After Tuesday’s awesomely successful launch of Fedora 21, this Five Things in Fedora This Week covers a few questions that I’ve been asked a lot, by the press and by users who haven’t been following Fedora development closely. I hope this will clear up some of the concerns, and as always I’m happy to discuss further in comments, email, IRC, social media, or in person.
Fedora Server: Is this for crazy people?
This question comes in several forms, but the gist is: Fedora’s so fast moving and has such a short lifecycle — are you really encouraging people to put a bleeding-edge distro in the data center? Are you intending to compete with CentOS or RHEL? Do you have to be crazy to run Fedora on a server?
So, first: we do try to be “leading”, not actually getting blood everywhere — but it’s a fine line. Take a look at the details of our “First” foundation, which says, (emphasis added): “we provide the latest in stable and robust, useful, and powerful free software”.
Generally, there are three good reasons to run Fedora in a server environment.
- First, you want the latest in virtualization, networking, or other-low-level technologies as soon as they’re available, and you have the skills to keep them running in production. There are big, serious Fedora deployments in the real world. Those probably won’t use the first iteration of Fedora Server out of the box, but the user community forming around it will help give their concerns a meaningful outlet.
- Second, Fedora Server is a good place to engage with the distribution development community around new technologies — both that developed specifically as centerpieces, like RoleKit and Cockpit, as well as simply the latest versions of all your infrastructure software. The most successful ideas in Fedora server may end up in RHEL and therefore in future versions of CentOS. If you want to have an impact on what’s coming next in our downstreams, get involved in Fedora with feedback or contributions.
- And finally, even if you’re not intending to get hands-on in that way, running Fedora in some capacity within your overall enterprise-Linux environment will provide a window into those future technologies. If your sysadmins keep up with Fedora, retraining won’t be a huge ordeal. Likewise, if you test on Fedora, you’ll be ahead of the game in keeping your software working with changes coming down the open source pipelines.
So are we competing with CentOS and RHEL? No — we’re part of a great ecosystem including our downstream siblings. If you need the peace of mind and assurances of commercial support, RHEL is probably for you. If you’re self-supporting and building something where you to never worry about what you’re building it on, CentOS rocks.
A side question to this is often: does this mean there will be a Fedora LTE? Not now, at least. A longer lifecycle for some components is on the table, but it’s a difficult and very expensive proposition. I’d rather spend the effort on making upgrades painless and seamless, so you can keep running with minimal manual intervention, downtime, or risk.
Does Fedora Workstation mean Fedora is abandoning regular users?
The quotes and highlighted features on https://getfedora.org/workstation/ are clearly aimed at software developers, and even the name has a different implication than general Linux desktop. Doesn’t Fedora care about everyone else?
This is a three-part answer as well:
- First of all, please remember that developers are people too. The target audience needs to browse the web, listen to music, edit documents, create and manipulate images, too. Take a look at the target audience in the Workstation requirements document; in addition to the specific developer examples, there’s this statement:
While the developer workstation is the main target of this system and what we try to design this for, we do of course also welcome other users to the Fedora Workstation. In fact, many of the changes and improvements we expect to implement for developers will be equally beneficial to other user segments. For instance our plans around multi-screen handling and improved terminal functionality should also be highly beneficial to a system administrator. Or the work we are doing to provide a high performance graphics workstation would be useful to people who want a Linux gaming PC. Or a student who just wants a system with a productivity suite to write papers will of course get benefit from the fact that we do ship a good productivity suite. We will welcome feedback and requests from all our users and try to accommodate it, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact our developer target group and we have people available who have the time and ability to work on the requests.
Reading the rest of the document may also help understand what we’re going for here, and I also encourage you to read Workstation Working Group member Christian Schaller’s blog post from last April, Preparing the ground for the Fedora Workstation.
- Second, everyone’s conception of the perfect solution for the “normal”, “typical”, or “traditional” Fedora desktop user is different. In fact, everyone’s idea of normal, typical, and traditional is different. The previous target user definition attempted to include basically all of the possibilities, and in actual practice ended up being too vague to meaningfully guide decisions. There’s nothing wrong with that (in fact, see next point…) but this approach isn’t growing Fedora. I wrote quite a lot about this last month in 5tFTW: Fedora Workstation and the Target Audience. In short, by working at doing one thing really well, we’ll be better able to do all the things — as we grow.
And third: does that mean that current Fedora users are left with no place in the project in the meantime? No! There’s more to Fedora! Even if the marketing materials don’t feel like they’re hitting you like a bullseye, you can use Fedora Workstation as a starting point. For many people, even non-developers, it’ll be perfect out of the box. For others, some configuration may make it more comfortable — possibly even swapping out packages to leave the “Workstation” flavor behind even if sticking with GNOME. For most people used to Fedora’s earlier “default offering”, the difference between starting from a generic default and making it a personal desktop is not going to change much from starting from Workstation. (If you feel that Fedora should be about choice, that choice is still there for you to make!
But it doesn’t stop there! If GNOME isn’t your cup of tea, we have some other awesome desktop environment spins put together by our KDE, XFCE, MATE/Compiz, LXDE, and Sugar SIGS. You can download a bootable CD image (also easily put on a USB stick) from a mirror near you: https://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/fedora/linux/releases/21/Live/x86_64/. And if those don’t suit you either, it’s easy to get involved and create your own spin.
I know this is a little scary, but: if you’re a Fedora contributor who sometimes (or often?) feels like decisions made for the default desktop don’t fit your own needs, this is a good thing. The Fedora.next concept at work here means that the Workstation WG can make decisions for that target audience without making them the defaults for everyone, and other groups can make sure they have the Fedora that’s right for their needs (and the needs of their users).
What about KDE, XFCE, and ARM?
These things don’t seem to be mentioned on the http://getfedora.org page at all. Is Fedora getting rid of them?
In two word: no! For desktop environments, this continues where the previous question left off. The Fedora Workstation/Cloud/Server aspect of Fedora.next addresses something different from the question of desktop environments, and the new Get Fedora site reflects that. Fedora Workstation is based around GNOME, but the effort is intended to be much more than a showcase of upstream software.
We did drop the multi-desktop DVD — there just weren’t enough hands interested in making it work. And that’s really the key: as long as people are interested, willing, and available to work on everything that needs to be done, the added complication is worth it, and the project collectively will support it. And this isn’t just talk: improving the http://spins.fedoraproject.org/ website is at the top of our web team’s priority list. We also want to find a way to more prominently show stand-out spins like KDE, where a very active community works on building and testing.
The story is similar with ARM: this is an important new architecture, and the ARM team in Fedora is doing awesome things. Fedora is, in fact, the best distribution to run on the hardware we support. Unfortunately, without mainstream cloud providers offering ARM, with open source graphics support in early stages for the desktop, and server hardware just starting to ship, it doesn’t yet fit into our Cloud/Workstation/Server story. But I’m sure it will — look for more in upcoming Fedora releases, and on the Fedora ARM wiki right now.
How do I get a desktop on Fedora Server?
Fedora Server is intended to run headless in the server room, with the web based Cockpit server manager serving as a remote UI (perhaps from the comfort of your Fedora Workstation desktop).
However, sometimes you need a GUI. In that case,
sudo yum groupinstall @xfce @base-x
should do it — substitute your desktop environment of choice. You can also, of course, run VNC to provide a remote desktop; sometimes unavoidable when dealing with proprietary storage management interfaces and the like.
Where’s the non-server network install?
If you’re installing a lab of desktop machines, where do you turn? There seems to only be a Server netinstall image.
We had the intention of making a Workstation netinstall, but because of… boring technical complications and tomfoolery, we weren’t able to get it done without delaying the release. However, despite its branding and skinning, the Server netinstall is actually completely generic (other than defaulting to installing Server). So, get that from the mirrors, and point it at the Everything tree (you could mirror that onto your own NFS or HTTP server), and install anything you want.
For Fedora 22, we do plan to produce a separate generic netinstall, as well as a Workstation-specific one; sorry for the confusion this time around.
Thanks again to the Fedora contributor community — you’ve worked very hard on this release and it shows. And thanks to the wider Fedora userbase for being awesome all around.