CentOS has been a key player in the open source and enterprise Linux space for over a decade. Since 2004, it has provided organizations and users with a dependable, secure, and affordable alternative to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Its adoption across diverse industries, including high-performance computing (HPC) and web hosting, showcases its reliability and adaptability.
That changed when Red Hat terminated the development of CentOS 8 and announced it would be shifting to an alternative rolling-release Linux distribution. This change generated tremendous uncertainty about the future of CentOS-based systems. Gregory Kurtzer, a CentOS project co-founder, created Rocky Linux in response to that. Specifically, Kurtzer wanted to continue CentOS's original mission: providing a free, supported Enterprise Linux distribution that's binary compatible with RHEL.
The Origins and Foundation of CentOS
In 2004, Gregory Kurtzer, Lance Davis, Rocky McGaugh, and other contributors formed CentOS to offer a community-driven, free alternative to RHEL. The project's first release, CentOS 2, was based on RHEL 2 source code. Over time, CentOS gained popularity in various sectors as a go-to option for those seeking a stable, RHEL-compatible distribution without subscription costs.
CentOS's primary mission was to provide a free, supported Enterprise Linux distribution compatible with RHEL. By rebuilding RHEL's source code, CentOS offered users a distribution that closely followed RHEL's updates, security patches, and bug fixes, ensuring high stability and compatibility.
This commitment to stability, reliability, and compatibility made it a popular choice for organizations and users in open source, Enterprise Linux, and HPC communities. Its compatibility with RHEL allowed applications and software built for RHEL to run seamlessly on CentOS systems, reducing costs and encouraging open source software adoption across industries.
The Shift in CentOS's Direction
In December 2020, Red Hat revealed that CentOS would transition from a stable, downstream rebuild of RHEL to an upstream development branch called CentOS Stream. This change meant CentOS would no longer closely follow RHEL releases and would instead serve as a testing ground for future RHEL features and updates.
The announcement surprised the CentOS community, raising concerns about the future of CentOS-based infrastructure. Many users and organizations relying on CentOS for stability and long-term support faced uncertainty, as the change threatened CentOS's most appealing aspects.
With CentOS now serving as an upstream development branch, users worried that the distribution would become less stable and reliable, potentially impacting their mission-critical applications and systems.
Rocky Linux: Carrying the Torch
Following the change in CentOS's direction, Gregory Kurtzer, CentOS's original founder, created Rocky Linux to continue its original mission. He sought to provide a free, RHEL-compatible, community-driven Enterprise Linux distribution focused on stability and long-term support.
The CentOS community quickly embraced the new Rocky Linux project, with many developers, contributors, and users offering their expertise and support. This community involvement significantly contributed to Rocky Linux's rapid development and growth, showcasing the open source community's dedication and commitment.
Rocky Linux launched its first stable version, Rocky Linux 8.3, in June 2021, only months after the project's inception. The project has since continued to grow, regularly offering updates and enhancements to ensure compatibility, stability, and support for its users.
Rocky Linux: Embracing the Original CentOS Mission
Rocky Linux maintains RHEL compatibility as a downstream rebuild of RHEL's source code, similar to CentOS. This compatibility allows applications and software developed for RHEL to run seamlessly on Rocky Linux, offering users an affordable, RHEL-compatible alternative.
Rocky Linux is dedicated to providing stability, reliability, and long-term support, just as CentOS did. By closely tracking RHEL releases and incorporating updates, bug fixes, and security patches shortly after RHEL's releases, Rocky Linux ensures enterprise-grade security, stability, and support for its users.
As an open source project, Rocky Linux is free to use, modify, and distribute. This dedication to open source values enables organizations and users to enjoy an enterprise-class operating system without the financial burden of enterprise software subscription fees.
Additionally, a devoted community of developers, contributors, and users backs Rocky Linux, providing support, knowledge sharing, and continual enhancements. This community-driven approach allows users to access resources like documentation, forums, mailing lists, and more for free.
In enabling this growth, Rocky Linux supports a wide range of hardware architectures and software packages, ensuring users can deploy Rocky Linux on various systems and take advantage of a vast repository of software, tools, and libraries, just as they would with RHEL.
Future Potential and Innovation with Rocky Linux
Rocky Linux has rapidly become a top choice for organizations and users seeking a stable, secure, and cost-effective RHEL alternative. Its compatibility, reliability, and community-driven nature make it a compelling option in the open source and Enterprise Linux landscape.
With its dedicated community's support and commitment to CentOS’s original vision, Rocky Linux has a bright future. As the project grows and evolves, it is poised to drive innovation and continue to foster Rocky Linux adoption across various industries, preserving the CentOS legacy.