Over 15 years ago, Red Hat introduced a new way of delivering open source software for production use. Instead of trying to serve a developer and an enterprise IT community at the same time with a single “Red Hat Linux”, we split the work in two: the Fedora Project, where we work with contributors and partners to refine and incubate open source projects in public, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, where we made that code ready for commercial use. This split enabled both teams to focus on their intended users, while still sharing the same ecosystem and therefore enriching each other. There were plenty of mistakes and course-corrections along the way, but the “Fedora Model,” as we call it today, has been a critical contributor to our community’s success both upstream and commercially.
The world has changed in the last 15 years. Linux now fuels a breakneck pace of innovation across the hybrid cloud, from the datacenter to the public clouds, spanning a diverse range of hardware configurations. Applications are now driving infrastructure thanks to the rise of containerized and cloud-native practices. Developers are now a key stakeholder in how enterprise technologies evolve. At the same time, we see greater stability in the upstream projects incubating in Fedora, even as these technologies continue to mature. These changes will naturally influence the way that our upstream communities work with each other and with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 is responding to these changes through new software channels, new lifecycle options and new tools that enable our customers and partners to maintain freedom, control, and confidence in their deployments. We are also pursuing a vision of keeping the operating system “Always Ready” for regular delivery, able to adapt rapidly to the fast innovation that the community and our partners pursue.
“Always Ready” and Rapid Feedback to Communities and Partners
Red Hat developers are often leading contributors in the open source community projects that we use in our operating system work. That work often uncovers new use cases, new flaws, or new vulnerabilities in those community projects. Today, the feedback loop between the upstream projects and the operating system work relies on developers to manually provide direct, regular feedback. We think we can do better.
We are moving toward greater automation and increasing the speed of our upstream communities with “Packit”. This is a Packaging as a Service and continuous integration environment. For each feature or release built by our upstream projects and partners, Packit will automatically make the corresponding new packages instantly available to the Enterprise Linux ecosystem distributions. It will provide rapid build and integration feedback to each participating upstream project detailing how a new release or feature impacts the rest of the ecosystem.
Investments like Packit aim to further scale the fundamental open source advantage of the “Bazaar”. When communities and partners involved in our operating system engage with one another often and early, we enable rapid innovation while reducing the overhead of integrating thousands of projects later on. This is the kind of work we mean when we say “Always Ready”.
This kind of automation also creates more time for innovation in our operating system work, with projects like Fedora Silverblue and Fedora IoT. Community explorations like these are invaluable to the broader community of Red Hat customers and partners, allowing everyone to test hypotheses about the new problems and new solutions that are coming to the market.
This culture of experimentation and exploration extends to CentOS, as well, as a way of innovating on top of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. We have recently tested the idea of a more future-focused CentOS by offering the DNF package management system and soliciting feedback from users ahead of putting that technology into a supported, commercial offering like RHEL. In collaboration with Intel, we have ongoing work on Fast Datapath technology through the CentOS NFV SIG, which has been very successful. This model of experimentation has proven popular with both operators and developers, and we hope to see more work like this in the future.
A stable base image for everyone, everywhere
Finally, we are very excited to welcome container developers as first-class citizens in the Red Hat ecosystem with the Universal Base Image. This container image, based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, is exactly what developers have asked for: a reliable, predictable, redistributable and freely available container image that can ultimately enjoy enterprise support when deployed on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Red Hat OpenShift. We look forward to seeing containers built on the Universal Base Image in all the communities that comprise our ecosystem.
Linux has proven itself to be a catalyst for innovation in enterprise IT, and there are no signs of this slowing. As the leader in enterprise open source and a proud contributor to thousands of open source projects, we want to smooth the path for innovation in all the communities we sponsor and participate in. We want to make participation easier, faster, and clearer for everyone.
Over the next several months, you’ll see Red Hat working to drive better alignment and communication between many of our communities, including upstream projects, Fedora, and CentOS. Through efforts like Universal Base Image and Packit, we want to ensure that ideas and code can move quickly and freely from community to community. As a result, these community projects can work more closely together and continue to drive innovation as a cohesive, responsive and transparent coalition. Whether you’re a container developer, kernel hacker, community user or enterprise operator, we have a community for you. Come join us so we can build the next generation of Linux together.
About the author
Gunnar Hellekson is vice president and general manager for the Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® business. Before that, he was chief strategist for Red Hat’s U.S. Public Sector group. He is a founder of Open Source for America, one of Federal Computer Week’s Fed 100 for 2010, and was voted one of the FedScoop 50 for industry leadership. Hellekson was a founder of the Military Open Source working group, a member of the SIIA Software Division Board, the Board of Directors for the Public Sector Innovation Group, the Open Technology Fund Advisory Council, New America’s California Civic Innovation Project Advisory Council, and the CivicCommons Board of Advisors.
Prior to Red Hat, Hellekson worked as a developer, systems administrator, and IT director for a number of internet businesses. He has also been a business and IT consultant to not-for-profit organizations in New York City. During that time, he spearheaded the reform of safety regulations for New York State’s electrical utilities through the Jodie Lane Project.