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CERN, Fermilab select AlmaLinux as standard for big science

AlmaLinux, a somewhat popular free Linux distribution derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), received a vote of confidence on Thursday from the European and American science communities.

CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, based in Switzerland, and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), based in the US State of Illinois, said they will offer AlmaLinux as the standard Linux distribution for experiments at their facilities, based on discussions with researchers.

“AlmaLinux has recently been gaining traction among the community due to its long life cycle for each major version, extended architecture support, rapid release cycle, upstream community contributions, and support for security advisory metadata,” the two research organizations said in a joint statement. “In testing, it has demonstrated to be perfectly compatible with the other rebuilds and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”

CERN and Fermilab plan to continue using RHEL for a limited number of services and applications. CERN expects to continue supporting CERN CentOS 7 until June 2024, as Fermilab intends to do for Scientific Linux 7 – another distribution that’s no longer active.

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On December 8, 2020, IBM’s Red Hat announced the discontinuation of CentOS, a free version of RHEL – or rather the CentOS as we knew it. Gregory Kurtzer, the founder of the CentOS project, subsequently launched RockyLinux, an RHEL clone.

It has demonstrated to be perfectly compatible with the other rebuilds and Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Around the same time, CloudLinux, which offers its own commercial CloudLinux OS distribution, announced it would fork RHEL in a distribution initially called Project Lenix that’s now known as AlmaLinux.

The two distributions have since been politely competing with one another for market and mind share. AlamaLinux has been working at a faster release rate; Rocky Linux appears to have more users. Each has its fans for … reasons.

Rocky Linux earlier this year secured $26 million in funding from Two Bear Capital. AlmaLinux has support from AMD and others, not to mention CloudLinux.

AlmaLinux (like Rocky Linux) is designed to be binary-compatible with RHEL – it will run applications certified for RHEL, without the cost of using RHEL. Version 8.3 debuted as a beta release in February, 2021, and saw its first stable release on March 30, 2021. That was when the AlmaLinux OS Foundation was formed as a 501(c) organization.

Last month, Rocky Linux got a foundation of its own, the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF). However, RESF is not a non-profit 501(c) – it’s a Delaware Public Benefits Corporation, which has shareholders and can seek a profit.

If you like RHEL but are less keen on the fees, you’ll probably be fine with either Alma or Rocky. ®


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