OpenELA flips Red Hat the bird with public release of Enterprise Linux source

Technical Steering Committee also formed

The OpenELA team this week trumpeted public release of the Enterprise Linux source code and formation of a technical steering committee.

The Open Enterprise Linux Association (OpenELA) was formed in August as a direct response to Red Hat's decision to change access to the source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). A trade association headed by CIQ, SUSE, and Oracle, the group intends to encourage the development of distributions compatible with RHEL by providing open and free Enterprise Linux (EL) source code.

The group initial focus is on RHEL 8 and 9, and possibly 7. The source code to allow anyone to build a derivative Enterprise Linux operating system is now available from the group's repositories – so long as it is EL 8 and 9 you're after; packages for EL7 are on the way, although OpenELA did not give a timescale.

The RHEL debacle, which has been brewing since the demise of the CentOS project – which tracked RHEL – in favor of CentOS Stream, came to a head earlier in 2023 when Red Hat decided to stop making the source code of RHEL available.

The move created headaches for distributions that had sprung up in the wake of the CentOS termination, such as Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux, and had the frankly surreal effect of making Oracle – famed for its handling of Java – appear as ... the good guys?

After a war of words in which Oracle and CIQ – the company behind Rocky Linux – traded barbs with Red Hat, OpenELA was set up to provide a repository of Enterprise Linux source from which alternatives to RHEL could be derived.

AlmaLinux has yet to join the association. It is a nonprofit organization, and the trio behind OpenELA do have a profit motivation, perhaps through selling their take on RHEL as a business offering or by gently nudging customers to other core business products via EL.

Oracle, SUSE, and CIQ are naturally delighted with the development. Thomas Di Giacomo, chief technology and product officer of SUSE, said: "We've seen tremendous involvement and interest from the community in OpenELA, which demonstrates just how important it is to the open source community that we as an ecosystem remain open and work together to deliver accessible solutions for all."

Wim Coekaerts, head of Oracle Linux development, looked forward to further adoption of collaboration around OpenELA and said: "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."

However, Gregory Kurtzer, CEO of CIQ and founder of Rocky Linux, was unable to resist getting in a dig about the demise of CentOS: "For decades organizations standardized on CentOS because it was freely available, followed the Enterprise Linux standard and was well supported by many vendors.

"After CentOS was discontinued, it left not only a gaping hole in the ecosystem, but it 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."

benny (yup, with a lowercase b) Vasquez, chair of the AlmaLinux OS Foundation, commented: "I'm always excited to see a new non-profit organization get its feet under it and start to get going. For now, we won't use the code they're releasing since we have established our workflow without using it already."

The Register asked Red Hat for its takes on the development and will update should the company respond. ®

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