April 19, 2023

What is CentOS?

CentOS, short for Community Enterprise Operating System, is an open source Linux-based operating system derived from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) source code. It is designed as a platform for enterprise-level, high-performance computing. It has been used by many organizations, providing excellent stability, security, and scalability while avoiding RHEL licensing fees. Because it is open source, CentOS has a community of supporters to help develop programs, fix bugs, and provide technical support to CentOS users. The CentOS project has been sponsored by Red Hat, inc. since 2014.

CentOS Linux vs. CentOS Stream

The CentOS project has created two different distributions: CentOS Linux and CentOS Stream. Both distributions are open source versions of CentOS but reside in various stages of the development cycle. CentOS Stream is the upstream distribution platform for developing upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) releases, providing small updates and fixes to  RHEL. 

CentOS Linux is a downstream platform derived from RHEL source code. Support for the most recent version of CentOS Linux ended in 2021, ending all updates and fixes.  When it was actively supported, a new version of CentOS Linux followed major updates to RHEL. 

A functional difference between the two distributions is their release cycle. Because CentOS Linux is downstream from other Linux development projects, major releases often came months or years apart. CentOS Stream is an upstream project and is continually developed by its community. Releases occurred on a timeline of weeks and days. This resulted in CentOS Linux, and therefore Rocky Linux, being the more stable platform, with each update being based on tried and tested code.

What Is the Future of CentOS?

The CentOS project plans to discontinue releases and support for CentOS Linux within the next year and a half. CentOS Linux version 8 has been discontinued since 2021. Updates for CentOS Linux 7 will be stopped in June 2024. CentOS Linux users must migrate their systems to other platforms like Rocky Linux. CentOS Stream will continue to be managed by Red Hat as part of the Linux ecosystem.

Rocky Linux vs. Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Rocky Linux is a new open source Linux distribution created by Gregory Kurtzer, one of the original founders of CentOS, to replace CentOS Linux 8. It was founded to bring back the original intent of CentOS; to create a truly independent Linux distribution, supported by a community of individuals and organizations sharing common goals, without the concern for gain or profit. Rocky Linux is also downstream from REHL but is completely independent of Red Hat management. This gives Rocky Linux the same stability and reliability that CentOS Linux provided. The Rocky Linux OS is free to use and has strong support from its creators and community.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a Linux distribution developed and maintained by the company Red Hat. They are the largest enterprise Linux platform and are known for their high-level technical and customer support. Enterprise Linux has a higher level of stability than CentOS stream, receiving the latest updates sooner than CentOS Linux and other downstream derivatives. Organizations that use Red Hat Enterprise Linux commercially must pay licensing fees to Red Hat.

Migrating to Rocky Linux

With the support for CentOS Linux ending, organizations using it will have to find a new Enterprise Linux platform. Many companies are migrating to Rocky Linux, now the fastest-growing Enterprise Linux distribution. Rocky Linux was created to maintain access to true open source Enterprise Linux distributions after the end of CentOS. CIQ is the official founding support and services partner of Rocky Linux and is committed to maintaining Rocky’s absolute independence while still being 100% compatible with RHEL. Rocky Linux is community supported, free to use, and possesses the best features and experience from CentOS.

Learn more about Migrating to Rocky Linux