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InfoQ Homepage News How Rocky Linux Aims to Fill the Gap Left by Red Hat’s CentOS Setback

How Rocky Linux Aims to Fill the Gap Left by Red Hat’s CentOS Setback

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Gregory Kurtzer, the founder of CentOS, started the Rocky Linux project in December 2020. His goal is to fill the gap created by Red Hat when they announced a change in direction for CentOS Linux. This shift, from a stable operating system to a stream for testing pre-release code, left many organizations without a Linux distribution that suits their needs. 

Kurtzer originally founded the Caos Linux project, which the CentOS Project was born out of in 2003. InfoQ interviewed him about Rocky Linux and the goals for the project going forward.

InfoQ: What are the key milestones and dates for Rocky Linux this year?

Gregory Kurtzer: Our infrastructure and build systems are in place, as in automatic package builds. Our next major milestone is to have a release available for the end of March, but that is most likely to be pushed out into April. 

The best place to keep track of our timelines is the news in our community update page. For more up-to-the-minute updates, join our communication framework on Mattermost or IRC. Everyone is welcome, so come and join the party!

InfoQ: The Rocky Linux home page describes it as being  “bug-for-bug compatible” with Red Hat Linux. Can you explain what that means and what kind of work it entails for the Rocky Linux community?

Kurtzer: The notion of "bug-for-bug compatible" demonstrates our commitment to staying as compatible with the upstream source of Red Hat Enterprise Linux as legally possible. The gist is that if we have a particular bug, we would expect RHEL to have the same bug and vice versa.

This guarantee provides an important benefit for developers and systems engineers.  Bug-for-bug compatible means that applications, hardware, and tooling will work the same way with Rocky Linux as they do with RHEL. Rocky Linux will be a drop-in replacement for RHEL and CentOS Linux, and RHEL will be a similar replacement for Rocky Linux.

InfoQ: How will Rocky Linux be different from CentOS? How will it be the same?

Kurtzer: Like the previous question, both Rocky and CentOS (not Stream) were targeted at being as close to RHEL as possible. So the differences are actually non-technical...

CentOS came to be as a small group that was always tightly controlled due to access to the private signing keys of CentOS. The only way to manage this control is to limit exposure, which meant that the CentOS core development was always very small and controlled by a small group until Red Hat gained control over the operating system.

What we are doing is creating an infrastructure, organizational structure, and community for Rocky.  This will allow a much larger community to take part in the development and share responsibility for the project. It will also ensure that no single commercial entity or agenda will pivot the project.  Rocky Linux will stay 100% freely available in the interest and benefit of the community.

InfoQ: Do you think that every company currently using CentOS will want to switch to Rocky?

Kurtzer:  I can't say for every company, but out of the companies that I have spoken to and approached, every company, literally all of them, are opting to migrate to Rocky Linux. The only concern so far, as of the time of this writing, is that we haven't released it yet, but most organizations that I've spoken with feel that the risk is low as our progress is completely public, as is all of our development conversations and tasks. 

InfoQ: What are the main reasons companies might want to migrate to Rocky Linux from other distributions?

Kurtzer: Any distribution owned and controlled by a single profit-dependent organization is as much of a risk as Red Hat. History has shown that in the battle between open source and a company's business model, the business model will always win. The logical conclusion is to either pay for your Linux distribution from the vendor (Red Hat, Canonical, SuSE, etc.) or use a proper community Linux variant like Debian or Rocky.

If you’re interested in joining the Rocky Linux community,  you can find instructions on the build process on their wiki. Information about how to contribute to documentation is on Github. Community updates are available on Twitter and the Rocky Linux forums.

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