What happened with CentOS will not happen with Rocky Linux: Kurtzer

Gregory Kurtzer, who founded and once led the former open-source project CentOS Linux as well as The cAos Foundation, the organization where early development of it took place, said today a governance structure has been put in place that will keep Rocky Linux in the public domain forever.

Development of Rocky Linux began shortly after, in late 2020, Red Hat terminated development of CentOS, a community-based Linux distribution derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) that had been in existence since 2004.

It is named after Jason Dale “Rocky” McGaugh, a talented programmer involved in CentOS development, who passed away in December 2004 at the age of only 30.

Asked what McGaugh might have thought of the OS being named after him, Kurtzer told IT World Canada, “to be honest, he was a shy guy. I don’t know if he would have liked the attention, but at the same token, he was a huge advocate of open source and a big fan of open source. Personally, I don’t think he would have liked what happened with CentOS.”

Kurtzer added that “what we are doing with Rocky Linux is really where he would have liked to see the project and open source going. When we named it Rocky Linux, it was a hat tip to him for everything he has done, not only in open source and high-performance computing (HPC), but also with the CentOS project.

“One of the last e-mails that he wrote to the e-mail list was that he was 99 per cent done development of CentOS. It was pretty much ready to go when he passed, but he never saw it released.”

The key for an open-source initiative to grow and flourish, said Kurtzer, lies with registering it as a non-profit organization, which was the case with The cAos Foundation. He has done the same with Rocky Linux. A page on the Rocky Linux web site contains the following details on its organizational structure: “The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) formed in Delaware (file number 4429978). The RESF was founded and is owned by Gregory Kurtzer and is backed by an advisory board of trusted individuals and team leads from the Rocky Linux community.

“The decision to bootstrap the RESF as a PBC and create the current organizational structure was made collectively by the board of advisors after significant deliberation. History has shown that there are always loopholes for bad actors no matter what the entity type is.

“This is why we feel that the integrity, accountability, and transparency of the people involved in the project is the most critical aspect for determining the long-term sustainability and viability of any project.”

The rules are so iron-clad that even the new organization that Kurtzer is co-founder and CEO of, CIQ, would never be able to gain ownership of Rocky Linux.

On Wednesday, a release was issued announcing that “nine cloud and Linux veterans have signed on to form the leadership team for CIQ, the company building the next generation of software infrastructure for enterprises running data-intensive workloads atop the Rocky Linux enterprise Linux distribution.”

The company secured US$26 million in Series A funding in May and in July, it announced it would be teaming up with Google Cloud.

Other members of the senior leadership team include David LaDuke, vice president of marketing, who co-founded Linuxcare in 1998, and Art Tyde, a 30-year veteran of open source, who also co-founded the IT services firm. He also founded the San Francisco (and Silicon Valley) Bay Area Linux Users Group in 1994.

Kurtzer said he wanted to ensure that not even CIQ can take over the project, noting “we’re not here to own an open-source project or control an open-source project.

“We are here to help with Rocky Linux, we’re here to be part of it,” he said. “We don’t see open source as a business model or a marketing switch that you turn on or off, depending on corporate wins. Instead, we look at open source as a way that we can collaborate with the community.

“We can help, and we can be part of something much greater than ourselves and really just create value.”

The most recent version, Rocky Linux 9, was released in July and will be supported until May 31, 2032. Rocky Linux 8 support will be in place until May 31, 2029.

The goal of the latest version, said Kurtzer, was to “create a sustainable project that can last and sustain for decades to come, becoming an extraordinary, stable foundation for everybody who wants to use it.”

Proof that the initiative is working, he said, can be seen by the fact “organizations like Amazon and Google and other cloud vendors such as VMware have jumped onto the Rocky Linux project so readily.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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