Red Hat launches Fedora Foundation

Red Hat plans to set up the independent Fedora Foundation to manage its noncommercial Linux product.

Looking to encourage community participation in its two-year-old Fedora Core Linux project, Red Hat on Friday announced plans to move development and copyright control of Fedora's software into a new entity, called the Fedora Foundation.

The foundation is expected to be set up by mid-August and will operate as a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization, said Mark Webbink, deputy general counsel at Red Hat. "It will be governed by an independent board that we don't control," he said.

In the past, Red Hat has been criticized for exerting too much authority over Fedora, which is primarily maintained by Red Hat engineers. The creation of the Fedora Foundation appears to be an attempt to mitigate this criticism.

Fedora is an unsupported alternative to the company's Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product that includes many cutting-edge features that are intended for inclusion in upcoming versions of RHEL. Unlike with Red Hat's commercial products, however, users are free to make as many copies of Fedora as they wish without paying for support licenses.

Though the foundation eventually will operate out of Red Hat's control, the company intends to continue to base RHEL on the Fedora product, Webbink said. "We will still use Fedora as the principle development platform and then be pulling things into Enterprise Linux as they're stable," he said. "We're going to be somewhat dependant on the community as far as pushing these changes upstream."

A number of similar independent, not-for-profit foundations exist in the open-source world, including the Apache Software Foundation and the GNOME Foundation, both of which were established to manage software projects independent of the pressures of technology vendors.

The governance structure of the Fedora Foundation will be inspired by some of these existing foundations, but exact details of how it will be managed have yet to be determined, Webbink said.

Earlier this year, Red Hat took a first step toward allowing more community control of Fedora by permitting developers outside of Red Hat to add new features, called Fedora Extras, into the operating system. The first major release to include these extras, Fedora Core 4, will be available June 13, Red Hat said.

Red Hat will have some work to do in order to convince developers that Fedora is truly independent from Red Hat, said Stacey Quandt, senior business analyst with Robert Francis Group. "There has been a perception that this is a Red Hat endeavor, and it is perceived as having a lack of independence from Red Hat," she said. "I'm not sure that [creating] a foundation solves that problem."

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