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October 12th, 2021

Igor Seletskiy Steps Down to Assure AlmaLinux Independence

The CloudLinux CEO and founder of AlmaLinux steps down as the open source project’s chairperson to assure the distro’s independence.

AlmaLinux8

Today Igor Seletskiy, co-founder and CEO of CloudLinux, announced that he’s stepped down from his role as chairman of the board at the AlmaLinux Foundation, and is also vacating his seat on the board of directors.

The foundation, which he started earlier this year, produces AlmaLinux, a drop-in replacement for Red Hat’s CentOS Linux that Seletskiy announced in December, shortly after Red Hat said it was moving the Linux distribution from its traditional role as a downstream clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux to sit upstream as RHEL’s “nightly build.”

A replacement was needed because many organizations, including many Fortune 500 enterprises, use CentOS in production as a way to take advantage of RHEL’s stability without having to pay for support contracts.

Both Seletskiy and the AlmaLinux Foundation are very clear there’s no palace intrigue behind this move. The new distro’s founder is stepping down not because of some power struggle within the organization, but because he wants the distro he birthed to have a life of its own as an independent project.

Taking Seletskiy’s place as board chair is benny Vasquez (she prefers her first name to be lower case), who is a two year veteran — most recently as a community and developer relations manager — at the Seattle-based open source DevOps automation company Chef that’s now owned by the Massachusetts-based business application platform Progress. Before that, she spent more than six years in various community-focused positions at cPanel, an official supporter of the AlmaLinux project.

“We all owe Igor tremendous praise for his drive to create a CentOS alternative when the void was created at the end of last year,” she said in a statement. “As a result of his belief in the project, we have a tremendous amount of momentum and community support to build on. Igor and the AlmaLinux community have accomplished a great deal and really established a solid start for this industry initiative to carry on.”

The Importance of Community

Today’s announcement came exactly a week after AlmaLinux announced a membership program as a step to assure that the Linux distribution will be a community owned and governed project that’s not subject to the whims of a single corporate sponsor — not an easy task since AlmaLinux is used as the base for Seletskiy’s CloudLinux, a commercial, hardened Linux distribution used primarily by hosting companies.

“When we created AlmaLinux back in December, the most important part for us was to make it community-owned, not ‘community-controlled,’ whatever that means,” Seletskiy said in a statement. “We realized that corporate ownership of any kind would be a terminal illness for such a project. We wanted to make sure that all the trademarks, copyrights, and infrastructure would be owned by non-profit organizations, similar to the Linux Foundation.”

The use of the phrase “community-controlled” was ubdoubtedly an oblique reference to Gregory Kurtzer, the founder and CEO of Ctrl IQ (and the original founder of CentOS) who had announced Rocky Linux as a CentOS replacement shortly before Seletskiy announced AlmaLinux.

Kurtzer has since claimed that Rocky Linux is the “only” CentOS replacement that’s “community controlled” and not controlled by a single business interest, even though Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation, which oversees the Rocky project, is a for-profit Public Benefit Corporation founded and owned by Gregory Kurtzer, according to the Rocky Linux website.

Although the difference might be somewhat academic, AlmaLinux is not registered as a for-profit entity, but as a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization. Seletskiy’s also made further moves to assure the distro’s independence, under the guidance of board member Simon Phipps, the former president at the Open Source Initiative who’s credited with putting OSI on solid financial footing while maintaining the organization’s independence.

“It is the first non-profit organization I have ever set up, and I have to thank Simon Phipps for guiding us on that road,” Seletskiy explained in a blog. “It took us quite some time to form the initial board, come up with bylaws, re-do them, come up with a membership structure — all while releasing rock-solid AlmaLinux 8.3 and 8.4 and creating a community around it.”

The Road Ahead

In an interview with Joao Correia, a technical evangelist with CloudLinux, AlmaLinux’s new chairperson said that from her perspective, her new job is to “provide leadership and direction for the AlmaLinux Foundation and ensure that we are meeting the needs of the AlmaLinux community and supporting it wherever it’s needed, like outreach.”

“It’s a pretty unique spot because, realistically, this position doesn’t require much,” Vasquez said. “I think the title ‘Chair of the Board’ often comes with a lot of weight, but it doesn’t really require you to do much. You have some meetings, you make some decisions, but the bare minimum is not very high.”

“I see this role as important, especially right now for AlmaLinux, because we are at this critical point where with the right leadership and the right outreach we really can reach the people that need AlmaLinux,” she added.

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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