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Rocky has competition as more CentOS alternatives step into the ring: Project Lenix, Oracle Linux vie for attention

Big Red: This is not some gimmick so that you buy support from us

In the wake of Red Hat's decision to end support for CentOS Linux comes a raft of alternatives to fill the void, including Project Lenix - an offshoot of Cloud Linux - and Oracle's free Linux, which Big Red is heavily promoting.

CloudLinux is a distribution based on RHEL/CentOS aimed at hosting providers and enterprises. It is not free but is offered on subscription from $14.00 per month, with support from $3.95 per month. Now the company behind it has introduced Project Lenix as an "open-sourced and community-driven RHEL Fork by the CloudLinux OS Creators".

The first release is set for "Q1 2021". The name is not final, but will be determined by the project.

Project Lenix will be a "1-1 compatible form of RHEL 8 and future releases," according to CloudLinux CEO and co-founder Igor Seletskiy. A key feature will be the ability to migrate easily from CentOS. "Entire server fleets will be able to be converted with a single command with no reinstallation and no reboots required," the company declared today.

The CloudLinux company has also undertaken to sponsor the development and maintenance. Its stated motivation is to promote its KernelCare live patching service.

Penguins on a rocky beach in Antarctica with a ship passing ice floes in the background

Rocky Linux is go: CentOS founder's new project aims to be 100% compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux


According to a poll on its website, which attracted 1,500 responses, 61.5 per cent of CentOS users are waiting for another RHEL fork, with the remaining 38.5 per cent split between Debian, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE.

It seems the poll did not ask who might opt for a paid RHEL subscription and it is unlikely to be a representative sample, but there is no doubting the fact that many users will look for an alternative with a long-term future.

Is this community-driven, though? Seletskiy said he will "work on establishing a community around the OS, with the governing board from members of the community," but this sounds like a top-down approach that may not be as successful in this respect as the Rocky Linux project kicked off by CentOS founder Gregory Kurtzer, which is not sponsored by any one company.

If the community thing is not an issue, another option is Oracle Linux. This distribution is also "100 per cent binary-compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux" and in a recent post the company said: "We've made the Oracle Linux software available free of charge... we've created a simple script to switch your CentOS systems to Oracle Linux."

The promise is that "you're getting the exact same bits our paying enterprise customers are getting" as well as rapid release of security patches. "This is not some gimmick to get you running Oracle Linux so that you buy support from us," the company promised. While Oracle is best known for its expensive proprietary database manager, it also offers open-source software including the popular MySQL, available as a free community edition.

Who will win the post-CentOS wars? When we asked Hayden Young from the Rocky Linux team about alternatives, he said that simply getting a RHEL binary-compatible build is not enough; it must also be easy to customise. With CentOS (and the forthcoming Rocky Linux), "you could build your own image of it with your customisations, whereas you can't with something like CloudLinux," he told us.

A company like Oracle, he added, "just does not have the trust and the stability that people have come to expect from CentOS."

This is Linux and there can be more than one winner. There is Oracle Linux for those looking for a free alternative to CentOS from a big name, there is Project Lenix from a small company but with a track record of building an RHEL-compatible distro, and there is Rocky Linux, where we think members of the CentOS community unhappy with the switch to CentOS Stream are most likely to migrate. ®

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