The Death of CentOS
I watched as the IT world blew up on social media last week after IBM / Red Hat announced the discontinuation of the CentOS project, the accelerated end-of-support for CentOS 8 and stated that all future CentOS releases will be replaced by CentOS Stream.
Why Should We Care?
CentOS is one of the major Enterprise Linux Operating Systems, second only to Ubuntu, with roughly 18% of websites that run Linux embracing CentOS, which is roughly ten times more than Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS, which is a downstream branch of RHEL, has been embraced by System Administrators comfortable with a community support model, looking for a free, stable, and secure Linux Operating System for their servers. This announcement has caused IT administrators to scramble looking for alternatives to replace the CentOS systems they’ve been happily running for years.
But Wait, Red Hat Said We Can Use CentOS Stream for Free
CentOS Stream was introduced back in September 2019 concurrent with the release of CentOS 8. Stream is a rolling development branch upstream of RHEL releases providing early access to new features in upcoming versions of RHEL. This is great for software development teams working on applications targeted for a soon to be released minor version of RHEL, or teams looking to announce certification of their application on RHEL concurrent with Red Hat’s release announcement, but for organizations looking for a free, secure, and stable Linux Operating System to run on their sites, it’s a disaster.
What’s a Sysadmin to Do? Luckily there Are Some Alternatives
- Oracle had already positioned its Oracle Linux free offering as “a better alternative to CentOS,” and Red Hat’s announcement may convince a lot of CentOS users to jump to Oracle Linux. This could be a great boon for Oracle Linux visibility which currently has about 2% of the website market share of CentOS.
- Two days following the Red Hat announcement, CloudLinux announced they will be releasing a free, open source, community-supported version of its CloudLinux OS in the first quarter of 2021. Again, a potential boon for CloudLinux visibility which currently has less than a 1% website market share of CentOS.
- In response to the IBM / Red Hat announcement, Gregory Kurtzer who co-founded CentOS back in 2004 is building a new Community Enterprise Linux distribution called Rocky Linux. This organization is still in its infancy, but it sure appears that history is repeating itself once again.
Unless things change, in January 2022 Red Hat will become the only significant commercial Linux distribution that does not provide a free downstream version of its distro to users. IBM / Red Hat is betting that many of their loyal CentOS users will convert to a supported (meaning paid) version of RHEL, but that may be overly optimistic given the other viable free alternatives available.
Let’s all hope other commercial Linux distribution providers don’t follow Red Hat’s lead.