The Fedora team uses Cacti, an open source data-collection and graphing tool, to track and compute the metrics associated with the release's downloads. Cactus tracks the number of unique IP addresses that check in via yum for updates, rather than simply tracking the number of times FC6 was downloaded. According to comments made on the fedora-announce mailing list by Fedora Project Leader Max Spevack, "This metric is much more useful than tracking downloads, because it demonstrates actual 'installed instances' of FC6 that are making a connection back to our servers in search of updated software."
Currently, Cacti manages data only for the Core package and does not track downloads for Fedora Extras or individual packages. Spevack says discussions will be held prior to the release of Fedora 7 and decisions will be made at that time about what additional data will be tracked in future releases.
Spevack says he is thrilled to have good metrics for FC6, especially because they were sorely lacking in previous releases. Virtually no statistical data exists for Fedora Core 4, released in June 2005, and the only usable data for the release of Fedora Core 5 are BitTorrent download tracking numbers. As of yesterday, FC6 has already seen 2/3 of the amount of BitTorrent traffic that FC5 has accumulated in total since its March 2006 release. Spevack says that, while exact comparative data is lacking for the last two Fedora Core releases, "it's pretty safe to say we reached 1 million faster than any previous Fedora release has."
Spevack says the flurry of excitement surrounding FC6 can be attributed to several things. "[First], Fedora Core 5 was well received, and therefore there was a lot of excitement for Fedora Core 6. It's a good distro, with an active community and a good reputation. Lots of people use it, and the 'average' Fedora user is someone who is likely to upgrade from release to release.
"[Also], RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] 5 is coming soon, and if you're a person who is a user of RHEL or one of the RHEL rebuilds, then you realize that Fedora Core 6 is going to be an excellent preview of those distributions, and so people are probably looking at Fedora in order to get a pretty good idea of what RHEL will look like."
Spevack acknowledges that some of the numbers may also reflect longtime Fedora users who haven't been counted in the past due to the lack of a good tracking system.
Spevack says the success of the new metrics system is due in large part to Mike McGrath, a system/network administrator who volunteers voluminous amounts of his time to the Fedora Infrastructure Team. "Most of the work that was done in getting the metrics that we have for Fedora Core 6 was led by Mike, basically in his spare time (when he wasn't doing work for his actual job)," says Spevack.
Since this is the first time the Fedora team has been able to collect such thorough and accurate data, Spevack says it's difficult to predict when the flurry of downloads will peak and begin to level off. "My best guess," he says, "is that it's still pretty early in FC6's lifecycle, and some folks who have always planned on upgrading are still getting around to it, so we continue to see a steady stream of new installs. There's a lot of Internet service providers, etc., who are users of Fedora, and groups like that tend to take their time in upgrading their systems.
"It will be interesting to see how the numbers look over the next couple of months."