Is CentOS Dead?

Is CentOS Dead?

Is CentOS Dead?

12th January, 2021

CentOS has always been part of our conversation with clients, especially for those that have been attracted to the zero cost support offered by the Opensource community. On December 8th, this community was rocked when Red Hat announced “the future of the CentOS Project is CentOS Stream”. Our own Tim Stockford (Senior UNIX Engineer) has reviewed the news and answers the pivotal question: What is CentOS Stream and what does this mean for the CentOS users and the (much larger) Red Hat user base in Options?


What is CentOS? 

The CentOS Project (Community Enterprise Operating System) is essentially a free version of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Operating System. Prior to the announcement, CentOS provided a long support lifecycle (9/10 years), with major and minor updates only a matter of months behind the official Red Hat release. Only a small number of Red Hat Linux RPM’s are repackaged for CentOS (mostly due to the copyright on the Red Hat logo). Aside from this, the only significant difference between CentOS and Red Hat Linux is the support model. The Opensource community provide free support for CentOS, where Red Hat offers a paid subscription model.

CentOS appeared as a Red Hat clone in 2004, and by 2010, 30% of all web-servers ran CentOS Linux. In 2014, Red Hat announced it would sponsor the CentOS project. CentOS has since become an extremely viable, free alternative to the Red Hat paid subscription model.

Before the December announcement, the Fedora Operating System was the significant upstream pre-release distribution for Red Hat. I remember using the DNF Software package manager in Fedora 23 in 2015 (Red Hat 8 officially included DNF in 2019). While Fedora remains bleeding edge, CentOS Stream now occupies the middle ground between Fedora and Red Hat Linux.


What is CentOS Stream?

In short, CentOS Stream is an upstream development release for Red Hat Linux.

CI/CD’s purpose is to code a little, deploy a little and test a little, in a continuous development cycle. Placing CentOS Stream between Fedora and Red Hat Linux makes sense in terms of Continuous Integration. The Red Hat release cycle is notably slow (some might say glacial). I’ve seen a number of occasions where Application development teams need a specific feature of a package that is unavailable in the Red Hat repositories. Hopefully, we will see a shorter Red Hat release cycle, with the same stability and the added benefit of a feature-rich distribution.


What does this mean for Options clients?

As CentOS Stream is now a development branch for Red Hat Linux, many users will question running production environments on CentOS Stream but at Options we have always recommended Red Hat Linux in production environments.

We have long understood that Opensource projects can turn on a dime, fork or lose momentum, so providing our clients an Enterprise level Operating System has always been a key objective for us. We’ve always steered clients away from community supported Operating Systems.

So the real win for our clients is we’re largely unaffected by the news! Our long-term position on Red Hat Linux has meant a limited impact to us and our client base.

However, I am sure the CentOS Stream announcement will have a major impact on many organisations. Certainly reducing CentOS 8 support will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of all that recently upgraded from CentOS 6 and 7. We saw CentOS 6 go EOL in November 2020, so a significant amount of CentOS 6 users will have moved straight to CentOS 8 expecting the 9/10 year support lifecycle. CentOS 7 remains supported until 2024, and CentOS 7 users will need to consider their upgrade path wisely.


I want to migrate from CentOS to another distribution, what are my options?

Options Engineers can help with Operating System migrations and can advise on the most suitable target distribution. We are part of the Red Hat CCSP Program (Certified Cloud and Service Provider Program), and host community supported Linux distributions. Migrating entire environments into the Options Hosting Platform is at the core of our business. We have a large team of experts who can work with you to easily transition you from your current Linux distribution.

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