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One OS, three flavors: How Fedora 21 is splitting up to double down on focus

Chris Hoffman | Nov. 5, 2014
The first fruits of the sweeping project appears in Fedora 21, which goes live in beta form today.

The Fedora 21 beta is scheduled for release today, and a final, stable release is right around the corner in December. This is a longer than normal release cycle for Fedora--an entire year instead of just six months. And it's no surprise, considering the sweeping vision change heralded in the update.

I spoke to Matthew Miller, Fedora's project leader, about the sweeping, once-a-decade "" changes going on right now and where he sees the Linux desktop going in the future.

The initiative
Fedora has an identity as a long-standing free software Linux distribution; it's now existed for ten years. The project is a rethink of the way Fedora is made and developed, and who it's targeted towards.

" is basically looking at this next decade and seeing what we can do to be more successful and hopefully dominate the decade--that's the goal," Miller told me. Fedora's stated goal is still "world domination." It's good to aim high.

Traditionally, Fedora has been developed as a bunch of "Lego bricks," as Fedora's project leader put it. Sure, there's a desktop installation disc, but if you want to do anything beyond use the basic desktop you're a bit on your own. There's a full installer DVD with four gigabytes of packages you can download if you'd like. You're on your own when it comes to choosing, installing, and setting them up, however.

Fedora's reorganized itself to produce "three separate products... not just as a bunch of packages and Lego bricks," but to meet specific needs. These products are Workstation, Cloud, and Server.

As Mathew told me, these aren't just three different installer discs. Instead, there are three different groups in Fedora overseeing these different projects. Each product can have its own defaults. For example, Fedora Workstation might want to pursue simpler installer partitioning options and switch to newer file systems like Btrfs, while Fedora Server might want to keep advanced enterprise file system tools available in the installer.

In the old Fedora, a choice made for one product would affect all the others--now it doesn't. When deciding on previous defaults, the decision "was always in the context of what is the best default for all situations," Miller said. Now different situations can have their own best defaults.

Workstation, Server, and Cloud
In a nutshell, here are the three products. When you visit Fedora's soon-to-be-redesigned homepage, you'll see links to each and an explanation of who they're for. There won't be such a singular focus on the Fedora Desktop product.

Workstation: Fedora Workstation is closest to the traditional desktop product. However, what's really interesting here is a stronger focus on developers who need a Linux workstation to get things done. This is targeted at "somebody who's writing code for whatever use out in the world," from student programmers to developers working in the enterprise. To this end, Fedora Workstation includes a "DevAssistant" tool that will quickly set up a developer environment in just a few clicks or keystrokes.


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