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Re: Possibly moving Debian services to a CDN

On Sun, Oct 13, 2013 at 08:44:56AM +0200, Tollef Fog Heen wrote:
> We appreciate feedback while we continue our investigation of CDNs.

Hi Tollef, thanks for bringing this discussion to -project.

I'm myself against switching to a CDN, but it might be due to a lack of
information on my part, so I'd love if DSA could fill in my gaps.

Debian is a Free Software project. I think that is what should drive our
choices and nothing else.  As such I'd hate seeing Debian moving, by
default, to a content delivery solution that is made of proprietary
software parts. That would be very bad for the Debian Project, as it
would send the message that while we do create an entirely Free OS for
others, we are fine with using proprietary software to do so (Mako has
expressed this concept much better than I could possibly do in his "Free
Software Needs Free Tools" essay
http://mako.cc/writing/hill-free_tools.html ). In my mind, using a CDN
made of non-free parts would be exactly the same as using a proprietary
BTS, or replacing the DBMS that backs dak with Oracle Database.

I do realize that most of the value of a CDN is not in its software
parts. But I'm under the impression there is still quite a bit of
software behind commercial CDN offerings. So my question is: would the
CDN providers we're going to choose be able to ensure that the software
parts behind their offerings to us are 100% Free Software? I don't think
we have enough leverage to impose that. But if it is the case my "non
100% Free Software" concern above would certainly disappear.

Another way of making my concern moot would be to use the CDN only as a
non-default option that users should explicitly choose, and label it as
some non official service. That would reduce the impression that the
Debian Project endorses infrastructures that rely on non-free software.
For instance, we could repurpose the cdn.debian.net name (assuming the
current maintainer is fine with the idea) and present it as an option to
our users. A corollary of this is that it would be difficult to use the
CDN for things like www.debian.org (probably making moot many of the
advantages you're looking for).

An unrelated concern is that of technical independence. I do see a lot
of value in Debian "social experiment" (quoting here a very nice way of
calling it that Lucas has come up to) of trying to do almost everything
by ourselves, from packaging to legal, from marketing to sysadm'ing. Of
course it comes with a lot of drawbacks, and I don't think it is
something rooted in Debian principles. But it is a very nice
characteristic of our Project, and I think we should be very careful
before giving it up, even if in only in specific areas.  In your mail
you've addressed the concern of excessive dependence on a *single* CDN
provider, mentioning that you're looking into how easily switch from one
provider to another. Would it be equally easy to get rid of the CDN ---
or switch to a more home brew (set of) CDN(s) --- if things go awry?

(FWIW, I'm not myself worried about dependency on money / hw coming from
companies, I'm very well aware that Debian needs quite a bit of
resources from companies. But that concern is very much mitigated by the
diversity in donors, or at least by the fact that we can have that
diversity. Technical dependency is IMHO much worse, because to get
diversity there you need to have in place, beforehand, the needed
abstraction layers.)

Stefano Zacchiroli  . . . . . . .  zack@upsilon.cc . . . . o . . . o . o
Maître de conférences . . . . . http://upsilon.cc/zack . . . o . . . o o
Former Debian Project Leader  . . @zack on identi.ca . . o o o . . . o .
« the first rule of tautology club is the first rule of tautology club »

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