A year ago, Spevack says, if someone asked whether Fedora could survive without Red Hat, "the answer was, 'Probably not.'" But with Fedora 7, he claims, "the answer is 'Definitely yes.'
Still, for many observers, Fedora's dependency on Red Hat remains. In response, Spevack says, "To make an analogy, Ubuntu is built off the base of Debian, but I don't think anyone would say that Debian is a beta for Ubuntu." Pointing out that, with several million downloads of the last release, Fedora is used extensively in government departments and universities and such enterprises as Wikipedia. He adds, "The people who think that Fedora is a beta for RHEL have an incomplete understanding of all the places where Fedora actually does work and the kinds of people who use Fedora."
According to Spevack, if you are a potential RHEL user, you're an enterprise with "thousands of machines. You' want absolutely zero risk, and if you have any problems, you want to get right on the phone and call Red Hat and make sure that your problem's going to get solved a soon as possible. You're willing to pay to make that happen, and that's the kind of reassurance that RHEL offers."
By contrast, Spevack sees Fedora users as members of IT companies, especially those on the cutting edge of technology. Typical deployers of Fedora, he says, are "able to maintain it themselves, and want the faster change of pace that Fedora gives you. RHEL purposefully changes at a slower pace because the kind of people who buy RHEL want that."
Yet, despite such differences, Spevack acknowledges that some ties to RHEL will remain. Given that Fedora tends to produce three releases to each of RHEL's, he speculates that, in the future, Fedora will emphasize community concerns in one release, RHEL's in another, and a mixture of these concerns in the third.
Nor does Spevack see any possibility of conflict between Fedora's and RHEL's goals. When Red Hat engineers work on Fedora in the future, he says, their position will be much the same as that of any other community member. "It just so happens that the part of Fedora that they will be working on is the part most important to RHEL," he says.
Challenges remain, but, on the eve of Fedora 7's release, Spevack is pleased at what the community has done. "I think that now we're three and a half years into Fedora's community, it does work the way it was envisioned," he says. "Maybe it took a little while to get there, but I think it's been successful.
"Getting close to a release like this gets me close to the large picture. When I think about it that way and stop thinking about whatever random bug was on my mind this morning, I really am very proud to see what's happened in Fedora, and I think that the community of people who have stuck with Fedora from the beginning and helped to build it into what it is today are the ones who really deserve the credit, whether they're Red Hat people or not. It's really cool. Open Source is still kind of magical sometimes."