CentOS joins forces with RedHat

This might sound a little bit gossipy, but I think it’s important all the same, because it’s going to have technical ramifications.

As announced on the CentOS list, CentOS and RedHat have joined forces. What that means is that CentOS Board now has several RedHat employees on it, and RedHat now has several CentOS developers on staff, including Karanbir Singh:

There are a lot of people scratching their heads on this, because there’s a widely perceived notion that CentOS is a direct competitor to RHEL, but that’s actually not the case. While I’m sure RedHat would love to make paying customers out of every one of the CentOS users out there, their REAL competitor is Oracle.

Because of the licensing of the software in question, RedHat needs to make all of the changes that it makes public. This includes all of the original releases, plus things like patches and updates.

CentOS Linux became a “thing” by taking the software that RedHat released, stripping the RedHat branding, applying their own, and releasing it for free as CentOS.

Oracle Linux became a “thing” by taking the software that RedHat released, stripping the RedHat branding, applying their own, and charging a buttload for support on it. Which means it’s basically doing exactly what RedHat does, and pointing at exactly the same market.

A while back, RedHat stopped releasing discrete patches and updates, opting instead to issue bulk updates which would still follow the letter of the law in the software license, but be much harder for third parties like Oracle to pick apart when they needed to backport features from those patches. Unfortunately for the community of CentOS users, this hit them too, and the effect was dramatic.

Now, however, I would have to imagine that this puts CentOS in a bit of a better position. I don’t know the legal ramifications (if you do, then comment and share) but they may be able to take advantage of privileged information (and not need to use the public blobs of patches, but to have access to the developers who are issuing discrete changes internally).

So, did RedHat do this out of the goodness of their hearts? I’m going to guess probably not. Not that I’m sure they’re not all great (and the RedHat employees that I know of are, in fact, all really nice people), but I imagine that this is a way to poke Oracle in the eye. Every potential Oracle customer who chooses CentOS instead is a win for RedHat – The Enemy of My Enemy, and all that.

So what changes is CentOS going to get to encourage that kind of thing? Time will tell, but the new CentOS website suggests things of interest:

Over the coming year, the CentOS Project will expand its mission to establish CentOS Linux as a leading community platform for emerging open source technologies coming from other projects such as OpenStack. These technologies will be at the center of multiple variations of CentOS, as individual downloads or accessed from a custom installer. Read more about the variants and Special Interest Groups that produce them.

So, exciting times! I’d previously been a bit bearish on CentOS, just because they had made a commitment to match RHEL as closely as possible, and that’s hard to do when someone’s shooting at the guy behind you like RedHat was with Oracle. At this point, I’d feel much, much better about an infrastructure I had that ran CentOS.

What does this mean for Scientific Linux, the other widely-used RHEL clone? I don’t imagine much immediately, because they’re not going to be the beneficiaries of the increased RHEL/CentOS communication, but over time, they may find that people make it difficult to justify choosing their release over CentOS since RedHat clearly has given their blessing to the latter.

What do you think? Comment below!

  • PG

    This doesn’t surprise me. Remember, Oracle always works from a plan. It may not look like it, but it has a plan it is working from.

    1 – Establish Oracle Linux (OL) as a reliable OS distribution (for Oracle customers)
    1.5 – Get other vendors to test/certify on RHEL and UEK kernels on OL
    2 – Move customers over to Oracle Kernel (UEK) – no need for a RHEL kernel
    3 – Fork OL, why do we need RHEL ….? …. Our largest customers are now on OL with UEK …

    I think Oracle has been moving RH customers from RHEL to OL. How much? I don’t know. I think enough to concern RH. I don’t have any inside info, this is just one guy looking and watching.

    Oracle Linux is free and has free updates and most of all is it the same product as the fully supported (not for free) release. And it runs some of Oracle’s largest products if not all. That speaks a lot.

    Here is what I see, CentOS becomes RH dog to keep Oracle at bay… This shows Oracle that it’s plan is working.

    Remember…. Just a guy looking and watching nothing more!


  • Eugene

    There is a space in “Red Hat”.

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