[K12OSN] Plans for K12Linux EL6 and Future Fedora

Charlie charlie at smbis.com
Sun May 8 18:49:19 UTC 2011

If Terminal Services is not a part of Red Hat's RHEL6 core business
strategy, there won't be any consideration given LTSP when making
updates or changes to RHEL6.  K12Linux was a major disappointment due to
this very reason.   Without a firm commitment from Red Hat, I don't see
LTSPv5 on RHEL6 ever being a viable reality.

Red Hat is making a serious third mistake here; the first being no focus
on desktop, second no focus on Terminal Services, as VDI is really only
one component of the desktop solution options, and limited at that.  Red
Hat is losing a large chunk of revenue to competitors due to their lack
of support for a small business server solution and Terminal Services,
here again M$ has the lions share because they have a more comprehensive
product set that addresses business needs, note that I didn't say
better, just that they have a solution.  Statistics clearly show that
small and medium businesses make up greater than 90% or all businesses.
Source: http://www.census.gov/econ/smallbus.html

Currently there are over 80 million Terminal Services clients deployed,
while there are only ~2 million VDI deployments (source:
http://www.brianmadden.com/, which is an excellent resource for
information about remote desktop support and where it's going).  The
number of desktops supported on VDI vs Terminal Services is much lower
because VDI deployments require far more resources per desktop than
Terminal Services, as you noted in your comments below.   

Red Hat has lost significant business to M$ and now will start to do so
with Ubuntu, as they do have a plan for Terminal Services and it works
now, out of the box, and they have 100% backing by the vendor. If you
think not, then do a search on youtube.com or google for k12linux and
then do it for Ubuntu LTSP or Edubuntu.  You will see clearly Red Hat is
already slipping in the Terminal Services arena.  Remember M$'s early
days when they understood whoever owns the desktop, owns the server as
well?  Well, even Ubuntu figured at one out.

In MHO, I would think it would be more wise for Red Hat to seriously
invest in Terminal  Services as much as or more than they have in VDI.
They could overcome a large part of the limitations of multimedia
through optimizations made to the remote desktop protocols like SPICE,
and how buffering and bandwidth are managed and utilized between the
server and the thin client. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Warren Togami Jr. <warren at togami.com>
Reply-to: "Support list for open source software in schools."
<k12osn at redhat.com>
To: K12LTSP <k12osn at redhat.com>
Subject: [K12OSN] Plans for K12Linux EL6 and Future Fedora
Date: Sun, 08 May 2011 02:50:37 -1000

Hi folks,

It has been a LONG while since I've been able to look at k12linux.org, 
but I haven't forgotten about this project.  2007 through 2009 Red Hat 
generously supported my time to work on this project.  In 2010 I've 
since left Red Hat in order to help my parents with the family business 
and prepare for grad school.

K12Linux LTSP EL6
I soon plan on working on a version of LTSP based on EL6.

Since CentOS *still* hasn't released their EL6 clone, I am thinking to 
base it on SL6.  I suspect it wont be much work to adapt Gavin's work to 
make a EL6 based K12Linux since not much changed between F13 and EL6 and 
they both use Upstart.

BIGGEST PROBLEM: 32bit EL6 supports a minimum of i686 and they have 
excluded certain kernel modules required by LTSP like nbd.ko.  For this 
reason, we may need clients of EL6 to boot images based on Fedora 
12/13?/14? that still have userspace capable of running on i586.  I 
would need to see what are the supported archs and kernels in those 
versions of Fedora.

At the moment I suspect this might be doable with about a week of my 
effort.  I've entirely given up on expecting development help from you 
the community after I've asked in vain from you folks these past years. 
  That's OK.  I will try.  But I am only able to pick the low hanging 
fruit.  If I cannot quickly make it work, then this will be the end.

(If someone is willing to financially sponsor my time, I may be willing 
to put more effort into this.  Contact me privately if interested.)

The LTSP based on EL6 would likely be the LAST version of LTSP for a 
RH-derived distribution.  Given the LONG lifespan of EL6 this should 
give the considerable numbers of existing LTSP deployments many years of 
life.  However, since the only maintainable way we can build the client 
images for EL6 is from a particular old Fedora version, this effectively 
means that K12Linux LTSP EL6 will be frozen forever in client hardware 

Theoretically LTSP upstream could be adapted to work with Fedora 15+, 
but for a number of reasons it has become impractical to expect 
continued support for LTSP in Fedora.

* LTSP relies on the ancient and almost now untested functionality of 
remote X.  Fedora 8 through 12 I was effectively the only Red Hat 
engineer working on remote X desktop and netboot issues.  The entire 
Fedora distro will continue to further drift away from working remote X 
desktops as it simply was never a priority.

* Fedora 15+'s GNOME 3 will be totally incompatible with the vast 
majority of LTSP client hardware incapable of compositing, while the 
non-composited fallback is likely to be poorly tested and poorly 
supported, especially in the remote X case which nobody but LTSP would use.

* As Fedora progresses, its 32bit kernel and userspace will drop support 
for the majority of LTSP client hardware, if it hasn't already happened.

* A possible way to keep Fedora LTSP somewhat working for a few more 
years might be to switch the default desktop to something else like KDE 
or XFCE that relies on just plain non-composited X.  But that is still a 
non-trivial amount of effort to make it a smooth user experience since 
remote X is poorly tested there as well.

For these reasons, and the fact that I am no longer sponsored to work on 
this, it seems unlikely that LTSP will ever again be officially 
supported by Fedora.

Next Generation of K12Linux: Desktop Virtualization
I have been thinking about a theoretical next generation technology 
replacement for LTSP.  Fedora contains the remote desktop protocol SPICE 
and kvm, the Open Source core components of a VDI solution.

A theoretical K12Linux based on SPICE would have each user's desktop 
running within their own virtual machine on a pool of centralized 
servers.  Maybe each user's desktop VM would be hibernated to disk when 
their client disconnects in order to conserve central server resources.

The desktop GUI and sound would be forwarded over the network and 
viewable with the SPICE client running on thin clients.  This would 
theoretically allow K12Linux deployments to connect to any mix of both 
Windows or Linux virtualized desktop machines, although K12Linux would 
only document the Linux case.

SPICE requires much beefier client hardware.  It appears that first 
generation Intel Atom with i950 video is only borderline powerful enough 
to handle it.

I suspect that SPICE will never support compositing.  So a VDI-based 
Fedora 15+ would be using the non-compositing fallback (which I've only 
heard about but never tried).  At least it wont rely on the almost 
untested remote X functionality.

Youtube sucks much less over the SPICE protocol than with remote X of 
LTSP.  Modern expectations of stuff like video are another nail in the 
coffin for the old LTSP model.

This is all very theoretical.  The problems involved to make this a 
smooth user experience may make this plan infeasible for volunteer 

Warren Togami
warren at togami.com

K12OSN mailing list
K12OSN at redhat.com
For more info see <http://www.k12os.org>

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