Nobody likes it when Big Tech changes its mind. It’s particularly frustrating when it involves a major course change on something so essential to technology infrastructure as a server operating system. But that’s exactly what happened in 2020 when Red Hat stopped supporting CentOS as a stable release.
It’s a sudden change, and, in theory, you can respond rapidly and switch to a new OS, but the practical realities of large-scale server environments complicate matters. Sometimes, the best alternative isn’t that obvious either, which means you need time to make a decision.
Red Hat left CentOS users in a difficult position when it said it wouldn’t support the stable release beyond December 2021. The challenge of choosing the right alternative means many CentOS users are faced with using an unsupported OS. With just a month to go, time is running out.
Wait, what happened with CentOS?
Here’s a quick recap: CentOS is a really popular free-to-use clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), sponsored and maintained by Red Hat. It’s more than just a clone — it’s a 1:1 binary compatible clone, and that matters because it ensures application compatibility.
You can’t really blame a profit-centered organization for focusing on its objectives, but a shift in objectives can have significant implications for some users.
RHEL is an enterprise-grade Linux-based OS that’s built for the toughest workloads, but it isn’t cheap. CentOS is such a close clone of RHEL, many organizations chose to rely on CentOS for their enterprise applications instead of RHEL because it saves thousands of dollars in licensing fees.
Besides, Red Hat promised that it would continue to support each CentOS release for about a decade. However, the company changed its mind and suddenly cut support for the latest CentOS release (version 8) with end-of-life now set to be in December 2021. In the same breath, the company also said there will be no future CentOS stable releases.
This sudden change of heart meant that CentOS 8 users had to respond quickly, but given the complexity of changing operating systems and the varying choices, many haven’t yet.
You need to act now
In some ways, using an “unsupported OS” doesn’t sound that serious. What could really happen if you wait a year or two? After all, CentOS 8 will still work just fine in January in 2022 … and probably in January 2025, too.