By Scott Hamilton
A long time partner in open-source software development created chaos in the community back in June with the announcement that they would discontinue the community supported CentOS distribution. I wrote about the initial phases of this transition back in February 2021. You can read the article on my archives at https://tinyurl.com/tscentos. It was a slow process, starting with RedHat changing the link between their commercial product, RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and their open-source CentOS project that used to share the same free code back in February 2021. Earlier this year RedHat announced that CentOS would no longer have access to the internal RedHat released code, meaning that it would not be possible to continue a 100 percent compatible open-source alternative to RHEL.
On August 10, 2023, RedHat’s competitors, as well as prior partners from the community, formed a new organization in response to RedHat’s decision. They formed the Open Enterprise Linux Association for a Collaborative and Open Future (openELA). CIQ, Oracle and SUSE all utilized a large portion of the open-source code previously released by RedHat in their products. This is an entirely legal and normal process in the open-source community. More than 95 percent of RHEL code is based on the work of open-source software projects and up until a few months ago even what would be considered RedHat developed components were being released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).
Under GPL guidelines the goal is to have 100 percent free software in regards to the user’s freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. The entire Linux ecosystem is based on the GPL license model, so commercial companies like RedHat and SUSE were never really selling software or licenses to use their operating systems. They were in the market of selling support contracts for the open source software and maintaining stable enterprise class releases by performing extensive testing before release. The goal of the openELA is to continue to provide sources necessary for compatibility with RHEL to exist in this new era of Enterprise Linux (EL).
“Collaboration is critical to fostering innovation, which is why we welcome everyone to be part of this association and help us uphold open community standards,” said Thomas Di Giacomo, chief technology and product officer of SUSE. “SUSE is a strong believer in making choice happen. Together with the open source community we will redefine what it truly means to be open and deliver a stronger future for EL.”
“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new era for EL,” said Gregory Kurtzer, CEO of CIQ, “with OpenELA, CIQ, Oracle and SUSE joining forces with the open source community to ensure a stable and resilient future for both upstream and downstream communities to leverage Enterprise Linux.”
“Many large organizations reached out to us to express the importance of community-driven source code for EL that can act as a starting point for compatible distributions,” said Wim Coekaerts, head of Oracle Linux development, Oracle. “OpenELA is our response to this need, and it represents a commitment to helping the open-source community continue to develop compatible EL distributions.”
It is the first time in the history of Linux that a commercial entity has attempted to lock away their GPL licensed source code behind a paid subscription service and RedHat has created waves in the community that will hurt their reputation and bottom line for years to come. They were among the first companies to profit from Linux Torvald’s Linux operating system and it is a shame to see them be the first to shun the standards of the open source community. – I only hope that openELA can achieve their goals through cooperative agreements with the remaining RHEL compatible distributions. Only time will tell. Until next week stay safe and learn something new.
Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org.