April 15, 2021

What Is AlmaLinux?

Operating Systems
Open Source

Editor's Note: This blog was originally published on 4-15-2021 and was updated on Sept 11, 2023. 

As the first CentOS alternative with a general availability build, AlmaLinux has quickly become a hot topic for those working with Enterprise Linux.

In this blog, we give an overview of AlmaLinux, discuss available repositories, compare AlmaLinux vs. Rocky Linux and CentOS, and discuss the steps needed for AlmaLinux to become a viable build at enterprise scale.

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What Is AlmaLinux?

AlmaLinux is a free, fully compatible fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, developed by the AlmaLinux Community and owned by the 501-(c)(6) non-profit AlmaLinux OS Foundation. 

Originally called Project Lenix – it was renamed to AlmaLinux on Jan 12, 2021. While “alma” has several definitions, the project team has chosen the Latin language definition: soul. 

It was originally sponsored by CloudLinux with a promise of $1M in annual funding, although details of these funds have not been released to the public. It is also supported by sponsorships from 25+ other companies. 

AlmaLinux at a Glance
Latest Release9.2

At release: Linux kernel-4.18.0-240.15.1.el8_3

As of 210414: Linux kernel-4.18.0-240.22.1.el8_3

Licenses(s)GPLv2 and others

AlmaLinux Release Date

The first AlmaLinux general availability release (8.3) was on March 30, 2021. It followed the Feb 22, 2021 release candidate (8.3-rc-1) and the successful release of AlmaLinux 8.3-beta-1 public beta, released on February 2, 2021.

AlmaLinux attempts to release regular updates within one business day of RHEL's release cycle. Major releases have typically been available within weeks to months following a major RHEL release. 

AlmaLinux Licensing

While AlmaLinux does not require a license or license agreement in order to be used, the software licensing for AlmaLinux is the same as RHEL. The AlmaLinux Licensing Policy page, describes the license as follows:

“Like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the AlmaLinux OS compilation copyright is licensed under GPLv2”. 

Side note: If the AlmaLinux licensing policy page looks familiar, that's because it's an almost word-for-word copy of the CentOS policy, with appropriate branding and date changes.

AlmaLinux Governance Model

As a non-profit 501(c)(6) organization, AlmaLinux is led by a governing board for the AlmaLinux Open Source Foundation.  The board currently has seven seats, operated by a community-elected board of people from cPanel, the Open Source Initiative, KnownHost, Hawk Host, Code Notary, and encylia. The Foundation held its first election in 2022. 

AlmaLinux Support Outlook

Since AlmaLinux is a fork of RHEL 8, patches and maintenance of AlmaLinux align with the RHEL lifecycle. This means AlmaLinux 8 will be actively maintained until 2029, and AlmaLinux 9 will be actively maintained until 2032. 

AlmaLinux Support from OpenLogic

OpenLogic provides 24/7/365 technical support and professional services for AlmaLinux, with guaranteed SLAs. We can also help you plan your migration. 

Visit AlmaLinux Support

AlmaLinux Migration Considerations

For those migrating to AlmaLinux, be sure to understand these issues:

  • Be careful if your company has customized any OS packages, as the almalinux-deploy script will perform a distro-sync which will replace any packages with the version in the AlmaLinux repos, regardless of whether the repo version is newer or older than the installed version.
  • SecureBoot is available on AlmaLinux 8.4 and later versions. 
  • AlmaLinux only supports x86_64, AArch64, IBM Z (s390x), and ppc364 at this time. 
  • If your systems are still viable candidates for migrating to AlmaLinux, the almalinux-deploy script can make migrations from other EL8 variants rather easy.
  • Only migrations from CentOS 8 or 9, Oracle Linux 8 or 9, Rocky Linux 8 or 9, and RHEL 8 or 9 are currently supported by the almalinux-deploy tool. Migration from CentOS 7, can be accomplished by using the community-built ELavate tool. 
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AlmaLinux Repositories 

AlmaLinux provides both HTTP and HTTPS mirrors at https://mirrors.almalinux.org

Secure communication with the repos over HTTPS is not strictly necessary since no authentication is required to access the repos.  Utilizing HTTPS will cause proxies to not be able to cache the packages. However, certain proxies (like squid) can be configured to accept HTTP requests from the client and connect to the upstream repos via HTTPS.

If you would like to create your own local mirror to distribute the RPMs to your clients, you can access some repo mirrors via Rsync and FTP. A caching proxy or local mirror is something that we recommend for most of our customers, not just for the packages published by the OS vendor (AlmaLinux, in this case), but also for 3rd party application repos or private repositories like we provide for our customers.

Upon the initial AlmaLinux release, signed repository metadata was not provided, but that was corrected in May 2022 with the release of 8.4. With the latest update to the libdnf package then, and all later versions of AlmaLinux, you can set repo_gpgcheck=1 in your DNF configuration to verify the repo metadata via GPG. Just be sure to update to libdnf-0.48.0-5.alma (or newer) beforehand!

AlmaLinux Release Lag

It’s a little early to determine what kind of release lag to expect with AlmaLinux as only a few packages have been updated since AlmaLinux came out on March 30, 2020, but here’s what I’ve seen with a cursory evaluation:

  • 10 bugfix updates and 1 security update were released within 1 day
  • 1 security update was released within 2 days
  • 1 security update was released within 3 days
  • 2 security updates and 3 bugfix updates have not yet been released (8+ days delay, at present)

By no means does this indicate a lack of AlmaLinux updates or a trend of unacceptable lag! This is just one data sample taken a few weeks after initial release and I’m sure there are tweaks going on under the hood to smooth out their package build/test pipeline.

OpenLogic will continue to monitor the release lag of AlmaLinux (and other CentOS alternatives) as package updates are published and new point releases materialize.

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Who Should Use AlmaLinux?

Anyone looking for an enterprise-grade operating system with 10 years of support, an active and engaged community, and who doesn’t want to deal with the extra overhead involved in switching to CentOS Stream should consider AlmaLinux as a potential candidate for their infrastructure.

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AlmaLinux vs. Rocky Linux

Both AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux are RHEL-rebuilds that have emerged in response to the Red Hat announcement on Dec 8, 2020.

For those unaware of that announcement, Red Hat stated that CentOS Linux 8 would have a diminished lifecycle that went EOL at the end of 2021, 8 years earlier than previously announced. CentOS Linux 6 went EOL on Nov 30, 2020 (as scheduled) and CentOS Linux 7 will reach EOL in June 2024.

With both projects coalescing to fill the same vacuum that will be left by CentOS 8, AlmaLinux is focused on maintaining binary compatibility with RHEL while also expanding what they provide to their users with the Synergy repo. Where we have seen the biggest differences is in release lag, responsiveness to bug reports, communication, and transparency of the project leads.

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AlmaLinux vs. CentOS Linux

AlmaLinux is intended to be a drop-in replacement for CentOS Linux.

A key benefit that AlmaLinux provides is that of update errata. The updateinfo metadata is provided, which means you can perform security-centric package management such as installing only security-only updates, query for patched vulnerabilities, etc. CentOS Linux does not provide the updateinfo metadata, but through CentOS 7, package announcements were available via a mailing list. CentOS 8 doesn't have the updateinfo metadata, either, and even the package announcements on the CentOS-announce mailing list are absent. 

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AlmaLinux vs. CentOS Stream

AlmaLinux was created to fill the void that came into existence when Red Hat terminated CentOS Linux 8 in December 2021. AlmaLinux does not contain the newest versions of the packages shipped with CentOS Stream. This is by design. If an upstream distribution like CentOS Stream fits your business and technical models, then CentOS Stream should be available for many years to come.

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Final Thoughts

AlmaLinux continues to build momentum as a CentOS alternative. However, as an Enterprise Linux distribution, it still has some work to do. That work starts with a reduction of release lag outliers (especially security updates).

That complaint aside — AlmaLinux has a bright future ahead.

Try Our AlmaLinux Images

If you’re interested in trying out AlmaLinux, OpenLogic has Vagrant boxes, AWS images, GCE images, and Azure images available to try.

Vagrant BoxesAWS ImagesGCE ImagesAzure Images 

Additional Resources

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