Monday, April 22, 2013

Where Will Your Linux Distro Be in Five Years?

by Dietrich Schmitz

No question in my mind.  There will be more fall-out similar to the likes of what happened to Fuduntu.  Call it a consolidation, if you will. (Image credit:

It gave me pause for thought to realize that the choice one makes for a Distro should be given very special consideration.

For personal use and, particularly, when it comes to the business world, there are some critical questions which need to be answered before making that choice.  I have come to realize that just a handful of things are important and that made Fedora 18 the obvious choice.  So what attributes should one be looking for in a Distro?

Leading Edge 'best of breed' Technology and true Innovation

Along with a six-month release schedule comes the newest technology available.  Some might argue that such is a cause for unstable operating conditions.  For example, Debian does not operate on a time-based release management schedule, which I have issues with. It is highly debatable as to whether their policy promotes stability or not.  While Ubuntu is also time-based at 6 months, it relies upon the Debian 'Test branch'.  Fedora on the other hand works closely with upstream providers.  Also, I argued the merits of Yum and have concluded that Fedora's implementation of Yum dependency resolver combined with the LSB-certified Red Hat Package Manager, rpm,  represent a superior technology.

Linux Standard Base certification

In The Linux Desktop Mess, I argued for a singular standard filesystem (Filesystem Hiearchy Standard) and package manager (Linux Standard Base).  With the proliferation of cookie cutter Distros comes the tendency for programmers to take shortcuts and hedonistic ways prevail.  The result is seen in a wide variation of implementations with differing filesystem directory structures and package managers.  Worse is the fact that how a given package manager is implemented on one Distro does not automatically confer its ability to work on another Distro using the same package manager.   This adds wide-ranging complexity and added cost in deployment.  Fedora is the source for all Red Hat Enterprise Linux cutting edge development and by default is fully LSB compliant.  Both issues are satisfied with Fedora.


When it comes down to corporate environments, this is probably the most important consideration for IT Departments.  Having a service level agreement can be the difference between having downtime and smooth seamless uninterrupted operation.  Users of Fedora can automatically migrate to RHEL and expect that level of commercial grade support.  Fedora does an excellent job in both chat and forum technical support.

Stability and Longevity

As I mentioned, Fuduntu left me shocked.  It was a moment that brought me to the question, will my next Distro be around in five years?  When you have a business to run, this becomes magnified in importance and the crowd of competing Distros falls back to reveal only a small handful which are truly stable and with a large enough community to have the requisite longevity.  I ruled out Debian on the speedbump issue and knew YUM is superior, so that left SuSE and Fedora.  SuSE uses Zypper for its dependency resolver, but yum is in their repository and supported.

But, my memory is long and I haven't forgotten the Microsoft Inter-Op partnership Novell's Ron Hovsepian struck and since then SuSE Linux Gmbh has become a subsidiary of AttachMate and renewed their agreement with Microsoft in July 2011.  That has become the deciding factor for me.  That ongoing relationship is unacceptable.  Thus, Fedora is my choice.

It should be noted that Red Hat has billion dollar-plus annual revenues going on two years now and provide enterprise grade application software for the New York Stock Exchange and are ranked number two Linux kernel contributing vendor according to the Linux Foundation's Annual Linux Development Report for 2012.

So, think of Fedora as being a test bed, if you will, for all ongoing software R&D that finds its way into Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  While the technology is leading edge, you can trust that Red Hat's support and stability will ensure that technology undergoes continual refinement.

These are the things which you should be asking yourself.

Where will my Distro be in five years?  

The answer may cause you to make a switch, as I did, to Fedora 18.

-- Dietrich
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