Red Hat Lets Go of Fedora

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-06-13

Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. has turned over control of the open-source Fedora Project, which the Raleigh, N.C., company currently sponsors and controls, to the newly established Fedora Foundation.

Until now the Fedora Project has been dominated by Red Hat staffers, with the technical lead and the steering committee all being Red Hat employees. As a result, Fedora has not been all that appealing to some developers, many of whom have questioned how Red Hat, as a commercial vendor of Linux software and support, could also control the project.

"We feel that we are now at a point where we need to give up absolute control. We built our company on the competence of the open-source community, and its time for us to continue to manifest that," Mark Webbink, the deputy general counsel at Red Hat, said in an interview at the Red Hat Summit here earlier this month.

Fedora, including the just-released Fedora Directory Server and all other components, will remain licensed under the GNU GPL (General Public License) and will be placed under the control of the foundation.

While Red Hat will continue to play a significant role and some of its staff are likely to remain maintainers of some key aspects of the project, the Fedora Foundation will have its own board and drive its own agenda, Webbink said.

Asked how the board will be elected, he said that details had not yet been worked out, but the changeover to the foundation is expected to be an open process initially, where key people in the open-source community are pulled in "who we think will approach the task with a degree of fairness and seriousness that we hope the foundation will continue to have."

Webbink also said that there had been some dissatisfaction about Red Hats control of the project and that the move might make those critics now feel more confident that their contributions will be better used and become more widely available.

But the formation of the Fedora Foundation is not a token gesture, he stressed.

"We are not negating our roots, and this takes us back to that community. We dont take this lightly. Community is a fundamental part of our DNA and they are vitally important to us," he said.

Asked if there is any Fedora technology or patented technology that will not be available to the community, Webbink said there is not at this point, but "as we go forward, nontechnology-related things like business method patents we register will not be available to the community."

The Fedora Directory Server also has an exception under the GNU GPL that allows proprietary plug-ins, he said.

But not everyone is convinced that Red Hat is willing to cede control of Fedora. A developer at the summit, who asked not to be named, said he is concerned that the Fedora Foundation could end up like Sun Microsystems Inc.s Java Community Process, with Red Hat remaining firmly in control.

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