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Big Changes Ahead for Red Hat

Opening Up the Red Hat Development Model

  • July 21, 2003
  • By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

Massive changes are coming to a red fedora near you. For a number of reasons, Red Hat Linux is now moving to a more open development model with less focus on boxed sets and more focus on community involvement. The announcement, which was partially leaked this weekend, was made official Monday morning by an announcement from Red Hat's Bill Nottingham.

The announcement details some big moves for the way Red Hat Linux is developed, but does not confirm information also leaked this weekend that Red Hat plans to drop its retail line of shrinkwrapped, boxed software.

No more closed beta teams for the regular Red Hat releases. No more having to deny feature requests due to various time constraints, being unable to apply last-minute updates to a new release because it takes a month for CDs and boxes to go through the production process, or keeping people who truly want to help make the distribution better at arms' length.

In fact, the latest Red Hat Linux is going to be released under this new model. Or at least part of it.

Aside from the issues mentioned earlier, there's also a general retail problem with releases every six months. It's hard to keep stores up to date with the latest versions, and most people using the distribution don't actually purchase the boxed set from retailers. This makes it even more touchy to try to get stores to stock it and deal with the turnaround and so on. For more on what's happening with the retail product line, we'll have to wait until the release of the product launch plan in the fall.

Another timing issue was additional alpha and beta cycles. When you have to meet retail deadlines, you must either print up the materials and ship them on time, or pay the price. This problem gets in the way of adding another development cycle if things aren't quite working as well as Red Hat would like. Erring on the side of stability. The games industry could learn something from that.

A third reason addresses one area of frustration for some Red Hat employees: an inability to really let people get involved in the development process. I can attest from being on the beta team that the folks from Red Hat get "virtually" beaten up pretty regularly by people wanting this or that feature, fix, or whatever. Often it's over an issue they don't even control, and that can't make for a happy life.

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