“I’ve been slow to adopt, but I understand what they’re doing now,” says Rocky Linux founder • The Register


Interview Greg Kurtzer, Co-Founder of CentOS and Founder of Rocky Linux, said The register that despite the “negative effect” towards the end of CentOS 8, he now thinks the focus on CentOS Stream is better for the community.

Rocky Linux: Now GA If You Can Handle Without Secure Boot

Last December, Red Hat announced that it would stop working on CentOS Linux, focus on CentOS Stream, and end CentOS 8 in December 2021 instead of 2029. It was a change that rocked the Linux community. CentOS is extremely popular: exact numbers are difficult, but W3techs suggest that CentOS owns 10.6% of websites running Linux, compared to 0.9% for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS is a community version of RHEL while CentOS Stream is an upstream project, “a preview of upcoming minor and major releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux”, such as described by Red Hat.

“The end of life of CentOS as we know it has had a negative effect on my business and its customers as well as just about everyone in the industry,” said Kurtzer. The register. “I thought it was important to learn the lessons from CentOS and put them into a new project … and I love operating systems.”

Kurtzer was one of the original founders of CentOS, along with Rocky McGough (hence the new name) and Lance Davis. CentOS was born when Red Hat Linux gave way to Red Hat Enterprise Linux in 2003 – an equally traumatic change, according to Kurtzer. “They ended several versions of the distribution in one day basically, and the whole community was in dire need of something. We already had a build system because we were building Caos Linux and we said, let’s see if this build system is going to build Red Hat’s source RPMS and that’s what it did, ”he recalls.

What is different this time around? “The first versions of CentOS were built on laptops and personal workstations and that created a very small and cliquey culture,” he said. “This culture persisted for most of the life of CentOS, even after its acquisition by Red Hat it was still considered a small number of core developers.”

“With Rocky, we didn’t have the same urgency,” Kurtzer said, with CentOS 8 being supported until the end of 2021. “We had about a year to create the successor. I estimated that companies needed six months to validate the tests and make a transition. So I told the team, we have six months. I wanted to create a much more diverse community of contributors and develop the project so that it was not a little click. “

Much of Rocky Linux’s initial job was to build the infrastructure. “It’s a pretty complicated infrastructure to build,” Kurtzer told us. “We had to write code to orchestrate some of the workloads, so distribution is software that we have open-source. It took about two months to build the operating system. It was an easier problem to solve than infrastructure … we emulated the Fedora infrastructure because it has a lot of outside contributors. “

Kurtzer spoke at length about the governance of Rocky Linux and how he created a B (public benefit) company rather than a 501 (c) (non-profit) for the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation, a movement apparently at odds with the community culture it advocates. There is a personal story here. “I was creating a 501 (c) (3) for the Caos Foundation, which was the host of Caos Linux, which ended up being the host of CentOS, I had all my papers filled out and filed and it’s at that point that the CentOS debacle started, “he said.

What was the CentOS debacle? The most public incident was this, but there is another story, some of which are mentioned here and in the linked video interview. Kurtzer now says, “What I learned along the way is that a 501 (c) nonsense is no guarantee of integrity and honesty and good behavior … and I was like, if I have to do it, I don’t want to put myself in this environment anymore.

“At some point it might be the right thing to do, but initially I can guarantee that it won’t happen if I have some control. This is nothing new for open source projects. to have a single leader in control, ”he said, referring to Linus Torvalds and Linux, although now“ he has ceded a lot of ownership to the Linux Foundation which is a 501 (c) “.

He insisted that there are “checks and balances” including that “I actually can’t take over the infrastructure. I can’t physically.” This is because credentials are held by teams, each of which controls their part of the project, such as engineering, testing, and publishing.

“If I were to do something that is a bad move for the project, or that the team doesn’t agree with, they can change the name and fork or move the infrastructure almost immediately,” he said. he declares. “I want to encourage this … and a second check and balance is the transparency of the infrastructure, especially for replication. If we fail one way or another, I want to make sure that another project can pick up where we left off. “

According to Kurtzer, the key to the longevity of an open source project is “to have multiple companies involved and to have a voice … this will create the stability that people need right now in open source, thanks to what happened for everything from Mongo to Elastic, “referring to two companies that have changed the licenses of their open source products.

Rocky Linux and other RHEL compatible distributions such as AlmaLinux and Oracle Linux can only be successful as long as RHEL itself remains effective. How does Rocky Linux’s work affect Red Hat? “I actually think it’s good for Red Hat,” says Kurtzer, as every organization that uses RHEL-enabled distributions helps cement the idea that RHEL is the corporate standard. “The other option? Everyone is going to Debian and Ubuntu, or SUSE, ”he said.

Other than that, is Rocky Linux giving anything back to Red Hat? This is where Kurtzer says something surprising. “CentOS to me stands for Community Enterprise Operating System and it is obvious that they killed the Community Enterprise Operating System by terminating it.

“Now Neal Gompa [a member of the openSUSE board] challenged me two days ago on this, that switching to Stream gives the community a more direct mechanism than Fedora to interact with this. CentOS has moved from being a community enterprise operating system to being the developer interface with the enterprise operating system.

“It completely changes the perspective of what Stream is. I’m finally okay with calling it CentOS Stream. It upset me for a while because we came up with the name CentOS and then all of a sudden, he has been killed. “

I think Red Hat did a terrific job in terms of how they orchestrated this. I was slow to adopt it, but I understand what they are doing now.

This is the second mutual benefit with Red Hat, he said. “We can interface with CentOS Stream. Enterprise Linux pulls from the CentOS Git repository as we pull from the CentOS Git repository. We’re more of a peer. What we’re all downstream from is CentOS Stream. Now we can. done, push the bugfixes straight into that same git repository that Red Hat pulls from.

“So, is there a mutual benefit? Absolutely, and I look forward to being able to contribute upstream to CentOS Stream. And then, benefit from both Red Hat and Rocky, as well as all corporate Linux distributions. from there. I think Red Hat did a terrific job in terms of how they orchestrated this. I was slow to adopt it, but I understand what they are doing now. “

Despite this change in perspective, Kurtzer still thinks the way the change came about was disruptive. “I know some really big companies that were in the process of moving to Ubuntu. I’ve had a few that contacted me, I’m talking about really big oil and gas, telecom, healthcare and manufacturing companies. , that’s what you do because we’re nervous, we’re trying to convert all of our tools to Ubuntu and Debian, but if we don’t have to, we don’t want to. “

Where is the secure boot for Rocky Linux?

What is the status of signing the Rocky Linux release for secure boot, which has been frustrating for some potential users? Kurtzer said Microsoft, which issues the certificates, has delayed things. “In fact, we were just being held back by them… we are now validating everything.

“Hopefully in a few weeks we will see Secure Boot released and done correctly, the process took a bit of time as we did everything from scratch and we had no inheritance.” According to Kurtzer, now that the infrastructure is in place, Rocky Linux should release at “about the same rate” as other RHEL compatible versions.

What will happen after Rocky Linux 8 is completely finished?

“The goal is to extend the operating system through special interest groups (SIGs),” Kurtzer said. “I’m really interested in high performance computing and hybrid cloud. Others have created hyperscale GIS, GIS for legacy hardware, GIS for laptops and workstations, GIS for media and entertainment, GIS for storage, GIS for EDA [Electronic Design Automation]. There is going to be some overlap with CentOS GIS as well as Fedora and EPEL packaging, but I think what we can do is be the new kid on the block. “

Finally, Kurtzer said having multiple RHEL compatible projects is OK. “Having several projects that also solve this problem, I consider it to be an advantage for the community.

“I don’t see it as a separation of resources … everything should be transparent and everyone should be able to see what everyone else is doing. Consumers know that if something happens to Rocky, in a matter of minutes, it can make the difference. transition to Alma. If something happens to Alma, in a matter of minutes they can move to Oracle or Red Hat because we’re all compatible. None of that matters. We all solve the same problem. ®

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