Aditya Nag
December 6, 2004

This article was first published on

I recently got a chance to interview Greg M. Kurtzer, the head of the Caos Foundation, the people who make cAos and CentOS Linux.

I see from your donations page that you are incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. Are you registered in California, or in some other state? 

We are actually incorporated in Delaware because there are several benefits that Delaware offers that other states don’t (which is why the majority of US companies are incorporated in Delaware).

We registered as a not-for-profit organization with the goal of becoming 501c3 or similar. We just finished the paperwork which allows us to be based out of California. At the moment, we have not obtained US IRS tax exemption status. We are estimating to do this mid 2005.

Can you tell me a little bit about the principles behind the Foundation? Also something about your experience in the industry, or whatever you like about your top guys. 

The principle is simple. Freely available and community maintained RPM based distributions of Linux.

The motive is also simple. There are 2 successful community based distributions available (Debian and Gentoo), but neither uses RPM which is what a large percentage of the community has standardized on. One of the reasons why there has been little need for the community to create this was because it was supplied by a distribution vendor for free. While the vendor still developed the distribution in a closed and commercial manner, it was well maintained, and updates were very reliable. The community seemed satisified. Recently this model changed leaving a niche open for a freely available solution that had a reasonable life span of updates and maintenance. I think the sudden changing of models by commercial distribution vendors has emphasized the importance of supporting the community and openly managed solutions.

The cAos Foundation now hosts 2 major distribution projects. Today, the most popular is Centos, which is a rebuild of the freely distributable sources in Enterprise Linux. The second project is cAos Linux which is a new distribution which offers a nice cross between bleeding edge, stability, and longevity. cAos Linux was the first project of the Foundation, thus it shares the name.

Our developers range from all over the world, and have background in many areas. Most of the core developers of cAos Linux and CentOS have prior experience with OS hacking and/or distribution maintenance. We have a great group of developers that are both very knowledgeable and helpful.

How current are your updates? For example, if Red Hat releases a security update, how long is it, on average, before you have it available through your version of up2date? What about recommended updates and other updates? 

For CentOS, we track the Red Hat updates as closely and quickly as possible. Typically we release our updates within hours of Red Hat’s, but we publicize a 24 hour lead time. We have multiple people that have access to update the mirrors, so the team itself has the capability to consistently release updates quickly.

cAos-2 (cAos Linux) is right on the verge of the initial release (cAos-1 was a proof of concept and a learning exercise for us which we consider very successful). With cAos2 we try to use pristine packages from the upstream maintainers, so when they release an update, it is easy for us to update a package. We only back port fixes to packages when an update would create dependency conflicts, or ABI changes.

Both solutions default to using YUM as the updater and package installer. It has proven to be very reliable, and light weight.

How long will you continue to provide the updates for CentOS? Once cAos Linux launches, will you focus more on that and allow CentOS to deprecate? 

Updates for CentOS will continue for as long as: 1, there are users, and 2, RH produces them.

The CentOS developers are committed to CentOS. While some of them may also be contributing to cAos, their primary efforts will always be CentOS. CentOS is not going to go away when cAos is released!

As a matter of fact, cAos is on the verge of releasing v2 and we are also beginning the planning for CentOS-4. We are hoping both will be as successful as CentOS-3 was! :)

Do you know of any large companies/universities/websites which have switched to CentOS or cAos? 

Yes, CentOS has many more then I can count, or begin to name off! CentOS has proved to be an instantaneous success! I am aware of multiple co-location facilities, universities, government institutions, and corporate intuitions that have migrated to it.

cAos Linux on the other had is being presently used by developers, and people that want specialized, lightweight, tuned systems. We are still preparing the initial release, and have already been contacted by vendors that want to use it. At the moment, I am aware of co-location facilities, EDU’s, and some commercial organizations that are using it. Some of which have talked to me wanting to help fund development using a sponsorship donation model!

Since you started this project, have you got the feeling that it is appreciated and used by many people around the world? 

As I mentioned, CentOS is an instant success! I have gotten many emails from people thanking us for our efforts, and providing such a needed service! I am increasingly surprised with how quickly things seem to be moving!

There are not as many users of cAos Linux ATM, but the number is steadily increasing. cAos-2 numbers are on the rise even though we have not announced the release.

Would you like to say something in particular about CentOS or the cAos Foundation? 

Sure. I would like to mention a bit about the history of the Foundation. We started off building the new distribution (cAos Linux). CentOS came to be because we needed a system to bootstrap the cAos-1 development. We realized that others in the community were looking for a properly maintained rebuild of Enterprise Linux, so we made plans for a public release. We spent time building our methods and infrastructure so that we can release something that was very reliable and usable from the beginning. John Newbigin and Lance Davis are the lead maintainers of CentOS-2 and 3 respectively and have done a brilliant job! CentOS now has several more contributors as well, and we have released the x86_64 port.

cAos Linux remember is being built simultaneously as CentOS. It started out as a new distribution, and has been quickly maturing into something extremely powerful and stable. Version 1 was a prototype. We wanted to see if it was possible to do, and what it would take to manage an RPM and community based distributions. We learned a lot from the experience of cAos-1, and are now working on the second version that takes many of the great ideas and features from other Unixes and distributions, and what we learned in version 1 to make something new. We have not spent much effort maintaining cAos-1 because we have been developing cAos-2.

With cAos2 we started new, and built a very solid yet current core OS. This core OS is maintained by our core developers specifically. Outside developers and maintainers can integrate their packages into the extended (non-core) part of the distribution, and everything is built off of the core OS which is frozen throughout the life of the distribution (only updates are security and bug fixes). We have payed close attention to make sure that dependencies are managed properly, and that the core is completely self hosting on multiple architectures. It includes packages like: Linux-2.6.9, gcc-3.4.3, xorg-6.8.1, gnome, xfce, enlightenment, etc… It is suitable as a workstation, server, or cluster master/slave nodes.

Stay tuned for the release announcements of cAos-2!

Lastly I would like to thank all of the cAos Foundation developers, and users that have contributed to us. :)

If you have an interest in helping us develop any of these projects, we are very open to talented and dedicated members of the community to join us. The Foundation is also interested in partnering with commercial organizations that could provide support or other services to clients for our projects. Visit our web site for more details.