that product away for free.

Dear Linux Pro Reader,

I'm not sure if Red Hat's decision to join forces with CentOS [1] will turn the whole FOSS world upside down, but as a chess move, it is quite an interesting development. You might say it is one of those events that seems unexpected when it happens, but when you look back, it seems inevitable.

Pardon my surprise, but seriously, less than a year ago, I was sitting in an editorial meeting pondering whether we could safely advertise a CentOS DVD as being "based on Red Hat source code" without getting sued. And by the way, we've never had a Red Hat Enterprise Linux DVD. Why? Because no company that makes its livelihood selling a product wants to see someone else give that product away for free.

In case you just joined, the GNU Public License (GPL) that applies to most of the software in a Linux distribution forces the vendor to make the source code available to anyone, which means it isn't difficult for CentOS volunteers to remove any proprietary code and graphic elements from RHEL and release it as a separate (all-free) distribution. Red Hat can't stop it, but they don't have to endorse it or underwrite it. Why is this happening?

Red Hat knew it needed a free version of RHEL because it was simply missing out on too much action. Too many other companies and projects were copying RHEL, and too much real world integration was happening out in the clone space, with Red Hat unable to influence or benefit from the results. By aligning with CentOS, Red Hat gets to keep an eye on the leading free version of RHEL, integrate any bug fixes and updates, and upsell potential customers to the fully supported version.

The question on most people's minds is, "What happens to Fedora?" According to Fedora community manager Robyn Bergeron, "The new relationship between Red Hat and the CentOS Project changes absolutely nothing about how the Fedora Project will work or the role that Fedora fulfills in Red Hat's production of Red Hat Enterprise Linux." [2]

The Fedora project still serves as Red Hat's place to try new things, and Red Hat has every reason to keep it around. But no matter how they spin the arrangement, the fact is, the ecosystem has lost the delicate balance of Fedora vs. RHEL as an expression of the eternal community vs. commercial duality of open source. Fedora must now share the limelight with an identical twin of big brother, all the while maintaining a loyal following of users and volunteers.

In regard to internal processes, the situation is indeed no different from before, but in terms of external perceptions, Fedora might need to retool its image to stay in the foreground. As this issue went to press, Red Hat's program manager Jaroslav Reznik dropped some hints about possible changes that might be in the works for Fedora. For one thing, Reznik announced in his blog that Fedora 21 will not have a nickname like other recent Fedoras (Spherical Cow, Beefy Miracle, Schrödinger's Cat). This change might seem trivial, but he reveals the possibility of deeper implications when he writes, "Is Fedora going to be released in the old model or a new one? Hard to answer right now." [3]

Reznik doesn't specify what he means by the "new model," but some within the project have proposed a rolling release schedule, in which the specific release events have less importance. At the recent conference in August, developer Matthew Miller suggested maintaining Fedora as an agile core that is then shaped and finished by teams representing specific use cases. [4]

In any case, it looks like changes are ahead as Fedora retools for the future and makes room for the new kid.

Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

Infos

  1. "Red Hat and CentOS Project Join Forces to Speed Open Source Innovation": http://www.redhat.com/about/news/press-archive/2014/1/red-hat-and-centos-join-forces
  2. "Welcoming the CentOS Community to the Red Hat Family": http://wordshack.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/centos-welcome/
  3. Jaroslav Reznik blog: http://borntobeopen.blogspot.com/2014/01/wheres-fedora-21-schedule.html
  4. "An Architecture for a More Agile Fedora": http://mattdm.org/fedora/next/#1

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