CDs are Dead. Long live CDs.

I was running some stats on the Fedora 11 release, and an interesting thing caught my eye. Very few people are downloading the six (or in the case of PPC, seven) CDs to perform a “Fedora” install. Very Very few. In fact, at most, six people downloaded split media CDs using the Fedora mirror servers in the first few days. This in contrast to the over 234,000 direct downloads of DVDs and LiveCDs in the same amount of time. BitTorrent statistics are a little better for CDs: 908 completed downloads of the split media CDs, out of 41,235 total downloads (or ~2.2 %).

Which leads to the question, “Do we really need split media CDs for Fedora 12?”

A few more points lend credence to this idea.

Looking only at the BitTorrent stats for Fedora 9, 10, and now 11, we see an interesting trend. Figure 1 shows that the interest in split media CDs has been decreasing over the past year.

Figure 1

I have a suspicion. As the number of x86_64 users grows, it’s more likely that x86_64 systems will have DVD readers as opposed to older CD readers. Figure 2 shows the growth of x86_64 vs x86 over the past year, again extracted from BitTorrent statistics.

Figure 2

The entire Fedora 11 release as sent to the mirrors is ~143GB. Of that, CD and DVD ISOs represent ~34GB; the split media CD ISOs represent ~15.5GB of that. As most of the rest of that 143GB is all hardlinked, we’re really only transferring out all these ISO files. 10% of the disk space, and 45% of the time/bandwidth needed to get a release out to the mirrors, for about 2% of the user base, and declining.

CDs had their place, back when DVD readers weren’t commonplace, and before we had LiveCD/LiveUSB medias. Now, DVDs are fairly common, the LiveCDs work great for a lot of installs, and we have both a small (158MB) network-based bootable CD installer for new installs that would require a CD, and preupgrade for upgrading from an older distro version to the next. Let’s kill off split media CDs for Fedora 12.

Your thoughts?

19 comments on this post.
  1. Joe Klemmer:

    I have to agree with you on this. My server doesn’t have a DVD drive but it’s easier to go buy and install an inexpensive drive than to deal with 6 or 7 cd’s.

  2. Felix:

    I’m just thinking of the PPC users. For example quite a lot of G3 iMacs still only have a CD Drive. I have one of those. It would be sad if I was unable to install Fedora on it. But I think a Network install would do as well.

  3. Dickon:

    . . . and I suspect there are still systems that will run F12 that are old enough not to have a DVD drive but that are adequate to run . . Is there a risk of “disenfranchising” a set of potential new users. . . ? Just a thought

  4. Felix Ple┼čoianu:

    Just don’t also remove the LiveCD options. Those are useful for several reasons: they download faster than DVD images, they take up less space (therefore I can keep more of them on my HDD) and for some reason my optical drive doesn’t burn DVDs properly, so I’m pretty much restricted to using CDs. Mind you, I can *read* DVDs just fine, but I have to ask my friends for help in order to *burn* one, and that’s a big turnoff.

    That said, the split media CDs are essentially the same thing as the DVD editions, only less convenient. Given your figures, I say scrap them.

  5. mdomsch:

    Dickon: yes, there is that chance. But if we advertise the alternative install methods that can be done from a single CD, think we can alleviate that concern.

  6. Richard:

    Insert generic rant about how Open Source forces users to upgrade their hardware so they can be sure they’re running secure, maintained software ;)

  7. Jonathan:

    Where can I find the m68k floppy images for a full fedora 11 install?

  8. Ilja:

    Yes the number of users with CDs is declining and you get DVD drives and DVDs rather cheap here. But are there any stats where those users downloading CDs are coming from? My guess (or prejudice) would be emerging and less developed countries. If that’s true, this would be an argument for keeping the split CDs.

  9. lord rel:

    having a minimal install cd would be nice, debian offers a single cd xfce+lxde iso which should allow people with older systems to have a working system using these lighter WM or use the working system to add what they want using the internet or a usb storage device (which many old systems dont support as boot device)

  10. Giovanni Masucci:

    Lord rel:
    You can do that (and more) with the livecd (and with gnome/kde too!)

  11. mdomsch:

    Felix: no one is proposing getting rid of the LiveCDs. On the contrary, they are quite popular, and a great way to get a system installed. It’s just the 4 sets (i386, x86_64, ppc, and source) of 6 or 7 CDs for the “Fedora Desktop” install that I’m proposing to drop.

  12. Mace Moneta:

    Even with DVD drives, I only download the LiveCDs now. They’re smaller and faster to install. I get a yum inventory on my configured system, then use that list to install the additional software after a LiveCD install. It’s faster than downloading the DVD and only the specific set of packages I need get installed. With LiveCDs on thumb drives now, it’s even faster and I don’t waste media.

    In fact, I’d rather you just provided a flash drive image that I can dd to a thumb drive. The livecd-creator has been problematical on occasion and it’s really addressing a conversion that doesn’t need to occur anymore. Suitable thumb drives are under $10 and reusable – why send thousands of CDs to the landfill?

  13. Michael DeHaan:

    End them. It is 2009 — honestly I think it would be better if we pointed /most/ folks to net installs first, so they only have to download the packages they are going to use, as I don’t think people typically sneakernet Fedora to too many different machines or need too many packages outside the base set.

  14. Kevin Kofler:

    PPC is becoming a secondary architecture, they’ll be able to release whatever they want.

  15. J. 'Warthog9' H.:

    There is the hope that I’ll have BKO up and fully functional by F12, it might be worth trying to push more network installs by that point for the lesser used installs and such.

  16. L4SMB:

    As long as we have the ability to install from live media CD’s, the other CD’s are not such a need. Between high speed internet and/or setting up a local repository from the DVD, what more is needed?

    Daniel

  17. Fernando:

    These statistics are misleading. The people who need split media CDs — those with older machines and slow or zero network connectivity — are not the people who download a new release within the first few days.

    More interesting would be the total number of such downloads for the entire life of the previous release.

  18. Andrew:

    Why not a single install CD?

    Instead of having all the packages on the DVD in the CD option just use a reduced set similar to what’s available on the LiveCD.

    I wouldn’t download the LiveCD because it’s slower to start up, and there’s no option for text mode, so I download the whole DVD which has loads of packages I’ll never use. If there was a single CD option I’d download that though, and I’d bet others would too, which would save a huge amount of bandwidth.

  19. Randy Bentson:

    In some sense the analysis may be correct, but my experience doesn’t come up with the same numbers. I’ve been running rtorrent since June 9, and of the 566 GB uploaded I see the following:
    566915 total
    96031 i386-DVD
    95248 x86_64-DVD
    94091 ppc-DVD
    93472 i386-CDs
    44029 ppc-CDs
    42114 x86_64-CDs
    23901 i686-Live-KDE
    19438 x86_64-Live-KDE
    13107 x86_64-Live
    9795 i686-Live