RHEL is built with free software, and Red Hat fully understands both the conditions attached to free software licenses and the expectations of the development community. So the source for each RHEL release is promptly made available to the community. It is natural to expect that plenty of people would like to take advantage of the stability of and support behind RHEL without actually paying for a support contract; the availability of the source makes it possible to do exactly that. All that is needed is to rebuild those source packages, minus any Red Hat branding, and make the result available to the community.
Except that, in reality, the problem seems to be harder than that. Creating a proper build and distribution environment requires work and equipment. Quality control can be a lot of work, especially if strict binary compatibility with RHEL is desired. The security update stream must be followed constantly. And Red Hat does not always make the job of keeping up with their releases easy. So anybody wanting to make and support a proper RHEL clone must be prepared to invest a lot of time and infrastructure into the task.
Given that the desired end result of any RHEL rebuild effort - something that looks as much like RHEL as possible - is clear and unvarying, one would think that there would not be room for a large number of RHEL rebuild projects. There is not much space for ego or interesting new development, so it would make sense for everybody with an interest in this area to work together for the best end result. That is not how things have worked out, though. One need not look to far to find plenty of rebuilds out there:
There have been discussions recently about cooperation between Ascendos and GoOSe, but nothing has been announced yet.
There are undoubtedly others, but, at this point, the picture should be clear: a lot of independent groups are putting a lot of effort into their own rebuilds of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Some of them are more successful than others, but none are as good as they could be with a bit more focused effort.
Given the long list of existing distributions and the effort required to create and maintain a new one, anybody thinking of adding to the list should think long and hard about why that seems like a good idea. If the intent is to provide a Linux experience that is not possible with any of the existing distributions, perhaps there is an excuse for making a new one. But, in the case of RHEL rebuilds, there is simply no latitude for the creation of that new experience. The desired result is something that looks and acts like RHEL. Perhaps the various groups making their own RHEL clones would get better results if they were to build a single base distribution to work from. They could then compete fiercely to provide the slickest desktop theme, which is where all the interesting action is anyway.
Admittedly, Microsoft are now trying to use the patent system as fungicide, but I think the wider population are waking up to just how toxic that stuff is for everyone, especially when misused.
Newsletters and articles of interest
Page editor: Rebecca Sobol
Next page: Development>>
Copyright © 2012, Eklektix, Inc.
Comments and public postings are copyrighted by their creators.
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds