It was a little surprising to see the announcement from Red Hat
regarding its relinquishing of control of the Fedora Project to the
newly formed Fedora Foundation. A little.
After all, Red Hat has a long history of trying to reach out to
the development community. Bus tours, political rallies, and even
gospel choirs. But, despite their status as the largest commercial
vendor of Linux (or, as some would say, because of it), Red Hat has
always had trouble attracting developers.
This is a real problem for any commercial open source vendor. If
you don't have the bodies, then getting work done takes that much
longer. If it gets done at all. What is interesting to note is that
one of the reasons why the Fedora Project was started in this first
place was to--you guessed it--attract more developers to the Red
So, has the Fedora Project failed Red Hat's expectations? On a
technical side, I doubt it. But as a development community, Red Hat
seems to think there could be more. Acknowledging that they might
be the reason why people are shying away from Fedora. I would me
interested in seeing the data that drew them to that conclusion.
Not that I doubt that this was a demotivating factor, but I wonder
if it was also the fact that developers aren't shying away
from Red Hat/Fedora so much as they were gravitating to
Debian GNU/Linux and its myriad of very successful and popular
The Debian Project has taken off like gangbusters of late, with
popular descendants like Ubuntu, Xandros, Libranet, Kanotix, and so
on really capturing the user community's collective fancy. That
collective energy has to be something that Red Hat would love to
It has been suggested that this is Red Hat's first step in
casting off the community and focusing inward on its enterprise
Linux product line. This would certainly appeal to the whole "Red
Hat is proprietary"/"Red Hat will fork" crowd. I can't wholly rule
this out, because Red Hat is facing some serious commercial
competition from Novell with its SUSE and Ximian lines, and maybe
Red Hat believes that inward focus is just what the haberashser
But the outcome I am leaning towards is one that sees, really,
no change at all.
Fedora, if you recall, is meant to be the testbed for the RHEL
products. If Red Hat gives up real control, then it could be hard
to keep Fedora in line with Red Hat's long term development goals.
What if, as a fanciful hypothetical, the new Fedora Foundation
decided to drop all x86 support and work only on PPC and x64? Boy,
would that be a gasket blower.
More realistically, there could be any number of smaller changes
in direction that the Fedora Project could take that could
potentially stymie Red Hat's development efforts.
Now, here's the thing: Red Hat will have to ride along with
those changes and fork out its RHEL snapshots based on the new
Foundation-based Fedora (just as Netscape does with Mozilla and Sun
does with OpenOffice.org). But let's be serious: Red Hat will still
know where the Fedora train is going, even if someone else is
driving. CEO Matthew Szulik's own works to eWeek seem to bear this
out: "Every single engineer in the company works on Fedora."
If that continues to be the case, then no matter who leads the
Foundation, Red Hat will still have effective control over the
Fedora product. Unless, of course, there is a huge influx of
developers, larger than Red Hat expects.
Red Hat's move today could probably make a lot of people more
comfortable with Fedora. But I don't think anyone's going to forget
who's still pulling the strings.
Time will tell if my thinking has merit, but I don't think that
this announcement will turn out to be such a big change after
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