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Red Hat has recently triggered a significant amount of heated debate among the open source community

What’s Next for Enterprise Linux?


Following the recent controversial announcement that access to the source code of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) product would from now on only be available to paying customers, feelings have been running high among many developers and commercial users.

Let’s take a look at what’s happened and why it’s created such a stir.

The open source firestorm

Red Hat’s decision to lock the source code for its RHEL packages behind a paywall will make it much more difficult for distributors to build customised or RHEL compatible third party software products.

Previously, Red Hat allowed anyone to inspect, modify and enhance its free RHEL source code according to their unique needs and control how their new software was distributed. Going forward RHEL cannot be redistributed, even by paying customers. This potentially disrupts upstream enterprise Linux distributions and has created a major rift between Red Hat and the enterprise Linux community.


Examining the options

For many, Red Hat’s decision represents a betrayal of the open-source community values that are founded on mutual collaboration and learning, and shared success.

While Red Hat has stated it will offer free developer accounts that provide the all-important access to the RHEL source code, the license agreement associated with this type of account prevents developers from then redistributing the software they create.

To counter this limitation, alternative routes to deliver access to the source code are being developed, however these will come with some very serious restrictions attached.

Meanwhile, concerns are growing that those downstream users who plan to switch to RHEL clones may also find it difficult to overcome the stringent legal and distribution limitations that are being imposed by Red Hat.


The domino effect: what does this mean for Linux customers?

Built on Linux, Red Hat’s RHEL enterprise distribution OS has been a dominant player in the enterprise market for many years. Now Red Hat customers face being forced down a paid closed source route and face potential lawsuits if they unwittingly fail to stay in compliant with the revised (and complex) licensing terms or attempt to terminate their current agreements early.

Looking ahead while everything that Red Hat offers in RHEL will technically remain open source, from this point on Red Hat will only be providing patches and updates to paying customers. A move that is prompting many organisations to consider a rethink with regards to their Linux ecosystem. Because assuring stable long-term support releases is a must have for enterprise applications.

Speculation is also growing that many customers and professionals who help with enterprise deployments may well decide to abandon RHEL and instead seek out other ‘production grade’ options for their internal product development teams.


Finding a way forward

For existing Red Hat customers, the recent change in licensing conditions has flagged up a degree of fear, uncertainty and doubt about what the future may hold. This is especially pertinent for enterprise customers who need a stable enterprise Linux that doesn’t come with significant associated license costs.

The good news is that its quick and easy to make the switch to options like Oracle Linux. Capable of handing a wide variety of workloads including heavy duty databases, application servers and DevOps, Oracle Linux offers a stable and secure alternative for organisations considering a move to an alternative OS.

Fully compatible with RHEL, Oracle offers a choice of two kernels: Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) or the Red Hat Compatible Kernel.

Our specialist teams are on hand to provide any advice or guidance you may need on which Oracle Linux option is best for you and can help architect a streamlined migration to your new environment.