[CentOS] Will CentOS become obsolete now because of the changes Red Hat is implementing?

Rudi Ahlers Rudi at SoftDux.com
Sat Mar 5 10:07:10 UTC 2011

This post appeared on another forum:

Will CentOS become obsolete now because of the changes Red Hat is implementing?

Red Hat has changed the way it distributes Enterprise Linux kernel
code in an effort to prevent Oracle and Novell from stealing its
customers, making it more difficult for these competitors to
understand which patches have been applied where.

Some have speculated that the change is designed to make it harder for
Oracle as well as the open source CentOS project to build their own
Linux distributions. But Stevens says this is not the case. He says
the change is meant to hamper Oracle and Novell's ability to offer
support to customers who are already running Red Hat Enterprise Linux

"We made the change, quite honestly, because we are absolutely making
a set of steps that make it more difficult for competitors that wish
to provide support services on top of Red Hat Enterprise Linux," Red
Hat chief technology officer Brian Stevens tells The Register, before
naming those competitors. "Today, there are two competitors that I'm
aware of that go to our customers directly, offering to support RHEL
directly for them...Oracle and Novell."

In essence, Red Hat is trying to hide information from these
competitors that is essential to providing support for RHEL
specifically. "What we're trying to impede is competitors that come to
customers who are already running RHEL under subscription from Red Hat
and saying 'Don't pay Red Hat anymore, pay us, and don't make any
changes to your systems'," Stevens says.

He insists that the change does not violate either the letter or the
spirit of RHEL's GPL open source license. "We were very careful that
what we've done does not impede what our customers need to accomplish
or what the community needs to accomplish." And he says that the
change would not really hamper the development of other Linux distros,
including CentOS.

"We haven't at all restricted CentOS's ability to grab source code and
recompile it and clean-out trademarks and package it. It's just some
of the knowledge of the insides that we're hiding," he explains. One
longtime CentOS developer agrees.

"I'll not lose sleep on the matter," CentOS co-founder Russ Herold
tells The Reg.

In November, with the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, the
company released its kernel package with all patches pre-applied. "In
the past, we distributed the kernel as a base file and then a set of
add-on patches that accompany it. Then when you did a build, the build
process automatically applied all those patches to the kernel file,"
Stevens says. "Now, we integrate those patch files directly into that
kernel. We do the first part of the build process prior to

This was recently noticed by kernel-community member and LWN editor
Jonathan Corbet, who took issue with the change, calling Red Hat's
package "obfuscated" kernel source code.

"Distribution in this form should satisfy the GPL, but it makes life
hard for anybody else wanting to see what has been done with this
kernel," Corbet wrote. "Hopefully it is simply a mistake which will be
corrected soon." Others speculated that the move would undermine not
only Oracle's Unbreakable Linux, but also CentOS. Both are based on

CentOS is meant to be a RHEL clone. Whereas the compiled bits of Red
Hat Enterprise Linux are only available under a Red Hat paid
subscription, CentOS is completely free.

"The changes will make work harder for distributions such as CentOS,
the community-built Linux distribution ... based on Red Hat's
sources," H Online said. "CentOS is built from the RHEL source by a
limited number of volunteers and Red Hat's change in policy will mean
more work for them unless more volunteers or other companies step in
and provide them with assistance."

We heard similar noises from an experienced Linux kernel developer. He
said that Red Hat's change was like shuffling all the cards in an old
fashioned Dewey Decimal library file system – the card you want is
still there, but finding it is no easy task – and that this would
cause problems for CentOS, which is an economic threat to Red Hat.

But CentOS founder Russ Herold insists the change is not a big issue.
"Private local trial builds of the released RHEL 6 sources by me and
others have proceeded with no major problems. I just do not see that
the changes as some earth-shattering change. I just think [the patches
will be] incrementally more difficult to figure out," he says.

"Nothing in Red Hat's new approach prevents a person from running a
local version-control system, containing the pristine kernel at point
A, and the Red Hat variant which we might call point B. Then one runs
a 'diff' in that version-control system between A and B, and starts
reading the diffs to see what is happening. Over time, both the
pristine kernel, and the patched Red Hat versions will vary, and one
will get a sense for which 'diff' parts matter, and which are cosmetic

Other distros will not be affected, Red Hat's Stevens says, because
the company distributes its kernel changes upstream as well. "The work
that we've done should not impede companies from building their own
versions of Linux and supporting those for their customers," he says.
"All the code we deliver through RHEL is out there. In most cases, the
changes that go into RHEL. We already distribute into the upstream
kernel. We have an upstream-first policy, where we're developing
openly and then later integrating into our tree and then delivering
it. So it shouldn't at all impede the community or anybody that's in
the business of competing on that."

Red Hat, he reiterates, is trying to keep RHEL-specific knowledge away
from Oracle and Novell. With past RHEL kernel-code distributions, the
patches mapped to articles in Red Hat's knowledge base. "It makes
competitors do heavy lifting," he says. "If you want to support RHEL,
remove the trademarks, and do some heavy lifting. If nothing else, it
causes competitors to have to invest."

This won't hamper CentOS, he says, because CentOS isn't in the support
business. "The code is still available. It's just more difficult to
support the distro as a commercial entity. CentOS is not in the
support business."

Oracle and Novell are in the support business. And whatever collateral
damage was caused by Red Hat's change in policy, one thing is for
sure. On some level, it will indeed be more difficult for Oracle and
Novell to pilfer the company's customers.

Full story here : http://www.channelregister.co.uk/201...ode_packaging/

Can any of the CentOS team please comment on this?

P.S. I don't want to put extra pressure on you guys seeing as the
recent conversations about Centos 5.6 & CentOS 6 have done enough
damage already, but it would be interesting to know what the future of
CentOS is like with RedHat's change
Kind Regards
Rudi Ahlers

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