UPDATED 13:20 EST / AUGUST 11 2023


Oracle, SUSE and CIQ launch Open Enterprise Linux Association to target Red Hat

SUSE SA, Oracle Corp. and Ctrl IQ Inc. announced Thursday the formation of a new industry alliance forming the Open Enterprise Linux Association, OpenELA, a new organization that aims to encourage the development of distributions compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

The companies said the formation of the new alliance came about because of the recent changes in the availability of the source code for RHEL, which would restrict its presence from public repositories. The new policy was outlined in June by Mike McGrath, vice president of core platforms at Red Hat, to make CentOS, a beta upstream version for the distribution, the only public source for RHEL, however as a repository it is always out of date. As a result, developers of open-source versions of Enterprise Linux would no longer be able to easily build and redistribute RHEL compatible distributions.

Already present RHEL clones such as Alma Linux and Rocky Linux that are available at no cost and with the source code have now had to make decisions about their future. Alma Linux opted to use the CentOS distribution and no longer be 1:1 bug compatible, but only “Application Binary Compatible,” and Rocky Linux said that it found new ways to obtain RHEL source code.

“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.”

SUSE announced in July that it intended to fork RHEL along with a $10 million investment in the project over the next few years. The company said that it intends to produce “a long-term, enduring compatible alterative for RHEL and CentOS users.” The distribution would become an open-source foundation for ongoing free access alternative source code. Rocky Linux, which is commercially backed by CIQ, said would work in collaboration with SUSE on this project.

“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.”

Later this year, OpenELA will provide sources necessary for downstream distributions compatible with RHEL to exist beginning with version EL8, EL9 and possibly EL7. The alliance members said that the project is committed to the continued availability of source availability for the community indefinitely.

“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of a new era for EL,” said Gregory Kurtzer, chief executive of CIQ. “With OpenELA, CIQ, Oracle and SUSE join forces with the open-source community to ensure a stable and resilient future for both upstream and downstream communities to leverage Enterprise Linux.”

It isn’t uncommon for companies to use open-source licenses and release code into public repositories in order to encourage developers to adopt and distribute their software broadly. A potential issue that can arise from this behavior is that although it gives a market appeal, it also means that the software is available for free in the market. Which could have been pressure from Red Hat’s parent company IBM Corp., which bought the company five years ago for nearly $34 billion.

Red Hat isn’t the only company that has been rethinking the use of open-source distribution and licenses recently. The information technology automation firm HashiCorp Inc. announced Thursday that it’s switching from the Mozilla Public License, a fully open-source license, to the Business Source License, on eight open-source projects.

Although the Business Source License allows for providing source availability as it is a license where the source code is provided, it is just not permissible for production use, but becomes open source four years after release. Also, under the BSL, users of HashiCorp projects can modify the source code but cannot use the code as part of commercial service during the four-year period if it competes with a HashiCorp commercial version.

In the announcement, HashiCorp Chief Technology Officer Armon Dadgar said that the open-source approach had made it possible for the company to partner closely with cloud providers and technology partners. “However, there are other vendors who take advantage of pure OSS models, and the community work on OSS projects, for their own commercial goals, without providing material contributions back,” he said. “We don’t believe this is in the spirit of open source.”

In conclusion, he said, that commercial open-source models would need to evolve in order to follow along with how the ecosystem was changing. Although these licenses have greatly reduced the barrier for developers to adopt services and products, and copy innovations, many different vendors have also caused the pendulum to swing toward closed source.

Current examples include enterprise infrastructure and software providers such as Redis Ltd., MongoDB Inc., Couchbase Inc., Cockroach Labs Inc. and MariaDB, all of which switched from open-source licenses to more restrictive licenses. The BSL was created by MariaDB in 2013 as a mixed alternative between open-source and commercially restrictive licenses that attempts to balance the interests between the two.

Image: OpenELA

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