SUSE Gets Momentum, Fork Red Hat Enterprise Linux

In a surprising move, SUSE announced plans to release their fork, fully compatible with and based on RHEL. Here's more on that!

Who would have expected at the beginning of the year that this summer would be so “hot” for the open-source community?

But after Red Hat, to eliminate the competition in the face of Alma and Rocky, announced last month the limiting of access to their source code, the news hasn’t stopped pouring in.

Two weeks ago, SUSE was the first company to disagree with Red Hat’s decision publicly. Now, they come out with unexpected news that is literally about to shake the Linux world, with the potential to redraw the map of the enterprise Linux segment.

SUSE Will Fork, Build, and Maintain an RHEL-Compatible Distribution

In an unexpected move, SUSE announced plans to clone Red Hat Enterprise Linux and develop a free and entirely RHEL-compatible distribution, ensuring that anybody can freely access and use enterprise Linux solution.

Today SUSE, the company behind Rancher, NeuVector, and SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) and a global leader in enterprise open source solutions, announced it is forking publicly available Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and will develop and maintain a RHEL-compatible distribution available to all without restrictions.

Furthermore, these plans are backed by substantial financial support, with the company saying it will invest $10 million in the project over the next few years.

What are we left to do after such an announcement except applaud it? These days, Oracle publicly laughed at Red Hat, jokingly suggesting that they fund them to pay their developers’ salaries since they believe the work they pay for can’t be shared for free.

Finally, to IBM, here’s a big idea for you. You say that you don’t want to pay all those RHEL developers? Here’s how you can save money: just pull from us. Become a downstream distributor of Oracle Linux. We will happily take on the burden.

Unlike Oracle, however, SUSE is serious about going on a road that might realign the major players in the enterprise Linux sector, bringing them to the top.

But before we move on, let us analyze the situation, which raises many questions.

What’s Happening with SUSE and openSUSE?

openSUSE Leap
openSUSE Leap

First and foremost, all SUSE supporters and followers do not need to be concerned about the future development of SLE (SUSE Linux Enterprise) or openSUSE Leap & Tumbleweed.

As Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, Chief Executive Officer of SUSE, stated in a special announcement on the subject, forking RHEL and building distribution on its basis is an entirely separate project that will in no way reflect on the company’s flagship products.

It goes without saying that SUSE remains fully committed to SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) and Adaptable Linux Platform (ALP) solutions as well as the openSUSE Linux distributions.

Dirk-Peter van Leeuwen, Chief Executive Officer of SUSE

In addition, SUSE has published a special FAQ section on the topic to dispel any concerns that may arise among users.

But now, many users wonder, since SUSE has its enterprise distribution, SLE, why reinvent the wheel with an RHEL fork? Here’s how things stand.

Why Is SUSE Betting on Its RHEL Fork?

The enterprise Linux market is large and lucrative, including the most attractive customer base for companies – business and corporate-oriented ones.

Despite offering its own enterprise Linux distribution, SUSE does not have the market share that Red Hat does with RHEL.

Sadly, in this light, Red Hat made it clear to everyone that, paradoxically, although they exist thanks to open source, they do not share its philosophy. A stance that has won them a prominent place as a byword whenever their name is mentioned.

In some ways, all of this reflects on the entire Linux community and the decisions made when selecting an enterprise distribution. At the same time, the future of the primary RHEL/CentOS replacements, AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux, is uncertain. Will they continue being 1:1 binaries compatible after RHEL 9.2?

All this opens new horizons for the emergence of a new RHEL-based distribution. And what better owner of such a distro could there be than a company with more than 30 years of experience in the Linux field and the enterprise market, good financial capabilities, and proven reliability?

Last but not least is the crucial factor that SUSE is a company enjoying respect and continuity in open source circles. Let’s put it this way – SUSE is probably the perfect candidate for a company to get behind a major new venture like providing and maintaining an enterprise Linux distribution.

As you know, open-source software and Linux distributions, in particular, do not profit from the operating system itself but from the support they provide for it. And SUSE has decided to take a more active role in this endeavor, which is fine.

Because we’re talking about a company that strictly adheres to open source values and has proven, unlike others, these are not just words for it. The situation is entirely win-win.

The Linux community will get a new enterprise-ready distribution that is free and open source, with the SUSE name as a guarantee of the future and the absence of sudden, shocking moves similar to IBM’s Red Hat.

At the same time, often underrated, SUSE could become a significant player in the enterprise Linux segment, taking its share of the RHEL market and offering support/migration to everyone who wants it. And that would be great!

What’s Next?

At this time, SUSE has not committed to any additional details beyond the stated plans to build and give to open source communities an RHEL-based distribution. This means we do not have details such as the expected timeline, name, supported architectures, etc.

One thing strikes out in the official announcement, though, and that is the mention of the name of Gregory Kurtzer, the man who created CentOS and is currently CEO of CIQ and the Founder of Rocky Linux. He states:

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.

It will be interesting to see what is behind these words and what kind of collaboration he is talking about, but these are questions that the very near future will answer.

Until then, all we can do is thank SUSE for making yet another wise move in favor of and protecting the thing we all love – open source.

Bobby Borisov

Bobby Borisov

Bobby, an editor-in-chief at Linuxiac, is a Linux professional with over 20 years of experience. With a strong focus on Linux and open-source software, he has worked as a Senior Linux System Administrator, Software Developer, and DevOps Engineer for small and large multinational companies.

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