[Proposal] Ring-based Packaging Policies

Stephen Gallagher sgallagh at redhat.com
Thu Feb 12 18:32:04 UTC 2015

(Logistical note: please keep all replies to this thread on
devel at lists.fedoraproject.org)

tl;dr Shall we consider requiring a lesser package review for packages
that are not present on Product or Spin install media?

== Premise ==

So, some time ago, we started talking about dividing up the Fedora
package set into a series of "rings". One of the driving purposes behind
this idea was to re-evaluate our policies for packaging in each of these
rings. A fair amount of time has passed and no formal discussions have
taken place (that I have seen, at any rate), so I'm going to provide
here a simple "starter" proposal that we can work from and see where it

To begin, I'll try to identify some of the major advantages and
disadvantages in our current policies. (In no particular order...)

=== Advantages ===
* Consistency: every shared library, language-specific module and
application should have packaging consistent with others in its
category. This makes it easier for comaintainers and provenpackagers to
pick it up and work on it.

* The no-bundled-libraries policy means that when a library module
requires an update, it means that only one package needs to be modified
in order to enhance all applications on the system that consumes it.
This is a significant time-saver when it comes to dealing with
(increasingly common) security vulnerabilities.

* Package review "front-loads" the task of educating the packagers. It
guarantees that packages enter the collection by meeting a very high
standard. This does a great deal to accomplish the "consistency"
mentioned above.

* Legal review and the FPCA ensures that Fedora remains true to its
"Freedom" Foundation (as well as protecting Fedora contributors from the
perils of the international legal system).

=== Disadvantages ===
* Very strict policies often leads to potential packagers giving up.

* Package reviews for less-interesting packages (such as those for less
popular SIGs) often remain un-reviewed for weeks, months or even years.

* The package policies are only ever reviewed during the initial
creation of the package. Once that initial (high) hurdle is cleared, the
packager essentially has free reign to do whatever they want with their
package. This sometimes means that as time passes, the spec files
"bit-rot" or otherwise start accumulating other inconsistencies. (A
common example is the package whose upstream starts bundling a library
without the packager noticing).

* Many upstream projects do not concern themselves with being "in" any
particular distribution (with the notable example being the
Debian/Ubuntu flavors which have amassed a sufficient apparent userbase
that they sometimes get special treatment). For a variety of reasons,
this often leads directly to bundling the vast majority of their
dependencies. This is done for many reasons, but the two most common are
supportability and portability; it's impossible for many upstreams to
actually QA their package with every possible distro library. Instead,
if they ship everything they depend on, they can guarantee *that*
specific combination. This moves the responsibility from the
distribution to the upstream package to maintain their bundled

* With many languages, there is no possibility of installing multiple
versions of the same library on the same system, so if an application
requires a newer or older version of the library than is in Fedora to
run, it fails. For those languages that *do* allow this, it still adds a
significant maintenance burden on the packagers to keep multiple
versions of the same package up-to-date (which gets particularly hard
when upstream abandons a version that something else in Fedora depends

== Analysis ==
First, I will make an assumption based on the "First" Foundation: We as
the Fedora Project want people to have access to the software that they
desire. We may disagree on how that is to be achieved, but I believe the
goal is the same.

Second, I will call attention to the fact that different Fedora users
have very different needs from the software. For example, those running
Fedora Server and Fedora Cloud are likely far more concerned with Fedora
as a *deployment* platform than they are as a *development* platform.
Folks running Fedora Workstation or the KDE spin are likely to be
somewhat more interested in the development side of things (though not

Packaging software for development and packaging it for real-world
deployment can be very different. I'm not going to attempt to identify
all the ways that this can be the case in this email. Others have done
so with great verbosity in the past and I will not attempt to re-hash

Thirdly, I will note (again) that many upstream projects have moved away
from a distro-centric model. This is in part because unlike in the past,
there are a great many distributions out there now, all with individual
packaging requirements to be inside those distros. Taken in concert with
the behaviors of many of the language repositories (like Python, Ruby
and Node.js), it is simply *easier* and *faster* to just have your
package carry whatever it needs with it.

As I also mentioned above, the inflexibility of Fedora in carrying
multiple versions of the same packages means that in many cases, we are
*incapable* of providing a popular or interesting package in our repos.
This also serves to drive potential users to other distributions.

== Proposal ==
With these things in mind, I'd like to propose that we amend the
packaging policy by splitting it into two forms:

=== Core Packages ===
Any package that is provided on a release-blocking medium (which at
present includes Fedora Atomic, Fedora Cloud, Fedora Server, Fedora
Workstation, the KDE Spin and several ARM images) must comply exactly
with the packaging guidelines as they are written today. These packages
must receive a full package review *when they are added to the install
media*. Any package present on the media if this proposal is adopted is
exempted from this requirement. Any package to newly appear on the
install media after this time *should* (I hate that word...) receive a
new package review, even if it is already present in Fedora.

=== Ring Packages ===
Any new package that is *not* going to be part of the install media set
is required to pass a lighter review and is permitted to carry bundled
libraries, with caveats to be listed below.

==== Ring Package Review Requirements ====
* A reviewer *MUST* establish suitability for the Fedora Project. This
means verifying that the package contains only permissible content

* The package *MUST* conform to the FHS and other filesystem conventions
used by Fedora (such as %{python3_sitelib}), except when granted an
exception by the FPC.

* The package *MAY* contain bundled libraries or other projects, but if
it does so, it *MUST* contain a "Provides: bundled(pkg) = version" for
each such bundling. This is done so that we can use the meta-data to
identify which packages may be vulnerable in the event of a security

== Conclusion ==
So that is my proposal to consider for Fedora 23+ (it's too late in the
Fedora 22 cycle to consider this, but I'd prefer starting the F23
discussion right away). Comments and suggestions are strongly

Thank you for reading to the end.
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