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July 15, 2022

Rocky Linux 9 Release Overview: Key Changes and Additions

Operating Systems

The highly-anticipated Rocky Linux 9 GA release is now available. In this blog, we take a detailed look at the new release, including analysis on the key changes users can look forward to, and how this new version compares to the upstream RHEL 9 release.

Rocky Linux 9 Release Overview

Rocky Linux 9, the downstream "bug-for-bug" compatible Enterprise Linux distribution built from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9, is now available. The Rocky Linux 9 release trails the RHEL 9 release by 58 days, compared to AlmaLinux 9 which followed the RHEL 9 release by only 9 days.

The comparatively slow release was largely due to the accompanying creation of a new open source build system dubbed Peridot. This new build system is designed to help teams customize Rocky Linux builds to fit their own unique use cases.

Rocky Linux representatives have also pushed back against concerns with this release lag, pointing to a focus on quality over speed.

Rocky Linux 9 GA Release Date

Rocky Linux 9 was released on July 14, 2022.

Notable Rocky Linux 9 Features and Changes

Like AlmaLinux 9, the big changes in Rocky Linux 9 are largely in line with those found in RHEL 9, minus changes tied to RHEL-specific features. Where Rocky Linux 9 separates from AlmaLinux 9 is the new cloud-native build system, Peridot, developed by the Rocky Linux team

Peridot

As mentioned above, one of the biggest changes in Rocky Linux 9 is the new build system called Peridot. According to the Rocky Linux 9 release notes, Peridot was used in the creation of the x86_64, aarch64, s390x, and ppc64le architectures.

While the development of Peridot probably slowed down the release of Rocky Linux 9, the community points to it as a foundation for the project itself, helping to ensure the versatility of Rocky Linux via allowing teams to build customized versions of Rocky Linux from scratch.

Minimum CPU Requirements

Near the top of the Rocky Linux 9 release notes, you'll see a bright yellow warning sign to check your CPUs for compatibility with Rocky Linux 9. That's because Rocky Linux 9 requires at least x86-64-v2, ARMv8.0-A, POWER 9, or IBM z14 CPUs.

Updated Support for Languages, Technologies, and Libraries

Rocky Linux 9 ships with the Linux 5.14 kernel, and includes GNOME 40 for the desktop environment (including some nice quality of life improvements for users). It also updates supported technology versions across the board, including languages, version control, web servers, caching servers, database servers, system toolchains, performance tools, debugging tools, monitoring tools, compiler toolsets, and JDK versions and supporting build technologies.

The Kernel update from version 4.18, as noted in our RHEL 9 release overview, should give some solid performance improvements

Security

Rocky Linux 9 makes a few nice security changes, including support for OpenSSL 3.0.1, OpenSSH 8.7.01, and automatically configured compliance settings for PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and DISA.

Dynamic Programming Languages

Node.js 16Perl 5.32PHP 8.0
Python 3.9Ruby 3.0 

Rocky Linux 9 introduces new versions of popular dynamic programming languages, including Node.js 16, Perl 5.32, PHP 8.0, Python 3.9, and Ruby 3.0. These updated versions present a number of improvements, both in performance and language functionality.

PHP 8, for example, introduced named arguments, union types, attributes, and various optimizations to the language — features not included in PHP 7.2.11 (which was shipped with RHEL 8).

Python 3.9 also boasts improvements over versions previously supported by RHEL, namely on the performance side.

Version Control

Git 2.31Subversion 1.14

Rocky Linux 9 supports two updated version control technologies out of the box, including Git 2.31 and Subversion 1.14. Git 2.31.0, which launched back in March of 2021, introduced a few quality of life improvements for users, including on-disk reverse indexes and a background maintenance mode that helps to improve git fetch times

Apache Subversion 1.14 also features a few improvements over previous versions, including improvements to svn log, svn info, and the interactive conflict resolver.

Web Servers

Apache HTTP Server 2.4.51nginx 1.20

Rocky Linux 9 ships with Apache HTTP Server 2.4.51 and nginx 1.20 support. For comparison, RHEL 8 shipped with support for Apache HTTP Server 2.4.37 and nginx 1.14.

Proxy Caching Servers

Varnish Cache 6.6Squid 5.2

Rocky 9 supports Varnish Cache 6.6 and Squid 5.2 as proxy caching servers, an upgrade on the Varnish Cache 6.0 and Squid 4.4 shipped with RHEL 8.

Database Servers

MariaDB 10.5MySQL 8.0
PostgreSQL 13Redis 6.2

Rocky Linux 9 adds support for MariaDB 10.5, MySQL 8.0, PostgreSQL 13, and Redis 6.2. RHEL 8, for comparison, shipped with MariaDB 10.3, PostgreSQL 10, and Redis 5 (it also shipped with MySQL 8).

System Toolchain

GCC 11.2.1glibc 2.34
binutils 2.35.2 

Rocky Linux 9 ships with a few new utilities and libraries, including GCC 11.2.1, glibc 2.34, and binutils 2.35.2. In comparison, RHEL 8 shipped with GCC 8.x in BaseOS and 9.x/10.x/11.x in AppStream.

Performance and Debugging Tools

GDB 10.2Valgrind 3.18.1SystemTap 4.6
Dyninst 11.0.0elfutils 0.186 

Rocky Linux 9 supports a variety of updated performance and debugging tool versions, including GDB 10.2, Valgrind 3.18.1, SystemTap 4.6, Dyninst 11.0.0, and elfutils 0.186. RHEL 8, in comparison, shipped with GDB version 8.2, Valgrind 3.14, SystemTap 4, and elfutils 0.174.

Performance Monitoring Tools

PCP 5.3.5Grafana 7.5.11

On the performance monitoring tool side, Rocky Linux 9 supports PCP 5.3.5 and Grafana 7.5.11 and above.

Compiler Toolsets

LLVM Toolset 13.0.1Rust Toolset 1.58.1
Go Toolset 1.17.7 

Rocky Linux 9 ships with LLVM Toolset 13.01, Rust Toolset 1.58.1, and Go Toolset 1.17.7 as the minimum versions for supported compiler toolsets.

RHEL 8, in comparison, shipped with LLVM Toolset 7.01, Rust Toolset 1.31, and Go Toolset 1.11.5.

Java Implementations and Tools

java-17-openjdkjava-11-openjdkjava-1.8.0-openjdk
Maven 3.6Ant 1.10 

Rocky Linux 9 ships with support for OpenJDK 17 as well as OpenJDK 11. These are alongside Maven 3.6 and Ant 1.10. In comparison, RHEL 8 supported OpenJDK 11.

Differences Between RHEL 9 vs Rocky Linux 9

Previous iterations of CentOS Linux have been 1:1 compatible with their parent RHEL release. At a high level, the only difference between the two distributions has been the removal of proprietary Red Hat features. For new RHEL rebuilds, like Rocky Linux, who aim for “bug for bug” compatibility, that approach remains largely the same. 

Some of the removed proprietary features, or features at least geared toward integrations within the Red Hat ecosystem, are the Kernel live patching (web console), additional security profiles (Red Hat Insights, Red Hat Satellite), and improved container development (with features that require a subscribed RHEL container host).

Final Thoughts

Rocky Linux 9 boasts a number of supported technology versions that should help teams realize better performance for their systems. And, with a new build tool that will help teams better create bespoke Rocky Linux-based distributions of their own, the Rocky Linux community has gone a long way to ensure the longevity of this already popular project.

While there has been some public discussion around the comparatively long release lag, in the words of Rocky Linux Developer Skip Grube, "...6 years from now, happy users of Rocky 9 won't care what week it was initially released.”

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