The newest release of the Red Hat-sponsored Fedora Linux distribution includes a number of technologies that haven't made their way into Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) yet, including a new version of the OpenStack cloud platform, code-named Essex, that the company plans to adopt in future editions of its flagship distribution.
Fedora 17, released Monday, also includes the latest version of the Gnome -- version 3.4 -- as the default user interface.
Overall, this release contains an unusually substantial number of new features, programs and improvements, said Robyn Bergeron, Fedora project leader.
"We have a new release every six months. Sometimes there are fewer features, but I think this release has the largest number of new features we've ever had," she said.
Many of the new programs introduced in Fedora eventually make their way to RHEL. RHEL uses Fedora to test new technologies before placing them in RHEL. For instance, RHEL has yet to include a copy of OpenStack, though this is the second Fedora edition to include open-source cloud platform software. Last month, the company announced that it would be joining the OpenStack Foundation. Fedora 16 included the Diablo release of OpenStack, though the newer version, 12.04, includes substantial changes such as a GUI (graphical user interface) and superior networking tools, Bergeron said.
Fedora 17 provides a glimpse of the next generation of the JBoss version 7 application server, released by Red Hat last year but not yet included in the RHEL package. This release also includes oVirt, the open-source virtualization manager that Red Hat uses as the basis for its own Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) package.
In addition to providing administrators a way to test new additions that may be included in RHEL, Fedora also works as an all-purpose desktop Linux distribution for home users and developers. It comes with the latest version of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which has a single-window mode to simplify the workspace, and on-canvas text editing. It also includes a preview release of the next version of the Eclipse IDE (integrated Developer Environment), code-named Juno.
It also includes the last version of the controversial Gnome interface. Many Linux users have found the new interface difficult to use, including Linux maintainer Linus Torvalds, who called it an "unholy mess." Fellow Linux distributors Canonical dropped Gnome in favor of its own new Unity interface and the Linux Mint Project now offers an older version 2.0-based Gnome for users who still prefer the older interface.
"We pride ourselves in being ahead of other people in our use of Gnome," Bergeron said, defending the use of Gnome as the default. "It is controversial, but I don't think great things come from people being content."
Fedora also comes with a number of other desktops as alternatives, including KDE, XFCE, and LXDE.
The Fedora Project estimated that there are almost 38 million copies of the Linux-based distribution connected to the Internet.