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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

CentOS Linux 8 will end in 2021 and shifts focus to CentOS Stream

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CentOS is an acronym for Community Enterprise Operating System, and it is a 100% rebuild of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). While RHEL costs money, CentOS offered as a free community-supported enterprise Linux distro. Developers and companies who are good at Linux and don’t want to pay RHEL support fees always selected CentOS to save money and get enterprise-class software. However, the free ride is over. Red Hat announced that CentOS Linux 8, as a rebuild of RHEL 8, will end at 2021. CentOS Stream continues after that date, serving as the upstream (development) branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

CentOS project history

We saw the first CentOS release in May 2004 called CentOS version 2 and was forked from RHEL 2.1AS (advance server). It was an instant hit among Linux lovers, web hosting companies, developers, and the HPC community. CentOS offered enterprise-grade software free of cost with self-support and community support are driven by email mailing lists or online forums. It is a great way to save money on an expensive RHEL contract when you no longer need support or training contracts.

What is a CentOS stream?

CentOS stream seats between Fedora and RHEL. In other words, CentOS Stream is a rolling-release distro for RHEL. It acts as a gateway between Fedora and CentOS:

Upstream ➡️ Downsteam ➡️ RHEL

So we have:

Fedora Linux ➡️ CentOS Stream ➡️ RHEL

CentOS Project shifts focus to CentOS Stream and CentOS Linux 8 will end at 2021

From the announcement email:

The future of the CentOS Project is CentOS Stream, and over the next year we’ll be shifting focus from CentOS Linux, the rebuild of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), to CentOS Stream, which tracks just ahead of a current RHEL release. CentOS Linux 8, as a rebuild of RHEL 8, will end at the end of 2021. CentOS Stream continues after that date, serving as the upstream (development) branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. When CentOS Linux 8 (the rebuild of RHEL8) ends, your best option will be to migrate to CentOS Stream 8, which is a small delta from CentOS Linux 8, and has regular updates like traditional CentOS Linux releases. If you are using CentOS Linux 8 in a production environment, and are concerned that CentOS Stream will not meet your needs, we encourage you to contact Red Hat about options.

How will CVEs be handled in CentOS Stream?

Security issues will be updated in CentOS Stream after they are solved in the current RHEL release. Obviously, embargoed security releases can not be publicly released until after the embargo is lifted. While there will not be any SLA for timing, Red Hat Engineers will be building and testing other packages against these releases. If they do not roll in the updates, the other software they build could be impacted and therefore need to be redone. There is therefore a vested interest for them to get these updates in so as not to impact their other builds and there should be no issues getting security updates.

In other words, CentOS Streams users will test RHEL ahead of everyone and report bugs, but they won’t get security updates till resolved in RHEL. Very tricky situation.

Does this mean that CentOS Stream is the RHEL BETA test platform now?

As per FAQ:

No. CentOS Stream will be getting fixes and features ahead of RHEL. Generally speaking, we expect CentOS Stream to have fewer bugs and more runtime features than RHEL until those packages make it into the RHEL release.

There is no option if you use CentOS for CI because you couldn’t use RHEL developer licenses. Also, note that CentOS Stream will have different ABI/API at times, so you can no longer test or build EPEL packages locally.

Can the CentOS community continue to develop/rebuild CentOS linux?

Red Hat says they we will not be putting hardware, resources, or asking for volunteers to work towards that effort, nor will we allow the CentOS brand to be used for such a project, as they feel that it dilutes what we are trying to do with the refocus on CentOS Stream. That said, the code is open source and they wouldn’t try to stop anyone from choosing to use it or build their own packages from the code.

No impact on CentOS 7

CentoS 7 will continue to produce through the remainder of the RHEL 7 life cycle. So no impact on CentOS 7 users.

Conclusion

I think it is a wrong move on the Red Hat part. The main advantage of CentOS is to provide 100% binary compatibility with RHEL. At work, we mainly used CentOS for testing as we target RHEL, but it saves lots of money. CentOS was our “no-nonsense test platform” for MySQL, PHP, Nginx, Java, and many other apps. Once the app was ready, we will deploy it on RHEL 8 cluster. Only one no-cost Red Hat Developer Subscription can be added to a user account to such purposes. So if you have seven developers, Additional six developers can create their own user accounts at developers.redhat.com. We have to deal with additional accounts. So if you have seven developers, Additional six developers can create their own user accounts at developers.redhat.com. We have to deal with additional accounts. So If developers want a free as in beer RHEL clone, the next best choice might be Oracle Linux.

Many users are not going to be happy. We may see a new fork, too, but only time will tell. Other Linux distros such as Ubuntu or Debian LTS will see many new users.

Red hat benefited a lot from the massive CentOS community, and this change was not needed. That is my honest opinion. What do you think? Are you affected by this new change, and if so, which Linux distro would choose to replace CentOS 8?

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