July 4 2023

How Rocky Linux Will Survive Red Hat's Choice to Publish RHEL Sources

Rocky Linux faces new challenges after the closure of the sources wanted by Red Hat: between adaptation strategies and an automated future

Rocky linux

In response to the recent Red Hat's decision to stop publishing RHEL package sources On git.centos.org, a move that caused considerable bewilderment within the developer community, Rocky Linux outlined a strategic approach to ensure its survival. Rocky Linux, a distribution born from the ashes of CentOS Linux following its "closure", is part of the already heated debate with another main interested party, AlmaLinux, as the protagonist.

In the blog post titled “Brave New World: The Path Forward for Rocky Linux“, discusses the strategic methods adopted by RHEL's derivative distribution to ensure its continuity. It highlights the tenacious efforts of the team to address the current scenario, managing to compose updates for both Rocky Linux 8 and 9, which include all previously missing updates. The latter gave a hint that something was not going as planned in the established build system, as the SRPM packages were no longer available on git.centos.org.

However, at least for now, for those using Rocky Linux, simply typing yum -y update still delivers the distribution update in 1:1 sync with RHEL.

It should be noted that most of these initial alignment tasks were performed manually. Therefore, it becomes essential for the Rocky project to implement a process that allows for constant and automatic updates to be provided. The answer to this need seems to lie in the Peridot build system, which Rocky Linux already used to handle additional imports and automate them. In this regard, the Rocky Linux team is working on a system to publish SRPMs used, patches applied, applicable checksums, etc.

As mentioned in the post, there is significant room for further improvement as the current approach is more manual than previous processes. However, and this is the crucial aspect, it fully complies with licensing agreements.

It's vital to remember that the most significant challenge that derivative distributions like Rocky Linux face is source accessibility. Recently, Red Hat made the decision to make these sources available only to its paid plan customers. This represents a substantial restriction, since it limits the use of these sources mainly to the autonomous recompilation of RHEL, effectively excluding other possible applications.

This paradigm shift has forced derivative distributions, such as Rocky Linux, to adopt new strategies to deal with this situation. An important development in this context is the adoption of manual processes by the Rocky Linux team. This interim solution, while it may seem more cumbersome and less efficient than previous automated processes, has allowed Rocky Linux to overcome this fundamental obstacle.

Indeed, the Rocky Linux team has worked tirelessly to adapt to these new conditions, despite the challenges they bring. It is expected that these manual processes, which have so far allowed the distribution to keep up with changes, will be automated in the future. The goal is to combine the efficiency and effectiveness of automated processes with the flexibility and adaptability offered by manual ones, thus ensuring the continued survival and evolution of Rocky Linux.

The post ends with a message of hope: Rocky Linux continues to exist, a prospect that everyone hopes for.

At the same time, Oracle Linux, another major player in this story, has not yet officially stated its position.

This situation affects not only AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux, but also other distributions such as Springdale, with roots that go back even before CentOS, which are affected by the current decision by Red Hat.

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