What Is Rocky Linux? An Introduction and Guide

What Is Rocky Linux? An Introduction and Guide
What Is Rocky Linux? An Introduction and Guide

After CentOS was discontinued in 2021, one of Red Hat’s co-founders, Gregory Kurtzer, founded Rocky Linux. It is an open-source RHEL-compatible distro, and it became the go-to CentOS replacement soon after release.

Rocky Linux has only become more popular since its launch, and owing to its stability, it stands among the top options for server OSes. 

This brief article will introduce you to this distro and familiarize you with its advantages.

What is Rocky Linux?

The CentOS community’s developers put a lot of time and effort into building Rocky Linux to make it enterprise-ready. It receives updates regularly and is extremely stable. Furthermore, Rocky Linux has a lifecycle of ten years at zero cost, after which the next version of the OS is expected to be released.

Like CentOS, Rocky Linux is a downstream distribution of RHEL and is fully compatible with RHEL. The fact is that CentOS co-founder Kurtzer used RHEL’s open-source code and built Rocky Linux using his knowledge of high-performance computing.

The time and expertise required to release the builds and create the servers and repositories is funded by Ctrl IQ. Kurtzer established this company and provided the financial backing for Rocky Linux’s success. 

What Makes Rocky Linux a Good Alternative to CentOS?

CentOS was released nearly two decades ago, in the early 2000s, aiming to be an alternative to RHEL. The OS was designed to be binary-compatible and featured a stable, point-release system.  

Most importantly, it had all of RHEL’s features, making it the most popular free enterprise-class Linux distro. This allowed many organizations to cut costs without worrying about loss of system performance.

Later, in 2014, Red Hat acquired CentOS in exchange for financial backing, and the distro was finally under new governance. 

Some years passed, and Red Hat saw how CentOS decreased the number of RHEL subscriptions. So, in 2021, the company made the call to discontinue the OS and replace it with CentOS Stream. This new distro would remain ahead of RHEL on the development branch, so it will never be production-ready.

These events stopped CentOS from being the popular free alternative for RHEL, causing Kurtzer to step in and build an alternative to Red Hat’s new CentOS Stream. This is why Rocky Linux was built. 

Since Rocky is funded and managed by the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation, the distro is maintained outside Red Hat’s governance. However, the distro still follows the same release numbering as RHEL, just like CentOS did back in the day. 

Besides the community, the founder’s company (CIQ), OpenLogic, and Montavista offer support to users.

Most Linux users consider Rocky Linux to be the best CentOS alternative and have even built free methods to migrate from CentOS to Rocky Linux.

Rocky Linux’s Features 

Since the distro is a rebuild of RHEL, it benefits from RHEL’s release cycle. Rocky Linux promises frequent updates until 2032. 

#1 Stability

The distro’s stable source code makes it the ideal choice for servers. Rocky Linux is available for download from over a hundred mirrors and never gets sudden updates.

#2 Open Source

Since Rocky Linux is based on stable RHEL code, it allows a consistent flow of updates, documentation, and security updates from the community. This way, the distro always meets its user base’s needs.

#3 Compatibility

Rocky Linux works smoothly with Red Hat Enterprise’s binary code, guaranteeing efficiency, stability, and high performance. Though the distro initially had issues with cloud-based offers and container images, these problems have been fixed.

Linux users can migrate from AlmaLinux, CentOS, and many other distributions with the migrate2rocky tool.

#4 Support

The large community of Rocky Linux users allows Rocky Linux to remain free and receive adequate support. Several companies offer commercial support to users who require it. 

Disadvantages of Rocky Linux

Though the distro is undeniably the best CentOS alternative, it’s not perfect.

The development of Rocky Linux is still in its early stages, which is a major drawback. However, with the community size increasing, the project is maturing quickly.

Secondly, Rocky Linux gets updates slower than CentOS Stream, as the developers commit to only releasing stable updates. The slower updates could be a disadvantage for developers who want frequent updates. That said, as the slower updates help with stability, it could be viewed as an advantage.

Should You Use Rocky Linux?

The distro is primarily preferred by enterprises and private businesses that need a free, user-friendly, and reliable version of Linux. 

Since Rocky Linux boasts the key features of cloud, hyperscale, enterprise, and performance computing, it has become a viable option for large organizations. 

Furthermore, it is a binary-compatible alternative to RHEL that is free, making it an excellent choice for web servers. It uses Red Hat Enterprise Server resources and works with most control panels. You can also use the distro as a VPN setup or email server if you own a medium-sized business.