Issue #20 June 2006

The Fedora Project and Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Part 2 of 4: Participant profiles


Welcome back to our mini-series contrasting the Fedora™ Project and Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® and describing how we use these 2 distributions to meet the needs of customers and community participants.

Last issue, we described the primary objectives of each distribution. This month, we'll concentrate on develops and uses. Participants obviously shape how any product is developed and used, and Linux is no different.

Who develops, tests, or deploys Red Hat Enterprise Linux? Who prefers Fedora Core? When and why? What are the differences between these audiences? How are those differences reflected in the software they choose?

In this review, we're talking about typical scenarios. There are of course many ways to approach Linux--we couldn't possibly cover them all in this short examination.

Who participates in Fedora development?

  • Individual community project volunteers
  • Community developers who do not work on Linux at their primary job.
  • Red Hat developers who do their new feature development in the Fedora pool.
  • Testers and other early-adopters with a taste for the latest-and-greatest features
  • Open source advocates and Linux evangelists
  • Writers who want to help improve the user experience for others
  • End users who are willing to sacrifice official, commercially licensed support in exchange for a zero-cost operating system.

What type of development does the Fedora Project do best?

Rapid technology innovation
Fedora users and admins are willing to try new things.

Broadbase testing
Fedora has hundreds of thousands of users, which results in widespread testing on diverse configurations.

Well contained tasks
Most community developers are involved voluntarily on a part-time basis, and typically do not have time to dedicate to large, long-term projects. The Fedora community accomplishes many constrained tasks.

Highly captivating projects
Developers gravitate towards the coolest enhancements. Cutting-edge work proceeds very quickly, but labor intensive or mundane tasks may be left incomplete.

Who participates in Red Hat Enterprise Linux development?

  • Businesses interact with Red Hat and its partners to suggest features and fixes.
  • Red Hat's employees test, develop, backport fixes and features from upstream, and contribute fixes back upstream.
  • Partners cooperate in joint development and testing initiatives.
  • Customers help with development and testing.

What type of development does the Red Hat Enterprise Linux team do best?

Stabilization and bug fixes
Problems are quickly identified and addressed in a conservative manner. All users benefit from the accumulation of fixes with little risk to critical services.

Long-term, labor intensive projects
Some projects are not as well-suited to volunteer efforts. A recent example is SELinux--a deeply desirable improvement with complex impact on a large number of packages.

Expensive testing or certifications
Standards conformance or hardware/software compatibility testing can be costly.

Hardware platform enablement
Hardware partners help develop new versions of disk and network drivers and other low-level enhancements to support new computers.

Performance enhancements for large configurations Few volunteers have can easily and properly test large-scale configurations.

Coordination of interdependencies ranging from hardware layer to upper level application stacks.

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The beauty of the open source development model is that both the Fedora Project and Red Hat Enterprise Linux developers and users benefit from each other's contributions. Major new features are cultivated in Fedora and--when product-ready--are delivered to Red Hat Enterprise Linux customers. Further, feature enhancements and bugfixes developed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux are also fed back to the respective upstream community.

Now that you understand how the development cycles for each distribution influence and improve the other, stay tuned for part 3, where we'll discuss the specifics of developing and using Fedora Core. Our final installment will cover the development and deployment of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, as well as a summary of everything we've learned.