Disruption from Google and Red Hat

Date: Tue 2023-06-27

Permalink: https://www.dominic-ricottone.com/posts/2023/06/disruption-from-google-and-red-hat/

I was 10 minutes from boarding an airplane when I learned (by way of a Fireship video) that Google Domains was getting the ax. That was a terrible way to kick off 3 hours offline.

I have been using Google Domains as my sole domain registry since I began self-hosting seven years ago. It had a dead-simple interface. It offered every feature I needed without any click-throughs to authorize ‘add ons’ or ‘premium services’. It never tried to sell me a nonsense WYSIWYG site builder. It was just a domain registry service. For all of that, I was happy to pay the ‘premium’ over at-cost registries.

Google has unfortunately killed off yet another spin-off. I’ve heard for years about Google’s track record in this sphere, but I’d never actually been inconvenienced by it. (Okay, technically I had a Google+ account back in the day, but I assure you that no tears were spilled on its behalf.)

So… migrating registries. I re-researched the market and decided that it was time to join the Cloudflare hype train. Their interfaces are fine, they aren’t too annoying with the up-sell marketing. It’s not a terrible experience. It actually was easier to do than I expected, including setting up dynamic DNS for my home IP address.

Things that are not fun: teaching myself how to host an email server on a deadline. Google Domains made email relaying incredibly simple as long as you were already using GMail. So jump to today; I have dozens of subscriptions and resumes using custom email addresses that actually were being relayed by the Google monolith. Even my PGP key would be affected by a DNS migration.

Luckily I have been playing with containerized MTAs for the last couple months so I had some foundation to start with. Not only could I configure and deploy a server rapidly, I knew how to debug it with telnet. That head start is probably what saved me. All that was left to do was:

  • SPF
  • reverse DNS
  • port forwarding and firewalling
  • Cyrus authentication
  • figuring out what Google wants from me before it’s willing to just connect a server that is definitely listening and is definitely doing STARTTLS correctly, it’s not like I’m asking you to accept an email from my server just send an email to my server, it can’t be that complicated please

I still don’t fully understand what ritual Google finally relented on. Some people online suggested that a DMARC policy had to be published before the GMail servers would be willing to acknowledge you. Others suggested that the EHLO name really mattered. I sent about 60 test emails over the course of 36 hours. It took until the 14 hour mark for the first one to get through, but I have no idea what I changed for that magical moment. 20+ hours later, some mysterious queue was just beginning to open the floodgates on all the rest.

So I have fully migrated off of Google Domains and taken steps to migrate off of GMail to boot. I’ve learned my lesson, too. Won’t catch me dead on GCP.

Red Hat also seems to have decided to shoot themselves in the foot this week. They seem to be fond of disruption over there, and I’m usually in favor. Even if I don’t like what they do (i.e. systemd-resolvd), once in a blue moon they knock it out of the park (i.e. rootless podman). They light a fire under other Linux projects to keep up-to-date with emerging standards and optimizations (i.e. Python packaging backends). They’ve also demonstrated a willingness to pick a fight when it should be had (i.e. Google (deja vu?) cutting off Chromium)

Unlike many people (I’m sure), I never had a problem with the idea of CentOS Stream. Hard to fear a rolling release distro when you live on Arch, I suppose. Losing the stable releases was unfortunate but heavy delays on version 8 guaranteed that some poor news was in the wind. (For the record: RHEL 8 beta in 2018; RHEL 8 released May 7, 2019; CentOS 8 release September 24th, 2019.) Better for the project to reform into something still useful, than to buckle and fold under the pressure of maintaining such a major piece of infrastructure.

That was the point of CentOS in my mind: infrastructure. Am I ever going to buy a RHEL license for my personal projects? Of course not. But my employers are (too?) happy to shell out money for software with security and support guarantees. Having an open source, ABI-compatible project means that I can develop tools and experience in a compatible environment. It also enables developers to keep the RHEL audience in mind when testing and deploying updates The only thing better than using custom and purpose-built tooling is using tooling that I didn’t have to write. All of these were powered by CentOS as infrastructure.

Losing CentOS stable releases was unfortunate, but we move on. We try to understand what issues and scarcities caused the project to stumble, and try to fix them in the next project. Any many people were happy to step forward with their own ideas. Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux are both great projects that I hope to try soon.

Red Hat now wants to close their source code. It’s a sad day and it’s inevitable that RHEL will be the ultimate loser. Downstream projects will probably migrate towards packaging CentOS Stream. They will continue to work perfectly for everyone outside of enterprise. Eventually enterprise users will have a mess on their hands, but deep pockets are not endless pockets. At some critical mass of developer hours spent, RHEL will go the way of AIX and Solaris. In a couple decades we will talk about RHEL the same way sages speak of mainframes.

I can understand why the barrel was aimed at their own feet, but I can’t understand why no one stopped them from pulling the trigger.

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