Red Hat and the CentOS community recently announced that the CentOS community has joined with Red Hat to collaborate on future versions of CentOS. Red Hat has hired several members of the CentOS community, as well as added a few new members to the CentOS Governing Board.
Red Hat, while long a key member of the open source community with a rich history of advocating and contributing to open source, has not always maintained the most open policies. In much the same way that some open source projects have complicated build processes that lead users to the commercial path of least resistance, Red Hat has introduced policies that closed access to RHEL to their paying customers. Normally, this would not be a problem, except that the majority of the code included is licensed under the GNU General Public License that has freedom of distribution as one of its core tenets. The very nature of the GPL allowed Oracle to jumpstart its Linux operating system efforts (another commercial venture), and allowed the CentOS community to become the guardian of the open nature of the code in RHEL. It is an interesting catch-22 for Red Hat.
The announcement certainly indicates that the intent is for CentOS to continue to be the truly open version of the Red Hat enterprise distribution. In my encounters with the CentOS community and core team, I have never seen any indications that CentOS is interested in compromising their mission, and there is no reason to believe that will change with the individuals involved now. However, corporate interests often have a way of overriding individual wishes. Hopefully, the next thing we see is not the “CentOS is great for development, but not stable enough for production” arguments that often accompany many OSS version/commercial version relationships. That approach would certainly undermine one of the key missions of the project.
Will CentOS continue to be the truly open alternative to RHEL?
Only time will tell.