CIQ, Oracle, and SUSE unite behind OpenELA to take on Red Hat Enterprise Linux

The day has come. As promised, three major business Linux companies have released the code for OpenELA, their challenge to RHEL.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
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When Mike McGrath, Red Hat's Red Hat Core Platforms vice president, announced that Red Hat was putting new restrictions on who could access Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)'s code, other Linux companies that depended on RHEL's code for their own distro releases were, in a word, unhappy. 

Three of them, CIQ, Oracle, and SUSE, came together to form the Open Enterprise Linux Association (OpenELA). Their united goal was to foster "the development of distributions compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) by providing open and free enterprise Linux source code." Now, the first OpenELA code release is available. 

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As Thomas Di Giacomo, SUSE's chief technology and product officer, said in a statement, "We're pleased to deliver on our promise of making source code available and to continue our work together to provide choice to our customers while we ensure that Enterprise Linux source code remains freely accessible to the public."

Why are they doing this? Gregory Kurtzer, CIQ's CEO, and Rocky Linux's founder, explained: 

Organizations worldwide standardized on CentOS because it was freely available, followed the Enterprise Linux standard, and was well supported. After CentOS was discontinued, it left not only a gaping hole in the ecosystem but also clearly showed how the community needs to come together and do better. OpenELA is exactly that—the community's answer to ensuring a collaborative and stable future for all professional IT departments and enterprise use cases.

This code base contains all the necessary packages for building a derivative Enterprise Linux operating system. While the initial focus is on EL8 and EL9, clones of RHEL 8 and 9, respectively, packages for EL7 are in the pipeline. OpenELA is committed to making EL sources available forever for the broader community.

The codebase, however, is still a work in progress. There are a handful of sources, such as the non-toolset gcc code, that are still set to private. That's largely because the code's still being cleared of Red Hat trademarks. 

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There's also, for the moment, no look-aside grabber for the codebase. This tool makes it easier to download the source tarballs from multiple code repos. In addition, downloading the code is going to be slow. While the code base is currently hosted on a cloud, that repo is not backed by a content delivery network (CDN). That, too, will be corrected, and download speeds will improve. 

The mission of OpenELA, which is now a nonprofit corporation, is to establish and make accessible the sources, tooling, and assets to all members, collaborators, and the open source Enterprise Linux distribution developers to create and maintain bug-to-bug compatible downstream derivatives of RHEL. 

OpenELA's job is not to create a single enterprise Linux distribution for all three companies. They'll use OpenELA as the base for their distributions -- Oracle Linux; and SUSE's Liberty Linux. The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is also considering using OpenELA as the foundation for Rocky Linux. 

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The OpenELA's Technical Steering Committee (TSC) will spearhead the OpenELA governance and decision-making. This committee, initially composed of seasoned professionals from the founding companies, will manage access to OpenELA's high-level git organizations. Over time, the TSC's membership will evolve. 

Like all TSCs, it will lay out OpenELA's technical vision, endorse community collaboration, and safeguard code security while ensuring ongoing code availability and maintenance.

Wim Coekaerts, head of Oracle Linux development, concluded:

When we formed OpenELA earlier this year, we made a number of promises to the open-source developer community. With today's announcement of the availability of the source code for packages, the completed incorporation, and the formation of the technical steering committee, we are delivering on our promises and our commitment to helping and maintaining the ability for anyone to develop compatible EL distributions.

OpenELA is open to individuals, groups, and companies that want to deliver reliable and secure access to Enterprise Linux packages and build systems. Mind you, this isn't the only way to build a RHEL clone. AlmaLinux does it pulling from the CentOS Stream codebase.

And what does Red Hat make of all this? The company did not reply to a request to comment on this latest move by its rivals. 

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