SUSE Spending $10 Million to Fork RHEL, ‘Preserve Choice In Enterprise Linux’

SUSE Spending $10 Million to Fork RHEL, 'Preserve Choice In Enterprise Linux'...
SUSE Spending $10 Million to Fork RHEL, ‘Preserve Choice In Enterprise Linux’
Written by Staff
  • SUSE has announced it plans to fork Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), investing $10 million to do so in an effort to ‘preserve choice in enterprise Linux.’

    Red Hat angered customers and the broader Linux community when it announced that RHEL source code would be restricted to paying customers and bound by an agreement that customers would not share or re-distribute such code. The move was widely seen as an attack on Rocky Linux, AlmaLinux, and Oracle Linux, distros that offer 1:1 compatibility with RHEL. Many have also stated that Red Hat’s actions violate the GPL, at least in spirit, if not also in letter.

    SUSE quickly responded to emphasize its commitment to open source principles and distance itself from Red Hat. The German company is now taking it a step further, with plans to fork RHEL to offer customers a viable option without having to get locked into Red Hat’s ecosystem.

    Read More: Oracle Calls Out Red Hat and IBM Over RHEL Source Code

    SUSE says the new distro will be “available to all without restrictions,” and the company plans to invest $10 million over the next few years to help fund its development.

    “For decades, collaboration and shared success have been the building blocks of our open source community,” said Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, CEO of SUSE. “We have a responsibility to defend these values. This investment will preserve the flow of innovation for years to come and ensures that customers and community alike are not subjected to vendor lock-in and have genuine choice tomorrow as well as today.”

    The new distro will not replace SUSE’s own SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE). In fact, SLE is already used by 60% of Fortune 500 companies, so there is little motivation to replace it. However, the decision acknowledges that many companies run mixed Linux environments and need freedom from vendor lock-in.

    “This collaborative effort demonstrates SUSE’s deep-rooted commitment to fostering innovation and nurturing community-driven development, and it reinforces the fundamental values of open source software. We invite the community to actively engage and collaborate in shaping the future of this essential software,” said Dr. Thomas Di Giacomo, Chief Technology and Product Officer, SUSE. “We firmly believe this new RHEL-compatible Linux distribution, together with SUSE’s portfolio, will help the community and customers navigate unprecedented advancements in enterprise Linux, cloud computing, containerization, edge, AI/ML and other emerging technologies.”

    See Also: Red Hat Continues Damage Control, Clarifies Term ‘Freeloader’

    SUSE already has an ally in Rocky Linux’s Gregory Kurtzer. Kurtzer co-founded CentOS, another distro that provided 1:1 compatibility with RHEL before Red Hat purchased it and killed it off. The company replaced it with CentOS Stream, which it positioned upstream of RHEL. That makes CentOS Stream essentially a test version of what becomes RHEL rather than offering 1:1 compatibility with it. In response to Red Hat’s actions, Kurtzer founded Rocky Linux to deliver on CentOS’ original goals.

    “The enterprise Linux community requires standardization, stability, and consistency,” said Gregory Kurtzer, CEO of CIQ and Founder of Rocky Linux. “CIQ is bringing stability to our partners, customers, and community, by building a broad coalition of like-minded companies, organizations, and individuals. SUSE has embodied the core principles and spirit of open source; CIQ is thrilled to collaborate with SUSE on advancing an open enterprise Linux standard.”

    Red Hat has a long history of playing fast and loose with the GPL and open source principles and has been called out repeatedly for its behavior. The company may have pushed the envelope a little too far this time, and it seems the community and its competitors are rallying against it.

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