Rocky Linux: How good is the successor to CentOS?

Rocky Linux is a free distribution for Linux, which is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux and is intended to replace CentOS. The operating system is very stable and user-friendly, however it is too soon to say whether it will become a worthy successor to the popular CentOS.

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What is Rocky Linux?

Rocky Linux is an HPC-capable Linux distribution which is suitable for servers and desktop applications. The operating system is open source and binary compatible with the commercial Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Rocky Linux is considered the unofficial successor to CentOS, a fork of RHEL. The operating system is suitable for a variety of different purposes, and it is a stable and user-friendly option for businesses and private users. The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation is responsible for this Linux distribution.

The history of Rocky Linux

The need for a new free Linux distribution based on RHEL arose when Red Hat announced the end of support for CentOS. CentOS Stream is its replacement, however, it does not continue being open source and a binary-compatible fork of RHEL. CentOS Stream has been a rolling release since 2021 and receives numerous updates, which means it lacks the necessary security in some cases. CentOS Stream functions primarily as a test environment for innovations, which may become part of the commercial distribution in the future. This has created a gap for CentOS users which is being filled by two new operating systems.

Rocky Linux was released in 2021, a few months after AlmaLinux. The CentOS co-founder Gregory Kurtzer is responsible for the new Linux version, which is named after his late colleague Rocky McGaugh. The first stable version of Rocky Linux was released on June 21, 2021, as version 8.4. The high version number is based on the designation of RHEL. Rocky Linux is a clone of RHEL, which is also binary-compatible and is already supported by numerous large, financially strong sponsors. Rocky Linux’s success depends on whether the existing CentOS users choose to embrace the new system. However, the beginning has been promising.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of Rocky Linux?

Rocky Linux has not been active for very long, therefore it is difficult to give a clear overview of all the advantages and disadvantages. However, the first few months have already shown that the system has the potential to succeed CentOS. We’ll take a closer look at the special features to evaluate the pros and cons of the Linux distribution.

Advantages

  • Team: Users had a lot of faith in the team behind Rocky Linux before the release. As co-founder of CentOS, Gregory Kurtzer knew exactly what the users of the popular distribution would appreciate in Rocky Linux. This meant it was a worthy successor from the very beginning.
  • Stability: Stability has always been one of the advantages of CentOS, and this is also the focus of Rocky Linux. The focus is on a system that runs smoothly and without unpleasant surprises due to new updates.
  • Compatibility: Rocky Linux is binary-compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, making it a good alternative. Migrating from CentOS, AlmaLinux, and other distributions is also very easy with the migrate2rocky tool. Container images and cloud-based offerings are not a problem with Rocky Linux.
  • Open source: Binary compatibility is not the only feature which Rocky Linux is maintaining. The open source feature is also remaining in place, which is a benefit to all users. If the new Linux version manages to unite another large and committed community, nothing should stand in the way of seamless documentation, thorough security management, and regular updates, which are developed with the users in mind. Users hope that the Rocky Linux can continue what its predecessor began.

Disadvantages

  • Little experience: Rocky Linux is still a newcomer, which is why there are very few empirical values. Reports from users or detailed documentation are still scarce. It is not possible to conclusively evaluate how good the new Linux distribution is yet. This is a big downfall, especially for companies, who rely on their operating system really running as securely and smoothly as possible.
  • Uncertain future: The second downfall is in a similar vein. Rocky Linux is still in its early stages, but it is already planning for the future. Whether they can deliver regular updates and develop other possible successors depends on the committed community, and on the necessary funds. Large companies are already acting as sponsors, however, it remains to be seen how long the support will last and whether the money sourced so far will be enough.
  • Up-to-dateness: The reliability mentioned above may also be seen as a disadvantage to some users. Although Rocky Linux also seems to run very stably like CentOS, the latest applications take time to become available. You may want to opt for CentOS Stream if you always want to be up to date, since there are frequent updates in the rolling release. Rocky Linux will operate more leisurely in comparison. That is an advantage for users who rely on consistency. However, developers and power users might prefer an alternative Linux distribution.

Who is the operating system suitable for?

The target group for Rocky Linux is already clear. Companies and private users who rely on a reliable, user-friendly, and a free Linux version should be pleased with the successor to CentOS. The key functions of enterprise, hyperscale, cloud and high-performance computing are integrated, adding Rocky Linux to the list of recommendable Linux server distributions. The RHEL clone is worth considering, especially for companies. You get an almost equivalent and binary-compatible alternative which is freely available.

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What are the alternatives to Rocky Linux?

There are numerous other Linux distributions to choose from if you are not convinced by Rocky Linux.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux operating systems. It is also free, open source, and maintained by a large community. One advantage of the distribution is its user-friendliness. The system is also considered very secure and stable.

openSUSE Leap

openSUSE Leap has been available since 2015 and is developed by the Nuremberg-based company SUSE Software Solutions Germany GmbH in close cooperation with a developer community. The system uses numerous components of the paid enterprise solution SUSE Linux, but it is open source and free of charge.

AlmaLinux

After the end of support for CentOS was announced, Rocky Linux was not the only successor who emerged. AlmaLinux is also binary compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux and is developed by a community and is freely available. Whether AlmaLinux or Rocky Linux is the better successor to CentOS will be revealed in a few years.