Rocky Linux — one of at least two new distributions created to fill the void left when CentOS Linux was discontinued by parent company Red Hat — today announced the general availability of Rocky Linux 8.4. Rocky Linux 8.4 is binary compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.4, making it possible to run apps designed and tested only for RHEL, without RHEL itself.
Bug-by-bug, not just feature-by-feature
One of the questions we’ve been asked repeatedly since we first covered the CentOS Linux deprecation is “why not just [my favorite distro]Linux and BSD users are so used to the same software running on multiple distributions, with similar package names and installation procedures, that they forget what it’s like to use and install proprietary software.
Rocky Linux and competitor AlmaLinux (which released its own binary-compatible RHEL 8.4 clone in March) aren’t just “Linux distributions” or even “Linux distributions very similar to RHEL.” They’re built from the same source code as RHEL 8.4, guaranteeing that a wide variety of proprietary software designed with nothing but RHEL 8.4 in mind will “just work” no matter how obscure a feature (or bug!) is. RHEL is 8.4. those packages may depend on .
Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux aren’t the only RHEL-compatible options out there, of course. Last December, we published a partial list of binary-compatible alternatives to RHEL, including RHEL’s proprietary CentOS Stream (which is only available as a rolling release) and Oracle Linux, as well as Rocky, Alma, and Alma’s parent distro, CloudLinux.
What makes Rocky Linux – and AlmaLinux – special is that both distributions were created specifically to fill the void left by the demise of CentOS. Their specific goal is to be available to anyone who needs them, including commercial support. The latter contrasts with, say, Springdale Linux, another long-running “RHEL reconstruction” that “should just work”. But it was primarily intended for and supported by a relatively small academic community.
How to get Rocky Linux 8.4 (Green Obsidian)
Just like any other Linux distro, you can simply download an ISO of Rocky Linux and install it from scratch. But since Rocky Linux is specifically meant to serve as an easy replacement for similar distributions, it also comes with easy-to-use conversion scripts.
There is no supported migration path from any of Rocky Linux’s earlier release candidate (RC) builds to the current production build, but interested users of other RHEL 8.4 binary compatible distributions can use the free migre2rocky tool for easy, in-place migration to Green Obsidian that not confuse existing users, installed software, etc. The following distributions are supported by:
- AlmaLinux 8.4
- CentOS Linux 8.4″
- RHEL 8.4
- Oracle Linux 8.4″
The Rocky Linux team cautions that while migrations from other point releases “may work,” the only supported migration resources are those built specifically with the RHEL 8.4 resource. There are also issues with Katello and some errors related to migrations starting with RHEL 8.4 itself. We strongly recommend that interested users read the full
migrate2rocky release notes before attempting a migration – and, as always, have tested and working backups available before proceeding!
Safe boot comes later
While Rocky Linux 8.4 is offered today as a production-ready distribution, there’s one more notable feature: support for Secure Boot, which the Rocky team describes as a “non-trivial process” to get started with a new distribution. .
However, the process to enable Secure Boot with Rocky is underway and the team expects a second set of ISOs with Secure Boot support to be built and released relatively soon. Until then, prospective Rocky Linux users who can’t wait for Secure Boot support should consider AlmaLinux 8.4, which received its own Secure Boot support in May.
While there is always some risk in performing in-place migrations, it’s worth noting that installing AlmaLinux (or any other 8.4 compatible distro) with Secure Boot today doesn’t mean you can’t switch to Rocky Linux – the
migrate2rocky The tool referenced in the last section should normally work simply, relatively quickly, and reliably if you need Secure Boot today, yet prefer Rocky Linux once Secure Boot support becomes available.
The RESF is more than Rocky Linux
In the words of the Rocky Linux team, “this is just the beginning, and the… [Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation] is more than just Rocky Linux.” The team further describes the RESF as “a home for those who believe that open source is not just a switch that can be toggled at will.”
To put its money where its mouth is, the RESF didn’t stop making Green Obsidian’s source code available – the build infrastructure, Git repos, and “anything else anyone else would need to fork our work” is easy to find .
While the RESF hasn’t named any other projects by name, it says users should expect more in the coming weeks and months, strongly implying it could help host software and projects from like-minded developers and communities in the near future.