Codenotary signs on to become AlmaLinux’s first $100,000 a year top tier Platinum supporter less than a month before CentOS 8’s end of life.
FOSS Force has learned that on Thursday the AlmaLinux Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind the eponymous freshman Linux distribution that’s positioning itself as a drop-in CentOS alternative, will announce that Codenotary has joined its governance board as its first top-tier Platinum member, and that AlmaLinux board member Jack Aboutboul has taken a job as VP of product at Codenotary.
In an email exchange with FOSS Force, Aboutboul verified Codenotary’s Platinum membership, his employment there, and that he will continue to hold his positions at AlmaLinux.
Houston-based startup Codenotary markets highly scalable open source software built around its immudb (for immutable database, a fast and cryptographically-verifiable ledger database) for helping companies protect their software supply chain, which has become increasingly important in the wake of the Solarwinds software supply chain attack that surfaced late last year. The company’s software is available for enterprises to run on their own equipment or in cloud instances, or through Codenotary’s Software as a Service offering called Codenotary Cloud.
Codenotary was also a user of CentOS Linux, a Red Hat Enterprise Linux clone that AlmaLinux was created by CloudLinux to replace after Red Hat announced late last year that CentOS 8 would be given an early end of life at the end of 2021. Going forward, the distribution will no longer be a downstream RHEL clone, but has already been repositioned upstream under a new name, CentOS Stream, where it serves as something of a “nightly build” (Red Hat’s words, not mine) of RHEL.
“Our company is deeply committed to open source and users of AlmaLinux,” Codenotary’s co-founder and CEO, Moshe Bar, said in a statement released by AlmaLinux. “We’re big believers in what AlmaLinux is doing to provide an alternative for us CentOS users and wanted to put a commitment behind the project to continue the fine work it is doing and propel its future.”
A Platinum membership with AlmaLinux would cost Codenotary $100,000 annually, or with membership committee approval the company could agree to furnish “three dedicated FTE [full-time equivalent] working on AlmaLinux.”
Codenotary’s method for purchasing its membership hasn’t been made public at this point, but FOSS Force has learned that it was a combination of the two methods, and that overall, Codenotary paid “more than the minimum.”
It’s CEO Bar’s endorsement, however, that might hold the most value for AlmaLinux at this juncture, rather than cash or dev-time. Bar brings a considerable amount of respect from enterprise open source circles to the table — and it’s the enterprise, which is estimated to collectively have had well over a million servers running CentOS 7 or 8 in data centers around the globe when Red Hat’s announcement was made, that will ultimately decide how the CentOS market will be divided.
A venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Bar was a co-founder of XenSource (the company behind the Xen hypervisor), which was purchased in 2007 by Citrix for $500 million. After that, he co-founded Qumranet, the developer and key maintainer of KVM (for Kernel-based Virtual Machine), a kernel module that lets the Linux kernel function as a hypervisor. Red Hat bought Qumranet in 2008 for $107 million.
This is important to AlmaLinux because CentOS (which was forced to put itself under Red Hat’s care in 2014 due to financial difficulties, which in the long run was akin to a chicken having to put itself under the protection of a fox) proved that a community maintained clone of RHEL cannot survive without financial independence.
Finding adequate funding would likely not be much of a problem if AlmaLinux had no competition, but it does — it isn’t the only distribution vying to fill the void created by the early death of CentOS Linux. Far from it.
Among the four or five other RHEL clones seeking traction in this space is Rocky Linux, which was announced at about the same time and for many of the same reasons as AlmaLinux by Gregory Kurtzer, the founder and CEO of the high performance computing startup Ctrl IQ, and who claims to have been one of the original founders of CentOS, an assertion that’s been questioned in some quarters.
Despite other distributions being in the running, including Oracle Linux and Scientific Linux which are both RHEL clones with long track records, many watchers of CentOS space are seeing this as primarily a competition between the two newcomers, Rocky and Alma.
If so, AlmaLinux with its early ties to the commercial distribution CloudLinux, has the advantage on the technology side.
When AlmaLinux began development, CloudLinux already had the technology in place to clone CentOS to be the base for its hardened and tuned-for-virtualization CloudLinux, and moving from that to cloning RHEL instead was relatively easy. This advantage is evident when comparing the two distributions’ release schedules. AlmaLinux’s first stable release was made in early March, with Rocky following three months later, in June. In November, when RHEL 8.5 was released, AlmaLinux was able to have a stable 8.5 version out the door in less than 48 hours, with Rocky Linux 8.5 following several days after that.
AlmaLinux has also released as open source software that will be useful for those migrating away from CentOS, whether that migration is to Alma, Rocky, or something else. This includes ELevate, software that allows for a fairly easy migration from version 7.x of RHEL or any RHEL clone to version 8.x of any RHEL-based distribution.
“Announcing Codenotary as our first Platinum sponsor in less than 12 months since AlmaLinux was formed is a huge milestone, highlighting the growing maturity of the open source project,” said benny Vasquez, board chair of the AlmaLinux OS Foundation.
“Our driving belief is that a CentOS Linux successor should be community owned and managed to ensure our independence and longevity,” she added. “Codenotary’s support enables us to expand our focus on community management and release engineering, which are vital components and a real focus of our project. We are thrilled that they are deepening their involvement to further drive innovation in the community.”