July 4 2023

How AlmaLinux will survive Red Hat's decision to publish RHEL sources

Red Hat changes course: the uncertain future of AlmaLinux and its derivative distributions.

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The news sent the free software world into an uproar: as we reported just last week, Red Hat has announced that Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) source code will no longer be available at git.centos.org. Instead, they will be accessible exclusively to customers, both paid and free, via the Customer Portal.

Red Hat justified this decision as a way to optimize efforts and costs. However, many observers interpreted the move as a direct attack on those projects that use the source codes of packages transparently and make them freely available in distributions such as AlmaLinux, Rocky Linux or Oracle Linux.

This change has raised many questions about the future of these distributions. AlmaLinux, among the first projects to react, detailed its perspective on the possible path forward in a post.

The post serves to clarify the nature not only of AlmaLinux, but in general of all distributions of this type. A member of the AlmaLinux project noticed that a Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 RPM update had not been posted to git.centos.org and speculated that it might be a bug. However, the official response from Red Hat revealed a very different picture:

Red Hat has decided to continue to use the Customer Portal to share source code with our partners and customers, treating CentOS Stream as the element of community collaboration.

So, what will be the fate of AlmaLinux? This is still an open question, especially in light of the fact that AlmaLinux is a clone of RHEL and must comply with the licenses and agreements with Red Hat. At this time, republishing sources acquired through the customer portal could be a violation of those agreements .

Despite the unexpected blow, the AlmaLinux team has provided some indications about the future. They revealed that the upcoming AlmaLinux OS Server security updates will be pulled from CentOS Stream and Oracle Linux. These updates will be carefully curated to ensure full compatibility with RHEL, without violating Red Hat licenses.

Furthermore, AlmaLinux has decided not to adopt the CentOS Stream "rolling" packages, maintaining its intention to remain a RHEL clone. However, how they will achieve this goal remains an open question.

The AlmaLinux board is actively involved in discussions with Red Hat, which are still ongoing. It's unclear whether Red Hat's intention is to phase out all derivative distributions, but AlmaLinux stresses that it has always maintained a good working relationship with Red Hat and hopes this will continue.

This decision by Red Hat has undoubtedly caused considerable concern within the AlmaLinux project. Is it possible that Red Hat decides to accord special treatment to AlmaLinux and other derivative distributions? Or will these be ignored? Are there other viable solutions?

The future is uncertain, but it is certain that the evolution of this situation will have a significant impact on the free software landscape.

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