Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fedora Max Spevack Interview

I'm reading an interview on Slashdot with the project leader of Fedora, Max Spevack. Here are some interesting excerpts.

Red Hat retains legal liability for the Fedora Project. The Fedora Project is not a separate legal entity or organization. The Fedora Project receives a tremendous amount of resources (people, money, infrastructure, etc.) from Red Hat.

I'm really glad this question was asked, because it gives me a chance to try to bust the NUMBER ONE MYTH about Fedora -- that Fedora is "just a beta for RHEL" or that "Fedora only exists to make Red Hat money" or "Red Hat doesn't care about Fedora, it's just a dumping ground for half-tested code". I hear all of those things from time to time, and *none* of them are true.

Let's back up for a moment -- the Red Hat Linux/Fedora Core split took place in 2003. And while I wasn't at Red Hat during that time, I think it's fair to state that there were some unfortunate choices made internally about how Fedora was positioned, and because those statements were made with a Red Hat voice, it helped to create a very strong perception that Red Hat abandoned the community, and that Fedora wasn't "good" for anything, or was a rejected part of Red Hat. Many mistakes were made by Red Hat with regard to the "birth" of the Fedora Project -- there is absolutely no debating that.

I think there were some people within Red Hat who were afraid that the "admission" that Fedora was production-quality, or that Fedora was anything more than beta-quality, would cause difficulty for the people trying to sell RHEL. Three years later, and that perception is still very strong in certain places -- without fail there are a few comments about that in every Slashdot story that mentions Fedora.

And that's fine. Red Hat had a part in creating that perception, and so Red Hat will have to work particularly hard to undo it. We have been, and we continue to do so.

The real story of Fedora, of course, is entirely opposite from the "beta code only, not production worthy" stance.

Our mission statement is clear, and is one that I think any open-source developer would appreciate.

Fedora is about the rapid progress of Free and Open Source software.

That's it. We strive to produce a quality distribution of free software that is cutting-edge, pushes the envelope of new open source technology, and is also robust enough that it can be relied on for server or desktop use. One of the terms that I really like, and that I think we're doing better and better of making a reality is that of Fedora as an "open development lab". As a user, if your priorities are cutting-edge technology (without the nicks and cuts of a blade) and freedom, Fedora is a great disto to use.

The second half of the story, as it relates to Red Hat's desire to make a profit, is equally simple in my mind. Fedora is upstream of RHEL. Fedora is also upstream of various other derivative distributions.


So when someone says "Fedora is beta for RHEL" they are stating only a very small part of what Fedora is. Fedora is the best of what works today. RHEL is the best of what will work for the next seven years. And the users can decide what is best for their needs.

Saying that Fedora is the beta for RHEL, and that Fedora is *only* a beta for RHEL, is to take a purposefully narrow view on the truth. Fedora's upstream relationship to RHEL is simply one aspect of the Fedora Project, which stands on its own as a distribution.

I feel very strongly about this particular question, and I will state my opinion bluntly:

Anyone (Red Hat or non-Red Hat) who tells you that Fedora isn't suitable for a production server is wrong. If someone tells you that Fedora is "just a beta for RHEL", they too are wrong.

Either the person is insufficiently informed about what Fedora is (and it's our job within Fedora to do that), or the person is purposefully misrepresenting Fedora and neglecting to tell the whole story, in which case it's our job within Fedora to call them out.