The Linux community and hosting industry were both left riling after Red Hat Software, a subsidiary of IBM, announced major changes to their community driven operating system, CentOS Linux.
Over the next year CentOS will 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 and introduces rolling updates. CentOS Linux 8, as a rebuild of RHEL 8, will no longer be supported at the end of 2021. CentOS Stream continues after that date, serving as a rolling-release, upstream (development) branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
CentOS Stream will include the source code for RHEL version x + N+1. For example during the 8.3 RHEL cycle, stream will be deploying RHEL 8.4 source code and so forth. As such CentOS will potentially become a development platform for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system.
It is interesting to note that the CTO of Red Hat, Chris Wright, had stated last year on ZDNET that “Old school CentOS isn’t going anywhere. Stream is available in parallel with the existing CentOS builds. In other words, nothing changes for current users of CentOS”.
He added “if you need a stable RHEL-like operating system, CentOS will still be there for you. But, if you need to keep up with your competitors who are building new cloud and container-based applications, CentOS Stream will work better for you.”
Should I upgrade?
Users who have desktops or servers using CentOS Linux 8 will be forced to look at upgrading to CentOS Stream 8 or migrating to a different OS altogether within the next 12 months. The original life cycle of CentOS 8 was set to 10 years, this pledge to provide long term support (LTS) has also been axxed. Those looking for a stable, long term support solution are thus also suggested to look elsewhere.
Current users of CentOS Linux 7 are recommended to not upgrade to CentOS 8 for now, at least until there is more clarity with regards to the direction Red Hat is intending to take with CentOS Stream. It is worth noting that CentOS Linux 7 will be End-of-Life (EOL) on June 30, 2024.
Thankfully the upgrade process is not complicated and can be completed by issuing two commands (CentOS Linux 8 only) :
dnf install centos-release-stream dnf distro-sync
A major benefit of CentOS Stream is that “it allows for a major shift in collaboration among the CentOS Special Interest Groups (SIGs). This ensures SIGs are developing and testing against what becomes the next version of RHEL. This also provides SIGs a clear single goal, rather than having to build and test for two releases. It gives the CentOS contributor community a great deal of influence in the future of RHEL. And it removes confusion around what “CentOS” means in the Linux distribution ecosystem”.
This effectively means that bugs can be fixed quicker, security updates can be pushed out faster and newer versions of OS components can be introduced earlier.
Control panel support
CentOS Linux is widely used as a operating system for servers and it is the platform of choice for many web hosting providers. It is compatible with a wide range of control panels such as DirectAdmin, Plesk, Webmin and cPanel.
DirectAdmin have already confirmed that their software will work with CentOS Stream, Red Hat Linux, but also Oracle Linux which at this time appears to be the closest alternative. Another option may be Springdale Linux by Princeton University. DirectAdmin also has out-of-the-box support for Debian/Ubuntu and FreeBSD.
cPanel on the other hand only supports CentOS 7. There is no support yet for CentOS 8 and it remains unclear at this time how cPanel will handle this change.
Gregory Kurter, founder of CentOS had this to say:
“I am considering creating another rebuild of RHEL and may even be able to hire some people for this effort. If you are interested in helping, please join the HPCng Slack Channel.”
The rebuild is being discussed on Reddit and is now starting to take shape and it is called Rocky Linux. “Rocky Linux is a community enterprise Operating System designed to be 100% bug-for-bug compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux now that CentOS has shifted direction”.
The CloudLinux development team have also announced an open-sourced and community driven RHEL fork.
“If you are running CentOS 8 – we will release an OS very similar to CentOS 8 based on RHEL 8 stable. We will provide stable and well-tested updates until 2029 – completely free. You will be able to convert from CentOS 8 at any moment by running a single command that switches repositories & keys.”
An online petition is now available at change.org. If the future of the CentOS project is important to you, we highly recommend signing this petition.