a humble take on the Red Hat and CentOS agreement

The news is everywhere. Red Hat’s community website has a good summary of it at http://community.redhat.com/centos-faq/. As soon as the announcement came out that Red Hat was going to step in and help the CentOS project with day jobs and some semblance of project management the interwebs were ablaze with opinions. They ranged from “wow!” to typical conspiracy theory nonsense (I can say on good authority that Red Hat Tower does NOT contain a secret control room from which Red Hat is trying to overtake the FOSS world).

This is NOT at Red Hat Tower, but there is air hockey and cookies.

After talking it over with a lot of the IT folks that I know (mostly the less conspiracy theory-ish ones), here is my take on what’s going on with this whole cooperative effort.

  1. Cooperation between Red Hat and CentOS is not new. Red Hat intentionally makes it not-so-hard to legally de-brand all of the trademarked stuff inside the source code that we distribute for RHEL.
  2. The CentOS core team is small. I mean 6 people small. The community is obviously much larger, and the QA team has a lot of influence. And those 6 people have day jobs. So any real expansion of the CentOS project would take multiple extra hours in the day for these people to actually get it done.
  3. Red Hat is helping out with #2. Helping with the web site and some project management / governance (and of course daytime salaries).

Number 3 draws the inference that the CentOS wants to make at least some sort of change in how CentOS operates. That would make sense, given the incredible speed that projects like Openstack are developing.

*Just in case you didn’t know*

For Openstack to work properly, a very (very) upstream kernel has to be used. Rebuilding a new kernel from source takes new build environments and QA processes and infrastructure and time and effort and money. Before this agreement, the CentOS team didn’t have that kind of time because they were up nights with bug and security fixes coming in all the time.

So CentOS couldn’t build an Openstack release prior to this agreement (IMHO).

*Downstream Innovation – What I think is happening*

Right now innovation is hard with RHEL. Customers use it for… you know… production stuff.  That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. I see innovation in Enterprise Linux everyday.

But with this agreement, there is now a project full of people working full time every day on making Enterprise Linux more innovative. I think it’s a win for the entire Open Source Community.

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