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Understanding the Fedora Next initiative through LEGO (kind of)

Fedora Next. It's the bold, new initiative from the Fedora project. And it's going to change everything.

There's only one problem: I had no idea what it was. I read the announcements, wiki, and blog posts... and even watched the video. Still had no clue. Couldn't make heads or tails of what these crazy Fedora folks were up to.

fedora next

So I sat down with two of the big guys behind the Fedora Next initiative – Stephen Gallagher and Matthew Miller – and forced them (using my Jedi mind tricks) to spend a full hour explaining it to me.

They kicked off their explanation by using an analogy I can get behind: LEGO.

If you buy a bucket of LEGOs (I know, I know... LEGO is plural already... but it feels weird without the “s”) you get a bunch of bricks. And, if you're lucky, you get an instruction manual too. But, with a little elbow grease, you can create just about anything you can imagine. Contrast that with Playmobil, which you can play with right out of the box, but isn't quite so and versatile.

Linux distros, for the most part, have been much like a bucket of bricks. There is a middle road between LEGO and Playmobil. They’re like Lego sets with some pre-assembly already done for you so that you can start playing quicker.

Part of “Fedora Next” is that there will no longer be simply a single “Fedora” distribution. There will now be three customized versions of Fedora targeted at three different use cases: Fedora Workstation, Fedora Cloud, and Fedora Server.

All three will utilize the same repositories and even the same version of the kernel (albeit with potentially different modules as needed for each of the three different incarnations). This does make sense, as the needs of a server are not exactly the same as the needs of a desktop workstation.

Getting back to the LEGO analogy, each incarnation of this new Fedora will utilize curated sets of packages chosen and configured specifically for the needs of each version. An interesting thing to note here - Fedora will now be much more willing to change default package configurations to meet each Fedora versions needs, whereas in the past Fedora tended to use the upstream configurations.

One part of this that I find rather interesting is that “Fedora Workstation” is being focused on programmers, or “content creators,” as they put it, with a heavy emphasis on software developers. Stephen Gallagher put it quite well when he told me, “We don't think it should be a bad environment to work on a spreadsheet, but that is not its target focus."

So for those running Fedora as their desktop environment, “Workstation” is going to be the new version they will most likely be using.

You'll note that there is no version of Fedora in the “Fedora Next” initiative, which is focused on “average consumers.” They are clearly not interested in going after the same consumer-oriented market as, say, the likes of Ubuntu.

Software developers and servers - that's the focus of Fedora Next, which, I've got to say, is a big improvement over the past end-user focus of Fedora. Which, as I understand it, was simply "anyone who might contribute to Fedora."

One other tidbit of Fedora Next that I find rather interesting: API/ABI compatibility.

In a nutshell, they are committing to maintaining API/ABI for the extended lifecycle of a Fedora release. This means that, in the case of Fedora Workstation, they will carry a specific revision of GTK with the goal of making the lives of developers a bit easier.

All in all, I'm rather happy with what Fedora Next appears to be. Their messaging and public relations could sure use some work in this regard, but I think the Fedora team deserve a high five for making some bold changes and seeking to set a concrete direction for the distro’s future (something that has been lacking for quite a long time).

I'm still not sure I completely agree with the goals of Fedora Next, mind you. And I doubt that I'll be switching to Fedora Workstation (when it launches) on any of my machines. But I like that they're making these moves just the same.

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