Red Hat Responds to Backlash About Its Source Code Decision

Red Hat has responded to backlash about its RHEL source code decision, confirming the suspected reasons behind it while still defending the choice....
Red Hat Responds to Backlash About Its Source Code Decision
Written by Staff
  • Red Hat has responded to backlash about its RHEL source code decision, confirming the suspected reasons behind it while still defending the choice.

    Mike McGrath, Vice President of Core Platforms Engineering, penned a follow-up blog post outlining Red Hat’s reasons for restricting RHEL’s source code to customers. McGrath makes a point of affirming his love of open source software and assuring readers that Red Hat is not trying to undermine that:

    I’ve been here for 16 years, and before I started working here, I was a volunteer in the Fedora Project. Open source and all that phrase entails are very important to me. Over the past week, I’ve seen many people say many unkind and untrue things about hard-working Red Hatters who, like me, value this work to its core.

    While not mentioning Rocky Linux or AlmaLinux by name, McGrath makes clear that Red Hat sees no value in distros downstream of RHEL that offer 1:1 compatibility, as the aforementioned distros do.

    Simply repackaging the code that these individuals produce and reselling it as is, with no value added, makes the production of this open source software unsustainable. That includes critical backporting work and future features and technologies under development upstream. If that work becomes unsustainable, it will stop, and that’s not good for anyone.

    Ultimately, we do not find value in a RHEL rebuild and we are not under any obligation to make things easier for rebuilders; this is our call to make.

    McGrath makes the case that all the work Red Hat does, and all the work contributors perform, deserves to be recognized and compensated. McGrath says that, unfortunately, many of the companies using free rebuilds of RHEL are not contributing to Red Hat’s bottom line.

    The generally accepted position that these free rebuilds are just funnels churning out RHEL experts and turning into sales just isn’t reality. I wish we lived in that world, but it’s not how it actually plays out. Instead, we’ve found a group of users, many of whom belong to large or very large IT organizations, that want the stability, lifecycle and hardware ecosystem of RHEL without having to actually support the maintainers, engineers, writers, and many more roles that create it. These users also have decided not to use one of the many other Linux distributions.

    McGrath also disputes claims that Red Hat has gone closed source, saying that all of the code that ends up in RHEL is available in the upstream CentOS Stream.

    To call RHEL “closed source” is categorically untrue and inaccurate. CentOS Stream moves faster than RHEL, so it might not be on HEAD, but the code is there. If you can’t find it, it’s a bug – please let us know.

    We also provide no-cost Red Hat Developer subscriptions and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for Open Source Infrastructure. The developer subscription provides no-cost RHEL to developers and enables usage for up to 16 systems, again, at no-cost. This can be used by individuals for their own work and by RHEL customers for the work of their employees. RHEL for Open Source Infrastructure is intended to give open source projects (whether or not they’re affiliated with Red Hat in any way) access to no-cost RHEL for their infrastructure and development needs.

    McGrath certainly makes some compelling arguments for why Red Hat made the decision it did, at least from a business perspective. Nonetheless, while Red Hat’s action may not violate the GPL — and experts are still weighing in on this — its actions are certainly not in the spirit of the GPL and open source software.

    The blog post is also the most concrete confirmation that Red Hat’s goal was to kill off Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux, and cast doubts on those distros’ ability to maintain their 1:1 compatibility with RHEL.

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