Alternatives for RHEL(and the others)

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 4 candidates: Oracle Linux, 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.

Maybe Oracle Linux isn’t affected by the removal of the source code? Is it really 100% compatible with rhel? Same configs, quirks and bugs?

Any suggestions, experiences with other distros as servers?

Why not CentOS Stream? RHEL is built from CentOS Stream and RHEL fixes get (eventually) merged into Stream.

I think Centos Stream is upstream to RHEL, so they fix stuff there before it gets merged into rhel. Also there’s one version of Stream afaik, what happens if they update some software that breaks my current config? Not updating regularly is not a smart move security wise.

Well Fedora is the upstream of Stream and Fedora Rawhide is where untested stuff goes, so CentOS Stream has a couple layers of buffer against that

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Debian is more ‘stable’ than Ubuntu, for values of stable. Unless you are running software that requires specific rhel compatible libs I would go with that…
Oracle Linux had the same approach as CentOS/Rocky, pulling sources from rhel and recompiling/repackaging with the same exact combination of packages

They have their version of the kernel (uek kernel) that supports dtrace/online patching but they also distribute a rhel version of the kernel in each release for people who needs one to one compatibility with rhel
They used to provide upgrade path from rhel to owl by just switching repos…
What will happen now is unclear, for now they have been delaying certifying their database product on Oracle Linux 9 … and that is telling… since it’s Oracle main product.
My guess is they are trying to decide what to do but it is taking time, so I would not bet in them maintaining compatibility past oel 9/rhel 9…


Nooooooo! From testing, Stream is just spicy Fedora Server and not a RHEL drop-in replacement, and not production ready!

Oracle Linux is in the same boat as Alma and Rocky.

Rocky actually announced that they will be able to continue with legal workarounds where Redhat can’t shut them down and will continue to function as a RHEL downstream.

OpenSUSE Leap/SLES are currently on a 5 year long death bed due to SUSE transitioning to SUSE ALP.

Ubuntu and anything Canonical touches is a disaster of broken packages and questionable technical and company choices

So really it just trickles down to Debian or Rocky at this point. As a long time CentOS user, my (literal) money is on Rocky.


Debian is pretty good for cheap production. Not as much mindshare and support as rhel ecosystem, but good sysadmin can manage.
Quality info sources on rhel are being pulled beyond paywall anyway, so that is that. With recent events and centos stream in the mix, debian might be left in better position in the end.

I used and supported both centos and debian servers at my last job and I couldn’t complain about either. We had some oracle linux machines for oracle db hosts as well, but those were minority, and experience wise it was just cookie cutter rhel clone with paid addons we didnt use. UEK? Please.

TLDR: Debian is a brezee as replacement for centos. Try it, you wont regret it.

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Any direct bad experience? In our experience it has been on par with Rh kernels for general purpose compute, and absolutely rock solid for running databases, especially on engineered systems/exadatas

Dtrace is cool, as is rdma over Ethernet for disks…

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FreeBSD performs well, easy to maintain and upstream and is what most would consider to be " server" distro with very good documentation and consistent layout. You want to look into it…

how compatible it is with libs made for linux?

I wouldn’t bet on red hat somehow not blocking their current workaround…

What does this mean? Googled a bit about ALP, will it replace their regular OS? LTS is also confusing with opensuse, you mean 15.x still has 5 years of support?

Just out of interest, does RH not do regional pricing?

Seems like MS are willing to do local prices for smaller countries, so I wonder if RH/IBM are missing a trick here?

I mean, Free is of course a better price thamen paid. And I don’t ascribe to the idea of non-paying users as “freeloaders,” but like, Canonical and SUSE do regional pricing for support or whatever?

I’m not sure what you mean by that, if you mean compiled there’s a compatibility layer (and it performs well in general) for Linux binaries otherwise you can find most common software in the ports collection (recommened solution) or in worst case even try to port some yourself as there’s very good documentation available and a good community around ports. The ports collection is searchable here: or if you prefer to look at the tree directly, GitHub - freebsd/freebsd-ports: FreeBSD ports tree (read-only mirror) (mirror)

@diizzy The application that runs on the servers is an accounting program, based on some old language(xharbour) . It needs some .so files, never saw libraries for bsd.

if 349$/year is not the usual price, they don’t even display the price in euro

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I see, I’d suggest that you fire up a VM, install the Linux compat layer ( Chapter 11. Linux Binary Compatibility | FreeBSD Documentation Portal ) and do a testrun.


The UEK has additional testing done to ensure rock-solid stability for their desired workloads. The base system itself is pretty much a RHEL copy though.

One thing that pairs quite nicely with the UEK is Ksplice; which is a pretty advanced online/offline live-kernel patching service.

I don’t think its such a huge selling point; but it does provide value nonetheless.

But yeah it is required to be in use with their paid software; makes sense from a legal perspective but as a FOSS enthusiast its annoying because there is no meaningful difference between the *-community-* or *-commercial-* versions other than what compiled it.

But to the topic at hand; I would just stick with Rocky. If that happens to go tits up by 2032 (EOL of Rocky 9) then I would either switch to Debian or to something exotic by then.


I’m here to comment on exotic linux distros.

Hope that everything is bundled in a separate folder and doesn’t require OS dependencies, otherwise, you might need to containerize it in a minimal distro container (like LXC running CentOS 7) and tightly lock it down.

I would suggest getting away from any corporate-backed distro, including Rocky and Alma. Nothing against them, but with the future of RHEL in such uncertainty, I wouldn’t stay close to it. With CentOS 7’s EOL at almost 1 year from now, minus about 2 weeks, I’d use this time to test stuff on different distros and see what are your options. Make the most use of what is left of the support timeframe.

As for recommendations, for servers, Debian / Devuan is fine. Because of your dependency on Linux libraries, I would encourage you to try your programs on Alpine and NixOS. If the software doesn’t require any external dependencies, either of these can serve you well. Alpine is minimal and running musl libc, while NixOS is a different paradigm to Linux, yet still maintains compatibility. Can be a bit hard to wrap your head around the config file, but once you figure what you need from it, you won’t need to configure a new server ever again. Both have their uses (lightweight vs reproducibility) and if neither work for you, I don’t see a reason why Debian would fail.