To understand the current situation, we need to look back at the events that led to Red Hat's decision. In 2020, CentOS, a popular rebuild of RHEL, announced that it would shift its focus to CentOS Stream, a development build of RHEL. This decision was intended to streamline the CentOS project and eliminate confusion. Red Hat, which had significant control over CentOS at that point, considered it a natural step in the project's evolution.
However, Red Hat's recent announcement regarding the restriction of RHEL source code access has raised concerns among the open-source community. CentOS co-founder Greg Kurtzer launched Rocky Linux as a replacement RHEL-compatible distribution, aiming to maintain access to RHEL code under the GNU General Public License (GPL). AlmaLinux, another RHEL-derived distribution, also expressed its commitment to continue providing RHEL-compatible updates and downstream rebuilds. These efforts highlight the community's dedication to open source and their belief that Red Hat's actions violate the spirit of open-source software.
GPL Compliance and Community Reactions
The Software Freedom Conservancy's Bradley M. Kuhn weighed in on the matter, shedding light on RHEL's business model and its relationship with GPL compliance. While Red Hat's decision to restrict access to the complete corresponding source (CCS) doesn't violate the GPL itself, it makes it harder for the community to verify Red Hat's compliance with the GPL. Kuhn expressed disappointment at the current state of affairs and the impact on the FOSS (Free and Open-Source Software) community.
Community reactions have been mixed, with some expressing frustration and concern over Red Hat's moves. Jeff Geerling, in his blog post and YouTube video, strongly criticizes Red Hat's actions and accuses the company of intending to destroy RHEL derivatives like Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux. These reactions underscore the tensions and debates within the open-source community regarding the direction Red Hat is taking.
Red Hat's Perspective: Value, Competition, and Open Source Threats
Mike McGrath, Red Hat's vice president of core platforms engineering, defended the company's decision in a blog post. He emphasized that Red Hat contributes code upstream, doesn't simply rebuild upstream packages, and invests significant resources in maintaining and supporting operating systems for long periods. McGrath argues that the anger and demands for RHEL code access come from those who don't want to pay for Red Hat's work or wish to repackage it for their own profit. He believes that simply rebuilding code without adding value or changing it poses a threat to open-source companies and the open-source community as a whole.
In response to Red Hat's source code policy changes, SUSE, a major open-source software company, announced its plans to offer a free alternative to RHEL and CentOS users. SUSE will fork RHEL using publicly available sources and develop a RHEL-compatible distribution without any restrictions. SUSE's move aims to provide the open-source community with more options and maintain the fundamental values of open-source software. However, SUSE clarifies that the development of this RHEL fork will take a few years and will require collaboration from the Linux and Open Source community.
Oracle, another player in the open-source arena, has also voiced its concerns about Red Hat's actions. It claims that IBM is trying to eliminate open-source competition among Linux distributions to benefit its own bottom line. Oracle pledges to continue distributing Oracle Linux source code for free.
The Future and the Importance of Open Source
The recent developments surrounding Red Hat's source code policy have sparked a lively debate within the open-source community. The tensions between Red Hat's business model, GPL compliance, and the interests of the community highlight the challenges of balancing open-source principles with commercial interests. The actions and responses of various players in the open-source ecosystem will shape the future landscape of RHEL-compatible distributions and influence the broader open-source community.
As the situation continues to unfold, it is crucial for stakeholders to engage in open dialogue, promote collaboration, and find solutions that uphold the spirit of open-source software. The community's involvement and dedication to open source will play a significant role in shaping the future of RHEL derivatives and ensuring the continued growth and success of the open-source ecosystem as a whole.
Red Hat's new source code policy has sparked controversy and raised important questions about the balance between open-source principles and commercial interests. While Red Hat argues that its decision is driven by the need to protect its investment and prevent misuse of its code, the open-source community and competitors like Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux express concerns that these actions violate the spirit of open source.
The debate surrounding GPL compliance, the role of rebuilders, and the potential threats to the open-source ecosystem is complex. Red Hat's move has prompted responses from various players in the industry, including SUSE and Oracle, who aim to offer alternatives and maintain the principles of choice and freedom within the open-source community.
As the situation evolves, it is essential for stakeholders to engage in constructive discussions and find solutions that balance the interests of both the commercial sector and the open-source community. Collaboration, transparency, and a commitment to the values of open source will be crucial in shaping the future of RHEL-compatible distributions and ensuring the continued growth and success of open-source software. Ultimately, the resolution of these challenges will have a lasting impact on the broader open-source ecosystem and its ability to thrive.