On Jan. 7, Karanbir Singh, project lead on CentOS, announced to his community that he and a handful of other core CentOS developers would now be employed full-time by Red Hat. As a result, the CentOS project would become another distribution and community cared for by Red Hat, like Fedora.
Singh sent an e-mail to the project’s development list describing exactly what this deal would mean for the project and its participants. At the top of that list was that the CentOS distribution itself would not be changing. Instead, the processes and methods used in the development of the platform, he said, will now be more open and transparent.
The biggest change will simply be the fact that the core contributors to CentOS will now be paid to work on the project full-time. Singh was also clear to state that none of the CentOS developers will be working on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and that the two distributions remain completely separate.
However, some of the legal problems faced by the CentOS team are now no longer an issue. Due to concerns about butting up against Red Hat’s commercial offerings, the CentOS team had made compromises in the past, such as debranding tools and keeping a special QA team behind closed doors.
If you’ve been watching Red Hat carefully over the past two years, the January announcement that Red Hat would be bringing some of the top developers of the CentOS project in-house probably wasn’t too surprising. But if you’ve only known Red Hat as a Linux company, the move might be a bit perplexing.
That’s because CentOS is, essentially, the free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. And not the company-sanctioned free version, either. As an open-source, GPL-based project, everything about Linux can be quickly redistributed, even if it’s coated in a thick layer of enterprise software.
Thus, CentOS has, for years, been the cheapskate alternative to paying for Red Hat licenses. Even the mighty Oracle enjoyed CentOS’ gleeful use of the GPL, and it rebranded CentOS as Oracle Linux. By doing so, the company was able to offer its own OS for certification guarantees, while still keeping things close to the Red Hat Enterprise platform.
But Red Hat is not just a Linux company anymore, and CentOS isn’t exactly a threat to the core Red Hat business model. In fact, said Red Hat executive vice president and CTO Brian Stevens, the company is planning its future around OpenStack, not just Linux.
“OpenStack is a top priority for the company,” said Stevens. “We have certainly realized—and the world has realized—that open source is going to have an impact broader than Linux and the kernel and Java. When you start to see the technologies the leading clouds are built on and what enterprises are looking for, that’s a whole open-source conversation that absolutely is led by OpenStack. We’re putting a lot of energy there.”
(Related: What else OpenStack is up to)
And while OpenStack’s growing popularity is certainly part of the enticement for Red Hat, Stevens said that it is the consequences of OpenStack usage that brought Red Hat to the table.
“I think it really moves open source from being the operating system and the kernel, into being the architecture of IT,” he said. “That’s huge. It has a massive operational impact on their environment. Making OpenStack successful is really Mission 1 right now.”