Resetting expectations: Fedora Infrastructure Changes

Stephen John Smoogen smooge at
Fri Feb 18 03:56:41 UTC 2011

Over many years, I have found that Infrastructure is very much like a
rose garden. Roses grow fairly well by themselves, but soon can
entangle up with each other into quite a knotted patch (judging from
the garden I have left to its own devices for the last 4 years). I
have very pretty flowers all spring, summer and fall long, but every
now and then you have to do a large amount of pruning or it all falls
apart as things age out. The amazing thing with roses is you can prune
them down to the bare essentials and in a season they will be
producing flowers again.

To continue the analogy, my current job is to be the temporary head
gardener while we look for someone who can do the job as well as the
last fellow. The garden has grown from having good volunteer gardeners
come in and put in various plants. Now sometimes the gardener then has
to go somewhere else, and sometimes the plant gets away from them. In
either case, we have a bunch of plants that look pretty but are taking
too much time in how they are currently planted. And so its time to
prune them so that they can either grow anew or something better can
be planted in its place.

In order to prune stuff, I have looked at the following:

   1. Do we currently have experts inside of the project working on
the software to make it better.
   2. Is there someone doing this better than we can do on our own
using the same criteria we use (FLOSS software, open development,
   3. Is keeping it in-house pulling away from core Fedora services
and tasks we would like to accomplish.
   4. There is nothing wrong with paying others who do great stuff
with FLOSS software especially when paying supports those projects.

This came up with a list of items that we have but aren't getting much
love, require a lot of work (eg volunteer help has to be supplemented
by full-time people), and could be better housed somewhere else:

   1. Transifex software is what is used
there, and has a very active upstream at Currently the
version we are using is considered dead-software and the version we
have slowly gotten onto our staging servers is soon to be dead soon.
With many other projects already moving their documents to the
upstream servers,, this looks to be a good candidate to
move out of our infrastructure.
   2. The blogging software we are using is
Wordpress-MU which again has an active upstream that we are multiple
versions behind (Ricky Z spends his time back-porting security fixes).
The service also does not get that much use and the blogs there would
be better off at WordPress.
   3. The asterisk server gets about 8 phone
calls a month. It is a very ancient version and it seems a continual
effort to keep up with the upstream.
   4. zarafa. While housing email and calendering for various
sub-projects does have value... it also brings up all kinds of
security and compliance issues (compared to dealing with email lists).
   5. various mailing lists. There have been a lot of projects with a
lot of mailing lists opened. But they haven't taken off and are just
waiting for some sort of spam agent to sign up and use us to drop
links. This one is easy for us to deal with. We can contact owners and
close off lists that aren't in use anymore.
   6. cleaning out old system administrators. We have had a lot of
good people come into infrastructure and then that cruel mistress,
Real Life, has at some point taken them away again. Removing people
from system administration groups who have not logged in for 60 days
is a way to make sure we lower security risks.

Now usually after a post like this occurs, we get a bunch of
volunteers who will say "We can take this over." I am asking people
not to do this, because frankly volunteering under pressure usually
means leaving when the pressure is gone. We have gone this route
several times before, and its not something I think is sustainable.

We will look for volunteers who can replant the services, document
them, build out a staging and production service and train OTHER
volunteers on them so that any replacement service has a chance of

Stephen J Smoogen.
"The core skill of innovators is error recovery, not failure avoidance."
Randy Nelson, President of Pixar University.
"Let us be kind, one to another, for most of us are fighting a hard
battle." -- Ian MacLaren

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