Why Red Hat escalated the clone wars

Today: a deep dive into Red Hat's decision to take on the rebuilders, Microsoft's curious definition of "all-up," and this week's enterprise moves.

Why Red Hat escalated the clone wars
Photo by Hasan Almasi / Unsplash

Welcome to Runtime! Today: a deep dive into Red Hat's decision to take on the rebuilders, Microsoft's curious definition of "all-up," and this week's enterprise moves.

(Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here to get Runtime each week.)

Seeing red

Red Hat is probably the most successful open-source enterprise software company in the history of tech. For many years that success has existed in tension with the open-source software community, and this summer that tension rose to a new level.

The trigger was Red Hat's decision in June to stop providing an exact copy of each new release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux to an open portal where anyone — including rebuilders Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux — could download the software and use it as they pleased.

  • It provided this "downstream" copy of RHEL — an open-source term used to describe new software built using some code from existing open-source projects, or "upstream" code, and some original code — out of a sense of tradition, after it acquired the CentOS project in 2014 and converted it to CentOS Stream in 2020.
  • However, in June Red Hat declared that it was no longer interested in making life easy for the "rebuilders" by releasing a free copy of RHEL.
  • "I'm not aware of anywhere else in open source where a downstream rebuild exists solely to duplicate the upstream just with a different name and logo," said Red Hat's Mike McGrath, vice president of core platforms engineering.
  • "Let's just say it: A lot of people want to use RHEL, and they don't want to pay for it."

THe rebuilders are making plans for the future, undeterred by Red Hat's decision to restrict access to RHEL.

  • AlmaLinux announced plans earlier this month to create a proper fork of RHEL, based on code from the CentOS Stream project with plans to work on its own bug fixes and possible enhancements, said Benny Vasquez, chair of the board of the AlmaLinux OS Foundation.
  • Future versions of AlmaLinux will be "application binary interface" compatible with RHEL, which is a lower standard than "bug for bug" and will require the AlmaLinux project to take on more work, but Vasquez said the community is excited about moving forward on its own terms.

Rocky Linux, on the other hand, is taking a more confrontational approach.

  • It announced plans to work with Red Hat rival SUSE on its own fork of RHEL, and will continue to work on future versions of Rocky Linux that maintain the "bug for bug" standard.
  • Greg Kurtzer, founder of Rocky Linux, believes that future versions of the project will be able to live up to the compatibility promise by obtaining RHEL source code through methods that don't require the project to agree to Red Hat's contracts and licenses, which grant customers access to the RHEL software packages under an agreement that they won't distribute those packages themselves.
  • The first involves downloading the Red Hat Universal Base Image from a container repository like Docker Hub, but Kurtzer said he won't be surprised if Red Hat decides to rebuild that image around CentOS Stream in the future, which means the image wouldn't include the final RHEL code because versions of CentOS Stream are built before subsequent versions of RHEL are finalized.
  • The other plan sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen: Kurtzer argued that simply by launching a version of RHEL on a cloud provider, anyone could gain access to the source code.
  • Red Hat took a dim view of this option. "Red Hat subscription terms apply to customers regardless of the channel through which they purchase," the company said in a statement in response to questions about that approach.

Businesses have lots of options if they want to build Linux applications; cloud providers have their own Linux distributions, and several commercial options compete with Red Hat.

  • But according to McGrath, the rebuilders weren't actually trying to compete with Red Hat.
  • "Usually when people in the open source community can't agree on something, one of them will fork and run, and they will maintain it. And since forever, these rebuilders have not done that," he said.
  • "And I think the reason is because they don't want the code — they can get the code now — but they want to be able to put Red Hat's promise about what we're going to do with the future of that code in their systems as well."

Read the full story on Runtime here.

Clear as mud

This week Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared to finally reveal how much money his company is making from Azure, the cloud infrastructure service that is probably the most important product in its arsenal. What he actually did was quite misleading.

"The Microsoft Cloud surpassed $110 billion in annual revenue, up 27% in constant currency, with Azure all-up accounting for more than 50% of the total for the first time," Nadella said to open the conference call following the release of Microsoft's first fiscal quarter results. Reasonable people (as well as myself) interpreted that sentence as marking the first time Microsoft has given any color around Azure revenue, but according to The Information's Aaron Holmes, a Microsoft spokesperson was forced to clarify Nadella's prepared remarks as actually referring to "Azure and other cloud services."

Exactly what those "other cloud services" encompass was of course not specified, which means Microsoft continues to obscure Azure revenue for reasons that are hard to fathom. A 2014 blog post on "Microspeak," or Microsoft's internal jargon, lists six separate and different definitions for how Microsoft employees use the term "all-up," which is just fantastic.

Enterprise moves

Anjney Midha joined Andreessen Horowitz as a general partner focused on AI, after two years at Discord.

Mark Templeton was named to the board of directors at Nutanix.

Kevin Van Gundy stepped down as COO of Vercel to take a new role as CEO of an unnamed startup.

The Runtime roundup

The European Union will investigate Microsoft over allegations that bundling Teams with Office is anticompetitive.

Back home, Microsoft found itself in the crosshairs of Senator Ron Wyden, who called for an investigation into the hack that exposed the email accounts of some U.S. government employees.

Intel posted its first solid quarter in quite some time, with data-center chip revenue coming in better than expected.

ServiceNow raised revenue guidance for the year, believing that its investments in AI will pay off sooner rather than later.

Juniper Networks lowered revenue guidance for its third quarter, citing weaker demand for its networking tech among cloud providers.

New SEC rules require public companies to disclose hacks within four days that could have a "material" effect on their  earnings.

Slack went down for about an hour early Thursday morning but recovered after a change was reverted.

Thanks for reading — see you Saturday!

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Runtime.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.