Fedora and Red Hat to Merge

by Charles Curley

On Monday, September 22, Red Hat sent out an announcement about the future direction of Red Hat Linux: it will be merged with Fedora Linux. This is not a corporate merger; instead, it is a change in how Red Hat Linux is maintained and supported. The result is the Fedora Project. Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is unaffected by this merger and will continue to be a Red Hat product.

The main reason for the Red Hat/Fedora merger is straight-forward: Red Hat is a for-profit company, not a charity. In short, Red Hat loses money on Red Hat Linux. Turning it over to Fedora will help keep the company profitable. One bit of fallout is the boxed sets will no longer be available in stores. However, third parties may distribute Fedora, provided they follow Red Hat's trademark guidelines.

Although a lot of details are yet to be sorted out, the outlines of the new project are clear: Red Hat will no longer make, maintain or support new releases of its former low end product, Red Hat Linux. Existing Red Hat Linux products will be supported until the end of their product lives, as previously announced.

What is new is the fact that there will be no Red Hat Linux 10, aka severn. Instead, severn has been take over by the Fedora Project. You may continue to download severn betas at the usual places. As I write this, severn beta 2 (dated September 24) is trickling in to my computer.

Fedora users also will see several major changes from Red Hat Linux. The first is more frequent, faster and more bleeding edge releases. Releases now will occur two to three time a year, instead of the old six-month plus release schedule Red Hat followed (see "History of Linux at Red Hat". As a result, Fedora will be more bleeding edge, but it also may be a little less stable. Product life also will be shorter; each Fedora release will have a product lifetime of about two or three months past the next release.

This does not mean that Red Hat is disengaging from low-end Linux development. On the contrary: although Red Hat will maintain what they call "editorial control" over Fedora, they are seeking community involvement with Fedora for software development, integration, testing and documentation. In addition, many of the folks at Red Hat who have contributed to Red Hat Linux will continue to contribute to Fedora, with Red Hat's blessing. This is already clear from observing the traffic on the Fedora list. Red Hat, in fact, has considerable reasons to continue involvement in Fedora: Fedora will be a major source of new products to include in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat's bread and butter. Red Hat is, however, disengaging from the day-to-day support and maintenance of Fedora. Both of those items will be handled by the Fedora community.

For those accustomed to using Red Hat, Fedora offers several changes, including support for Debian apt style dependency checking. yum (Yellow dog Updater, Modified) also is included in beta 2. An apt-enabled version of RPM will be folded into severn. Indeed, the Red Hat Update Agent, up2date, now supports installing packages from your choice of apt and yum repositories as well as local directories. up2date now will handle dependencies and package obsolescence in the same way apt does. In addition, some packages previously offered that may have licensing issues have been removed from Fedora. Some of these are stored at apt/yum-enabled repositories outside the US.

For those concerned with how the Fedora merger will affect Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat has put together a table comparing it with the Fedora Project.

Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) training and certification will be affected by the Red Hat/Fedora merger, but the details of those effects are not settled yet. Fedora should be a useful learning tool for RHCE and RHCT candidates, although RHCE training may include RHEL-specific knowledge. RHCEs and RHCE candidates should monitor Red Hat's training page for details.


Fedora will be more bleeding edge and, therefore, possibly less stable and less secure than Red Hat Linux. That, plus the shorter product lifespan of releases almost mandate a user policy of "upgrade early and update often", to paraphrase W.C. Fields. Fortunately, the inclusion of apt, yum and other software to handle package dependencies will make such a policy easy for the Fedora user to implement.

One thing I will do when using Fedora is develop kickstart files for my critical computers to allow fast and fairly painless new installations. Kickstart's post-installation script offers a great deal of flexibility when bringing configuration files over from previous installations.

Red Hat is searching actively for community participation in the Fedora Project. This is your chance to give back to Red Hat some of the delightful contributions they have made to Linux and open source over the years.

Charles Curley (www.charlescurley.com) has sagebrush, buffalo, hot springs, deer and archaeologists for neighbors.

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