Rocky Linux was created to offer the community an alternative following Red Hat’s recent decision to shift its focus away from CentOS—the open source version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). However, the Linux distro’s popularly can also be attributed to how its creator sought to offer a superior alternative based on lessons learned during CentOS’ development—and less as a perceived backlash to Red Hat’s controversial move, said Gregory Kurtzer, Rocky Linux’s creator, who is also founder and CEO of Ctrl IQ.
“As one can probably imagine, there were a lot of lessons learned from the founding of CentOS—we did a lot of things correctly, but we made some mistakes, as well, that set into motion some of the difficulties the project went through,” said Kurtzer. “I was not—nor am I now—upset at Red Hat or anyone else. It’s important to understand that companies have a legal responsibility to do what they need to do. But I will say, this is why open source communities should not be controlled by a single company, especially if that company has a competing product to the open source project.”
In addition to applying experience gained from the CentOS project to help “recreate the initial goals of CentOS in a new project,” Kurtzer said he was prompted to create Rocky Linux following Red Hat’s decision to end-of-life (EOL) CentOS. The move “affected my company, our customers, as well as the entire industry,” said Kurtzer.
“To be blunt, my knowledge—in terms of doing it myself is severely dated. Luckily, after I made the announcement that I was considering recreating CentOS, thousands of people reached out to me wanting to be part of the project and contribute,” said Kurtzer. “From that, our development team and open source community was born.”
Additionally, CentOS Stream offers value to the community by allowing “us and others” to take part in developing the upstream Enterprise Linux standard, said Kurtzer, who added that his team will continue to debug Rocky Linux so that solutions are properly integrated into the Enterprise Linux Standard.
“The necessity was absolutely clear, so I founded Rocky Linux and the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF),” Kurtzer explained. “Together with our contributors, sponsors and partners, we all have united for a common goal: to create an open source community that will provide us all with an enterprise operating system to stand the test of time, attrition and commercial agendas.”
Interest in the development of a CentOS alternative was strong when Kurtzer first floated the idea of the project to the community. Since its release in June, the total number of ISO downloads is 56,000, according to Rocky Linux Tier0 mirror data.
“We have zero visibility as to any other ISO downloads from any of our other mirrors, but if I were to guess, I’d say it would be about two to three times more, in total,” said Kurtzer. “When we all get a moment to breathe, it will be fun to see how many people are using Rocky Linux, and take in all the feedback the community has provided,” he said.
With this team of developers, Kurtzer said it took about seven months to build the general availability (GA) release. “We didn’t just jump right into building the operating system because the goal was to create an infrastructure where many contributors and developers can take part without putting the security of the product at risk. Building that infrastructure took about four months,” Kurtzer said. “Once the infrastructure was completed, we spent about two months building the first-release beta candidate and then spent the following month ensuring that we did everything correctly.”