Red Hat recently announced a move away from CentOS Linux to CentOS Stream. CentOS Stream is a ‘rolling preview’ of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and updated several times a day from that code base. CentOS Stream also tracks ahead of a current release of RHEL. Many folks in the community were not happy with this initial news, as many have production systems and applications built on a stable release of CentOS Linux, where updates to the operating system are on a schedule.
Transitioning to CentOS Stream and will cause system admins to contend with system updates throughout the day as it's a rolling release or as Red Hat says, is a ‘rolling preview’. Another option is to move directly to RHEL, get paid support, and be on a stable release. This is where a lot of the community's frustration is happening.
I understand the frustration, as we in IT have service level agreements to manage with our business units. The installation of updates throughout the day to business systems adds a layer of unpredictability to system design that was not there to begin with.
CentOS Linux 8 is the latest release, but there will be no new updates after December 31, 2021. CentOS Linux 7 will still be supported until June 30, 2024. There are no plans for a CentOS Linux 9. I know many folks have been looking for alternatives to CentOS Stream, and it seems like they may still have some time.
CentOS Stream 9 will be available in Q2 2021 but if you want to get started with CentOS Stream, you can download version 8 today, which is end-of-life May 31, 2024. I hope Red Hat or the community monitor the amount of code contributions that come from this new model as CentOS Stream will track ahead of RHEL. Red Hat has a major release every three years and a minor release every six months. The code contributions that make it into RHEL could be a sign of how well people are adopting this new model.
In terms of how Fedora, CentOS Stream and RHEL are aligned, my understanding is that CentOS Stream sits between Fedora’s community innovation and RHEL stability. CentOS Stream will be the platform that becomes the next minor release version in RHEL.
Facebook was touted as liking the move as they have migrated or are currently migrating to a version of CentOS Stream which Facebook has changed. Facebook sees this as an opportunity to work with the Red Hat ecosystem and drive innovation. Red Hat also committed to moving all their internal projects to CentOS Stream, which is a vote of confidence. It will be nice to hear about how they are doing throughout the year in blogs updates.
I always pause when I hear hyper-scale companies talk about how great these changes are. In the enterprise, things move much slower (changes work their way through change management systems) and with more predictability. But using Facebook and others as reference architectures is always a good way to learn how to manage a large scale deployment of an operating system and keep the infrastructure running without interruption.
To help with the transition, Red Hat has done something pretty cool here. They have announced two new programs (or expanding existing ones) with more on the way. But one in particular that caught my attention was:
No-cost RHEL for small production workloads
This program exists through the Red Hat developer program, which I encourage you to sign up for. This program offered a single-machine no-cost license to developers' RHEL. They have expanded the program to include up to sixteen RHEL machines for small production use cases. That’s why there is a lot of value in joining this free program. You can upgrade your subscription to get full support if needed.
The other cool thing about this program is you can use those 16 RHEL licenses in public clouds like AWS, Google and Microsoft. You of course need to pay for the hosting charges.
The Individual Developer subscription for RHEL will be available February 1, 2021.
Are there any CentOS alternatives
There are alternatives to CentOS Linux, in which more and more folks are giving them a test drive to see if they meet their current and future enterprise needs. Here are three examples that might not be top of mind for you and a newcomer. These are downstream versions, meaning it's a fork of a Linux project in this case, RHEL.
- Oracle Linux is 100% application binary compatible with RHEL and free
- Cloud Linux, replacement for CentOS Linux in Q1 2021 and it will be free
- ClearOS, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise community distribution, which is free
The most interesting option I think is from Gregory Kurtzer, founder of the CentOS project called Rocky Linux. This is not currently available, but Gregory has made the call out to the community to help get this organized. I am excited to see this take shape over the next several months and looking forward to getting this deployed in my lab.
Let me know how you feel about the changes coming to CentOS, will you be moving to CentOS Stream? Or are you going with an alternative? Let me know on Twitter and as always, thanks for reading.