News & Announcements

Rakuten Symphony and CIQ Bring Back Open Source and Open Community with Rocky Linux: An Industry Explainer

Partha Seetala
President, Cloud Business Unit
Rakuten Symphony
October 26, 2022
minute read

Rakuten Symphony has announced full support and commitment to Rocky Linux. Please see here for the full news release and below for why.   


At the end of 2021, the open-source operating system landscape changed direction when the community-driven operating system CentOS changed from being a clone of the commercially licensed and supported Red Hat Enterprise Linux® (RHEL) release to being a staging build for the next RHEL release [background]. This introduced significant uncertainty for people using CentOS in commercial deployments, as they could no longer guarantee the content in CentOS was the same as the commercially licensed and supported RHEL release. Companies who had believed in the immutability of the open-source industry had their beliefs shattered overnight.

This motivated Greg Kurtzer, original founder of CentOS, to start a new open-source project named “Rocky Linux” to ensure the original open-source promise of CentOS would continue.

“On December 8, 2020, Red Hat announced that they would discontinue development of CentOS, which has been a production-ready downstream version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, in favor of a newer upstream development variant of that operating system known as "CentOS Stream." In response, original founder of CentOS, Gregory Kurtzer, announced via a comment on the CentOS website that he would again start a project to achieve the original goals of CentOS. Its name was chosen as a tribute to early CentOS co-founder Rocky McGaugh. By December 12, the code repository of Rocky Linux had become the top-trending repository on GitHub.” [ref]

In parallel, next generation open and disaggregated telecom networks are increasingly dependent on real-time versions of the Linux operating system. The size of such networks drives large-scale distribution, which makes current enterprise licensing models prohibitively expensive, especially for network service delivery at distributed edge. This led Rakuten Symphony to join the rapidly growing Rocky Linux open-source community and partner with CIQ, the company founded by Greg, to offer support for Rocky as part of its highly optimized telecom edge cloud offering.  

Rakuten Symphony and the surrounding technology ecosystem have heavily invested in certifying Rocky Linux to manage real-time radio processing workloads. These workloads require the latest network acceleration technologies, complex workload provisioning and the most up-to-date industry device drivers. 

Rocky Linux is now validated in the Rakuten Mobile network and is available as part of Rakuten Symphony‘s commercial offerings. We are very happy to participate in this industry effort to make Rocky Linux the default operating system and the best choice for telecom everywhere, from both a performance and commercial perspective.  

Please find answers to some commonly asked questions below.

What is Rocky Linux?

  • Rocky Linux is an open-source enterprise operating system designed to be 100% bug-for-bug compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux®. 
  • Rocky Linux rebuilds sources directly from RHEL®, so you can bet your best dollar that you'll have a super stable experience, no matter the use-case.
  • Rocky Linux is enterprise-ready, providing solid stability with regular updates and a 10-year support lifecycle, all at no cost.
  • Rocky Linux exceeded RHEL as the most popular platform measured by active downloads last month.
  • Rocky Linux is benefiting from an active and extensive community.

What problem does Rocky Linux solve in telecom?

Telecom needs to have a truly open-source OS alternative that enables the scale economics of massively, distributed deployments, while also ensuring enterprise class quality with support and guarantees that are at parity with paid alternatives.  

What is the difference between what Rakuten Symphony is offering and other OS providers?

There are no enterprise license fees and support is at parity with other OS alternatives. For telecom, Rakuten Mobile and Rakuten Symphony are ensuring Rocky Linux is proven at scale in commercial operations. There is a large and growing proactive community of very large technology companies that are ensuring Rocky Linux is leading in terms of certified software drivers and capability compatibility for telecom. Rocky Linux and the community are ensuring that it is the best alternative for the highly demanding telecom industry, which is seen as a proxy for all industries that require similar real-time high-performance edge computing and cloud support.

What does Rakuten Symphony offer?

Rakuten Symphony is the single point of contact for customer support issues with respect to Rocky Linux. Support levels are the same as other equivalent alternatives and implementation and support operation are commercially proven at scale with Rakuten Mobile.

Does this introduce additional risk to telecom operations?

Absolutely not, it is the opposite. Support is at par with other enterprise alternatives already in service as well as the entire stack being supported end-to-end by Rakuten. Rocky Linux is already proven in Rakuten Mobile and is committed to delivering on the original open-source promise that CentOS no longer keeps. 

Rakuten Symphony is also offering Rocky Linux as part of an integrated Kubernetes platform that is purposefully designed for hosting the most demanding network functions and enterprise applications at scale.

The sole focus of telecom and the growing community of telecom suppliers in proactively supporting Rocky Linux will position it to become the best alternative for commercial telecom operations, both operationally and economically, and in the future “always open” manner.

Why is Rakuten Symphony supporting such a radical move?

This is not radical: It is common sense and good business. The current economics and enterprise licensing models do not work at the scale of radio networks. In the same way public cloud and the largest internet companies had to change the economic model to support massive-scale deployments, we in the telecom industry need to do the same. We need to reduce unnecessary cost. This is not a Rakuten Symphony initiative, it is a telecom industry initiative. Rakuten Symphony is making these changes because Rakuten Mobile is already delivering the future.

Increasingly it is becoming critical to our customers to have a single integrated support model for the entire edge cloud operation that also includes the operating system for delivery of complex network functions such as Open RAN.

To learn more about the Rocky Linux community, visit here:

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