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Happy Third Birthday to the AlmaLinux OS Foundation!

Last updated on March 25, 2024

Time to put on your birthday hat and sing Happy Birthday. Today the AlmaLinux OS Foundation turns three!

Source: Pixabay

The AlmaLinux OS Foundation today came out of the “terrible twos” to celebrate it’s third birthday, which I guess means that the foundation behind one of the two community-focused drop-in replacements for Red Hat Enterprise Linux is now an official toddler — if I can be allowed to anthropomorphize a not-for-profit organization.

AlmaLinux, in case you don’t know, is a Linux distribution that, along with Rocky Linux, started life to fill the gap left behind when Red Hat announced that CentOS would no longer be released as a line-by-line downstream copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. CentOS was popular because anybody could use it for any purpose without having to pony up for a Red Hat support subscription.

The AlmaLinux OS Foundation is the community owned and operated nonprofit organization that oversees its namesake disribution’s development and maintenance.

The theme for this year’s birthday is “No Drama, Just Linux,” which I figure is appropriate because a two-year-old throwing a tantrum is about as dramatic as it gets, which makes being a three-year-old seem like the apex of reason by comparison. However, when I asked benny Vasquez, the Foundation’s chairperson and a big cheerleader for the project, she had a bit of a different take.

“No one wants drama when it comes to something as foundational as their operating system,” she said. “You want stability, security, ease of use, and reliability. That’s what we do: quietly and consistently provide a stable operating system for anyone who doesn’t like drama in their day.”

Igor Seletskiy, CEO at Cloud Linux, which is not only one of the foundation’s platinum sponsors, but the company that started both AlmaLinux and its eponymous foundation, pointed to how quickly the project has been adopted since its launch.

“The immense growth of the AlmaLinux OS Foundation over the last three years reflects the value it offers users around the globe,” he said in a statement. “AlmaLinux’s presence in international corporations as well as top research and academic organizations speaks for itself — and I’m humbled to have worked alongside great minds to make it all possible.”

AlmaLinux Usage

While it’s pretty much not possible to know exactly how many people and organizations are using any Linux distro, this is even more true for a distro such as AlmaLinux which is primarily designed as a server operating system, because a single download from an official mirror might result in tens, hundreds, or even thousands of installs.

However, we can get a bit of a handle on the distro’s usage by looking at some numbers the folks at the AlmaLinux OS Foundation have made available, which look not only at usage of the distro itself, but supply other other metrics that point to both the health of the project and the amount of community support its receiving:

  • 5,000,000+ docker pulls
  • 900,000+ servers calling home to 350+ mirrors in its mirror system
  • 400+ foundation members
  • 150+ code contributors
  • 70+ companies contributing code
  • 25 commercial sponsors
  • 11 releases
  • 4 supported architectures

About that last item: AlmaLinux can be installed on x86, Power, Arm, and IBM Z architectures.

On Monday, AlmaLinux celebrated AlmaLinux Day 2024 in Germany which was attended by more than 300 people.

Other RHEL/CentOS Linux Replacements

AlmaLinux isn’t the only Linux distribution that’s been vying for attention in the RHEL clone arena since CentOS quit being an option, with AlmaLinux, Oracle Linux, and Rocky Linux being the three largest.

Oracle Linux had actually been around for well over a decade before the CentOS Linux brouhaha that gave birth to AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux. It started life as an attempt by Oracle to cause grief for Red Hat after Red Hat’s 2006 purchase of JBoss, which came on the heels of a failed attempt by Oracle to purchase the same company for about the same amount of money as Red Hat ended up spending on the acquisition.

Because Oracle had partnered with Red Hat for years, with Oracle recommending RHEL as a preferred operating system for it’s database products, founder and then CEO Larry Ellison evidently saw this as a betrayal by Red Hat. As a response, Ellison not only had Oracle offer a clone of Red Hat, he also attempted to undermine Red Hat’s subscription pipeline — by far the company’s main source of revenue — by offering RHEL support contracts at a fraction of what Red Hat was charging.

These days, Oracle Linux is offered both as a line-by-line copy of RHEL, and is also available in a version that uses Oracle’s Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel.

Rocky Linux, the other major contender, was started by Gregory Kurtzer who is a co-founder of the original CentOS project. He was also the first to announce the launch of a replacement for CentOS, shortly after Red Hat announced an early end of life to CentOS 8 and that the distro was being repurposed to no longer be a downstream RHEL clone.

Both Rocky and Oracle Linux are marketed as line-by-line clones of RHEL. Towards this end, Oracle Linux relies on the Open Enterprise Linux Association, an organization that was started after Red Hat began attempting to make it more difficult for third-parties to gain access to its source code. It’s a collaborative effort between Oracle, SUSE, and CIQ, and it maintains a public facing repository of RHEL source code.

Although Rocky Linux is connected to OpenELA by proxy (co-counder Kurtzer, who is the distro’s owner of record for tax purposes, is also the founder and CEO of CIQ), it evidently doesn’t need to rely on OpenELA code to build its clone of RHEL. Brian Clemens, a co-founder of both Rocky Linux and Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation, said in a post on Mastodon that the distro doesn’t doesn’t use OpenELA as a source, although it does plan to eventually evaluate the organization’s code as a possible supplemental source.

“The existing Rocky Linux processes have overcome attempts at disturbing them, usage of OpenELA will only add to that resiliency,” said Clemens, who is also RESF’s VP.

AlmaLinux started life as a RHEL clone, but when Red Hat began to restrict access to its source code it moved instead to a model that offers ABI compatibility with RHEL, starting with AlmaLinux 9.3. This means that although the software might not be an exact copy of RHEL, the OS will offer a user experience that is indistinguishable from RHEL, regardless of whether the code is copied and pasted from RHEL’s source or comes from other channels.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said that Rocky Linux uses code published by OpenELA to build its software, which is not correct.

One Comment

  1. RetiredIT RetiredIT March 23, 2024

    If I used a Red Hat distro it would be Rocky and not AlmaLinux. I had the most problems with AlmaLinux. But I can’t use either of them because a Bible program I use will not run on any Red Hat distro.

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