AlmaLinux appears to be succeeding in its goal to provide Red Hat Enterprise Linux compatibility despite recent challenges.
Red Hat rocked the Linux and open-source world when it announced it would restrict RHEL source access to paying customers. The motivation was an effort to stifle downstream builds — such as AlmaLinux, Rocky Linux, and Oracle Linux — that were built off of RHEL. The move sparked massive backlash, with each of the downstream distros announcing various efforts to work around Red Hat’s decision.
AlmaLinux announced it would abandon 1:1 compatibility with RHEL, focusing instead on Application Binary Interface (ABI) compatibility. According to ZDNet, it appears AlmaLinux is succeeding in its goal.
At the open-source All Things Open convention, AlmaLinux chairperson benny Vasquez described how the RHEL clone is pulling from the upstream CentOS Stream, which is the same base RHEL uses.
“Of all the packages, 99% still exactly look at RHEL.” Vasquez said. Of those that don’t, “about 24% of those packages require manual patching.”
Red Hat’s kernel patches are still posing a bit of a challenge since “you can’t get those kernel updates without violating Red Hat’s licensing agreements. What we do is we pull the security patches from various other sources, and, if nothing else, we can find them when Oracle releases them,” since Oracle has promised continued 1:1 RHEL compatibility.
As ZDNet points out, Vasquez says a major benefit of the change has been the freedom to move faster than RHEL on critical updates.
“For example, the AMD microcode exploits were patched before Red Hat because they took a little bit of extra time to get out the door. We then pulled in, tested, and out the door about a week ahead of them.”
Despite Red Hat’s actions, it appears at least one of the RHEL clones is thriving and showing how open source can deal with similar threats.