Rocky Linux version attracts 80,000 downloads as former CentOS users reflect on choices • The Register

Rocky Linux 8.4, which was made available early last week, drew 80,000 downloads in 72 hours, but disgruntled CentOS users are wondering if Rocky, its rival AlmaLinux or another operating system, is next. stage.

Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux are both designed to be binary compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), while also being free software, for those who can manage without Red Hat assistance. Red Hat’s CentOS fulfilled that role, until the company said that in the future, only CentOS Stream would preview rather than track what will be in RHEL.

AlmaLinux, sponsored by CloudLinux, was the first to come out with a stable version at the end of March. Rocky Linux, a project led by CentOS co-founder Greg Kurtzer, took a bit longer to reach general availability, perhaps because it was built from the ground up, while the system d The CloudLinux operation based on CentOS already existed.

Another delay factor, according to the Rocky Linux FAQ, was the effort put into governance. “If our only focus for Rocky Linux was to rebrand and repackage RHEL, we would be done much sooner. However, what we needed to do differently was figure out how we could keep Rocky Linux in the hands of the community. strategy ensures that Rocky Linux will never meet the same fate as CentOS, ”he says.

The solution he found was to create the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) with a “community charter”. According to the FAQ, “Rocky Linux will never be controlled, purchased or otherwise influenced by a single entity or organization.”

The AlmaLinux project came up with what appears to be a similar solution, creating the AlmaLinux Foundation, with board members including Igor Seletskiy, CEO of CloudLinux, Jesse Acklund of cPanel and open source lawyer Simon Phipps.

Despite its appearance a little later, the Rocky Linux project has gained momentum. He reported that “Within 72 hours of launch, Rocky’s assets were downloaded almost 70,000 times from our Tier0 mirror, served by Fastly – not including the number of downloads from our mirrors, of which we have almost 100 – and we have about 10,000 downloads of our torrent file. ” We note, however, that due to the mirrors it is not possible to get an accurate total count. Another indication of support is that Google has created a custom Rocky Linux for installation on Google Compute Engine (GCE) and is now a “main sponsor” of RESF. AlmaLinux is also available on GCE but as a “community supported image”, which means it is “not directly supported by Compute Engine”. Microsoft has “signed up as a RESF partner” and will ensure the availability of Rocky Linux on Azure.

AlmaLinux was also well received with mostly positive reviews from early adopters. This week the project released 8.4 stable for ARM64, assisted by Arm and tested by AWS on its ARM-based Graviton VM instances (Rocky also has an ARM version available). Likewise, it is impossible to be precise on the number of downloads of AlmaLinux but a recent press release speaks of “tens of thousands of downloads from its main mirror site, plus an unknown number of 133 other mirror sites in the world. “.

It’s pretty hard to pick a clear technical reason for choosing one over the other … you now have two distros that continue where there was one before, but both depend on a parent who doesn’t. owes them nothing

That said, AlmaLinux doesn’t seem to have drawn such a large community around it. The AlmaLinux chat server has 203 members in its general channel at the time of writing, versus Rocky Linux with 5,536 (both running on Mattermost servers). We have the feeling that these two distributions are jostling to position themselves. A comment (registration required) on the AlmaLinux chat server says what many must be thinking: “What should I do for CentOS now: as a relative outsider it is quite difficult to pick a clear technical reason for choosing one rather than the other … you now have two distributions that continue where there was one before, but both rely on a parent who owes them nothing. And the “community” that was there. , as it was, is now fractured. It’s hard to say who will be around five years from now. “

Perhaps aware that adoption decisions made today can last a long time, the projects are advertising. “We’re about to launch the AlmaLinux Ads – all sponsored by CloudLinux money at this point,” said Seletskiy (registration required). When asked why a FOSS project needed announcements, he replied, “If there isn’t user adoption, commercial vendors won’t support it, and then all the cool shit we would do – just wouldn’t matter. Advertisements for Rocky Linux have also appeared, from Ctrl IQ, a company of which Kurtzer is the CEO, which calls itself “the official founding partner of support and services for Rocky Linux”, although it also specializes in in HPC (high performance computing).

Some apparent AlmaLinux fans are taking other approaches, such as user “Rabiton” who showed up on Reddit to wonder if Rocky Linux is as community driven as it looks, claiming that “Rocky is a for-profit business … nothing prevents Greg from selling when he decides he’s had enough. ” He also identified himself as “a sock puppet and I don’t like the community being taken for a walk.”

Is Rocky Linux vulnerable to this accusation? While the AlmaLinux OS Foundation is a 501 (c) (6) non-profit entity, the RESF is a public utility, which is a for-profit enterprise although it is obligated to focus on impact. social positive rather than on the sole interests of its shareholders.

Kurtzer said this is not at odds with the commitment to the community. “I own the RESF because I have already taken the 501 (c) shared ownership path with the Caos Foundation (the organization that hosted CentOS) and within a few years, CentOS has been manipulated out of the organization to non-profit, ”he said. noted.

“I have seen other 501 (c) entities created in the open source realm, some of them performing better than others. What I learned is that just being an organization nonprofit is not a magic pill for honesty and integrity, so we decided to go with a PBC (Public Benefits Corporation) and be very clear that we are not motivated by profit, but rather by the public interest. “

He added: “Do I have to be the sole owner of RESF? No, and at some point we’ll come back to that, while also becoming a non-profit. How long has Linus Torvalds controlled and “owned” Linux? prevent you and others from using it? No. “

Business structure matters less in open source than anywhere else because you can lift and move, the ability to branch off

To be successful in the long term, open source projects must have both a sufficient community around them and an appropriate level of sponsorship and financial support; there are many ways to achieve this goal and there is no better way to achieve it. Amanda Brock, CEO of Open UK, an open source advocacy group, said: “In open source, the thought process is that the community is in control because they can lift the code and fork … the corporate structure has less open source than anywhere else because you can lift and move, fork capacity. “

This is the exact path that has now given birth to Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux. When CentOS took a path that many in its community didn’t like, RHEL’s open source license allowed these other projects to form and be successful. Technically, these distributions are very similar and switching between them is easy, as both are binarily compatible with RHEL.

As one Rocky user on Reddit put it, in response to the idea that Rocky Linux could be acquired, “Maybe it will and I’ll move on to the next fork. If it lives as long as CentOS, I will be about 20 years old. “®

Sam D. Gomez