Red Hat Looks to Cede Control

Company seeks to empower Fedora Foundation by funding patent filings and supporting copyright assignments to assure compliance with open source licenses.

Red Hat announced at LinuxWorld in San Francisco this week new developments in the establishment of the Fedora Foundation and the release of the Global File System for Fedora.

Red Hat Inc. first introduced plans to establish the Fedora Foundation during the Red Hat Summit in June. This was because many developers felt that Red Hat, as a commercial vendor of Linux software and support, shouldnt control a "community"-based 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," said Mark Webbink, Red Hats deputy general counsel at the time.

At LinuxWorld, Webbink offered attendees an update on Red Hats efforts to give the community greater control in directing future innovation in Fedora. Red Hat is creating the Fedora Foundation with the intent of moving Fedora project development work and giving the Foundation the copyrights to contributed code.

"As with the development of open source software, the formation of the Fedora Foundation has been driven by those who write code and documentation," said Webbink. "Our aim is to create a legal structure to the needs of the Fedora community, not force the Fedora community to adjust development practices to fit a legal structure."

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The purpose of the Fedora Foundation is to advance and promote the development and distribution of open source software by facilitating individual developers and companies via a range of services.

Red Hat contends that by providing administrative and legal support, the Fedora Foundation will help coders do what they do best: move technologies forward.

Specifically, Red Hat plans for the Foundation to provide funding for patent filings for inventions of open source developers; to support copyright assignments to assure compliance with open source licenses; and to provide organizational structure for Fedora volunteers.

The actual organization has not been set up yet. An initial draft of the Foundations bylaws has been written and initial board members are being selected. Webbink did not, however, say who was on the board, and a draft of the bylaws is not available at this time.

It is believed, however, that the Foundation will be set up, at the latest, by the second Red Hat Summit in Nashville, Tenn. in May 2006.

Red Hat also announced that it was including the GFS (Global File System) in Fedora Core 4. The GFS is scalable, 64-bit cluster file system for Linux. It can support up to 256 x86, AMD64/EM64T, or Itanium nodes.

Red Hat bought GFS with the acquisition of Sistina Systems in 2003. After the acquisition Red Hat worked to make the proprietary GFS available under the GPL.

"GFS is highly valuable technology that now has the opportunity to improve even more rapidly in the open source community, " said Paul Cormier, Red Hats executive vice president of engineering.

The Fedora community Linux model has proven, after a rough start, to be very popular with users. Red Hat claims that today there are over 200 Fedora mirror sites and millions of Fedora downloads.

Indeed, Novell Inc. has decided to launch its own community-based Linux distribution, SUSE Linux. The Novell site, opened for business this week.

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