What To Know About the Open Enterprise Linux Association

OpenELA was established in response to Red Hat’s policy change and focuses on ensuring open and transparent access to Linux source code.

Grant Knoetze, Contributor

October 13, 2023

4 Min Read
open source phrase made from metallic letterpress blocks on the pc board background

You may have already heard about the Open Enterprise Linux Association, but if you’re seeking more details, I have prepared this article to delve into the association’s origins, its mission, and the implications for RHEL-compatible distributions.

What Is OpenELA?

The Open Enterprise Linux Association (OpenELA) is a trade association that was formed in August 2023 in response to a pivotal policy shift by Red Hat concerning the accessibility of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) source code. The association is an alliance between three well-known organizations active in the open source community: CIQ, Oracle, and SUSE.

OpenELA operates as a U.S. non-profit 501(c)(6) organization in Delaware.

Consequences of the Red Hat Policy Change

Red Hat’s decision to change its policy regarding the availability of RHEL source code triggered a strong reaction from organizations involved in creating RHEL-compatible clone distributions. Notable players in this space include AlmaLinux, Rocky Linux, and Oracle.

The policy changes were announced in a June 21 blog post by Red Hat vice president of Core Platforms (which is the division overseeing RHEL) Mike McGrath. In the blog post, he stated that CentOS Stream, a Linux distribution serving as the upstream development branch for RHEL, “will now be the sole repository for public RHEL-related source code releases. For Red Hat customers and partners, source code will remain available via the Red Hat Customer Portal.”

Related:What Is Linux? An Operating System, Software, Program, and More

The OpenELA project launched soon after the policy change, seeking to promote open source principles and foster an inclusive and accessible environment for Linux developers. OpenELA’s primary focus is to provide access to the kernel, which will be available on GitHub, enabling anyone interested to create their own Linux distribution. OpenELA itself does not plan to introduce distributions.

OpenELA’s Mission

OpenELA’s core objectives center on ensuring that the source code of Linux distributions remains open, transparent, and accessible to all. The association emphasizes collaborative coding, knowledge sharing, and consensus-driven decision-making within the Linux community.

screenshot from OpenELA website

OpenELA screenshot

The Board of Directors

The OpenELA board of directors will maintain representation from founding entities CIQ, Oracle, and SUSE. The board has stated that it will welcome additional organizations and community members that share OpenELA’s values. 

End-of-Year Goals of OpenELA

OpenELA promises to deliver the following by the end of 2023:

  1. Complete Source Code: Providing the essential source code for a 1:1 / bug-for-bug compatible version of Enterprise Linux, distributed using Git.

  2. Security Errata Data: Including security updates and corrections for source code packages.

  3. Compatibility Guidelines: Establishing guidelines for the compatibility of downstream distributions to test build results.

  4. Branding Kit: Offering branding resources for downstream distributions and their supporters.

  5. User and Administration Documentation: Contributed by Oracle.

OpenELA aims to support the existence of RHEL-compatible downstream distributions initially for RHEL versions 8 and 9, with potential expansion to Enterprise Linux 7. The association enables community members like Rocky Linux to continue producing distributions as in the past and welcomes new vendors to create distributions using the provided source code.

Main Takeaways

The establishment of the organization is essentially a good thing for all developers and organizations involved in the development and downstream distributions of Enterprise Linux and RHEL. If nothing else, it offers an alternative resource, even for RHEL enterprise customers. It gives power back to individuals and entities that support the free access to secure open source code.

This is a massive undertaking, and the participating organizations have taken a risk by promising deliverables by the end of the year. While we’ll see what comes to fruition, the organizations appear to be actively engaged in fulfilling OpenELA’s promises.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: How do I get involved with OpenELA?

A: You can use this link to join: https://openela.org/join/. The page says, “We are still in the early makings of the project, so the first step in becoming part of what we are doing is to join us and say hello!”

Q: Who can get involved?

A: If you’re an Enterprise Linux developer, RHEL enthusiast, or represent an organization interested in EL or RHEL, OpenELA is actively seeking contributors who align with its principals.

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About the Author(s)

Grant Knoetze


Grant Knoetze is a cybersecurity analyst with a special interest in DFIR, programming languages, incident response, red-teaming, and malware analysis. His full-time job includes teaching and instructing in various topics from basic Linux all the way through to malware incident response, and other advanced topics. He is also a speaker at various conferences worldwide.




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