RHEL(and the others) alternatives

I’m a sysadmin in Romania, we are using centos 7 for our servers, I have just started to rewrite our stuff for rocky 9 recently… After the recent news, I’m uncertain about the future prospects of RHEL-based distros. There’s no way that our clients will pay for a rhel license, those prices are not made for this market.

So I think we will have to use a different distro for our software. Right now there are 3 candidates: OpenSUSE, Debian, maybe Ubuntu.

I have only experience with Ubuntu, but I don’t like it at all. Snaps are weird, the update system is weird too, I don’t feel like it’s a predictable and reliable distro.

Any suggestions, experiences with other distros as servers?


The most logical choice here would be to go with a community distribution which is also mainstream for a lot of software support, which would then rule out Ubuntu and OpenSuse because they are basically owned by a company, so Debian!


Maybe Oracle Linux isn’t affected?

I don’t know what your business model is, but unless you gain additional revenue by upgrading servers, I would choose Ubuntu. While I don’t like it either, the LTS releases have very long commercially supported life-cycles.

For supporting customer servers, OpenSuse’s Leap support windows are too unclear to me. Support for Debian releases by the Debian team is only for 3 years although there is a volunteer LTS team that tries to make them viable for “at least” 5 years.

I also don’t know the current fate of Oracle Linux. It may be another option if it continues. I am always hesitant to use it though because it isn’t clear to me how committed Oracle is to continuing it.


we are basically in the same situation. Our best candidate is Debian.
They have a very strong Open source commitment, they even have some contracts in place forcing themselves to fully stay open and to not let any company get the slightest say over them.
They also have a very long history and as long as you stay in the stable channel, are rock solid.

SuSe and ubuntu are company owned, we don’t want that - and we also don’t like Ubuntu’s snap approach, so those are extremely unlikely to be our way forward.
SuSe also has a slightly less broad community adoption, so some packages are not directly available for that distro.

Every RHEL - clone is currently not a safe bet, so those are also a no-way-forward for us (we also had already begun working on the switch to a RHEL 9 based distro but stopped that work)


I’m not a sysadmin so i don’t know specifics of the market…

But wonder, why not go to something not corporate at all?
Say Alpine Linux, it’s fast, simple, reproducible, secure and can be as small as run-from-RAM.

what’s the support window on that distribution? For enterprise use, it needs to be at least 3 years, better 5 before a major update is necessary.
How often are core packages updated that include breaking changes or make recompilation of binaries necessary to be able to run them after the update? On RHEL/Debian such updates only happen with big point releases, which means about once a year or even less. Everything more often is not viable for enterprise use.

I haven’t used it much outside of docker, but let’s see from their FAQ:

There are several release branches for Alpine Linux available at the same time. Each May and November we make a release branch from edge. The main repository is typically supported for 2 years and the community repository is supported until next stable release.

Security fixes beyond that can be made on request when there are patches available.

Release Branches (see End of support)
What is the difference between edge and stable releases?

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thanks, but that makes this distribution not viable for enterprise use.
RHEL had a support timeframe of 10 years. Debian 3-5 years. That is already a step towards more maintenance work.

I need an LTS distro, it means updates for more than 2 years like with Alpine.

OpenSuse support is a bit confusing, every minor version is supported for 1.5 years. I’m not sure how easy and problem free is to update between minor versions, also I’m not sure what will be the last minor version, they’re working on 15.6 now. They also say that support lifecycle alligns with SUSE enterprise and looks like 15 will be supported until 2028

I doubt I will touch Ubuntu… How stable and secure Debian is? How often updates break the OS? With Centos I never worry about updates breaking the system. I think I only had to go fix a server, because of an update, one time the last 5 years with a few dozen servers.


In my view that could be a double-edge sword, in terms of maintenance…
Faster pace can have some benefits.
But like i’ve said - you clearly know better about specifics of actual work :wink:

As far as i understand most of it is based on fears (sometimes understandable) and illusory predictability (i mean, look at how much mess REHL and Ubuntu made, it’s not really nice to switch a distro and processes :laughing:) of business owners, and not professionals in the field.

It’s a lot of work to reinstall servers every 2 years when you have around 50 servers. It means a lot of organizing with the companies, maybe even rewriting your install scripts for the new os version.


yes, but major updates also means that all developers will have to work on upgrading the OS and make sure that EVERY part of our software still works 24/7 - and also the update itself means hours of downtime.
To do that once every 10 years is ok. To do it once every 4 or 5 years is also ok and yes, we kind of welcome the faster “new stuff”.
To do it every 2 years is simply too much.

Just to give you some numbers: Preparing for a new OS takes about half a year of preparation. Put that in relation to doing it every 2/5/10 years :wink:


The other option would be just to wait until the dust settles and than make a well thought out choice.


Jeez…I’ve thought it should be something at best around 1-2 weeks of hard work in rewriting some parameters of scripts or testing software.

Ok, that explains a lot… :+1:

If you cannot pay for RHEL or SUSE, and you cannot update every two-three years, I also think Ubuntu LTS is the way to go. It has support for five years, and you can pay for security patches up to 10 years (ESM).

The main problem with that is that it’s Ubuntu, with all the downsides of Ubuntu.

Debian is an option, but after 3 years there is no guarantee of anything.


If you currently use centos7 you are used to a very stable environment. This can only be matched by one other distro not related to Red Hat. And that is Debian. In my opinion the best server distro.

Other than that Rocky Linux is still an option. They have just announced in a blog post that Red Hat’s move will not harm them. This is probably the easiest option for you.


Never. But I know „never they never“.
In terms of stability Debian is probably as close as it can be to centos.

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at the moment. Red Hat / IBM will definitely close the loop hole that they are currently using.

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