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CentOS News

RedHat (IBM) have announced that CentOS will no longer be a stable clone of RHEL with LTS. The "CentOS" name will instead be used as a rolling pre-release for RHEL. This is bad news for CentOS, RHEL, Fedora, IBM and those within the Linux community who have supported them.

The announcement

On Tuesday the 8th of December 2020 a notice was posted to the CentOS-Announce mailing list and their blog outlining the sudden new change of direction for what everyone had previously assumed was a solid, stable distro with long term support. The changes can be summarised as follows:

  • The EoL date for CentOS 8 is being brought forward from 2029 to 2021 (yes, a whopping 8 years earlier than previously stated).
  • CentOS Stream will be available going forward but this is a rolling pre-release for RHEL and not a stable LTS distro.

What this means in practice

Anyone running CentOS, Fedora or a derivative/respin will be affected by this.

Obviously CentOS users are going to take the biggest hit. Why were people using CentOS in the past? Because they required a long-term, stable distro which mirrored RHEL but did not need the licensing hassles or added support which an RHEL subscription would bring. Now that has gone. There will be no long-term support. The distro will not be stable but instead move to a rolling pre-release. It will no longer match RHEL. All the reasons for the existing CentOS userbase to stay with it have gone.

This change also puts CentOS Stream into the space previously occupied by Fedora and users of the latter must now be wondering what the future holds for that distro. Will it survive, even?

The derivatives and respins of CentOS might possibly be able to continue but it is going to be tough to provide the solid long-term releases if the source material isn't so aligned.

What are your options

As a CentOS user who values the stability of the existing releases, what can you do?

Option 1 is to move from CentOS to RHEL and this is obviously what IBM have intended/hoped you will do when they concocted this. You might shrug you shoulders and say, "Well if it costs a grand a year per server then that's the price we'll have to pay" and that would be reasonable. However, you might not be familiar with the surprisingly arduous process of obtaining and maintaining RHEL subscriptions (licences in other words). Be sure to budget for extra admin time and have an exit strategy when IBM double or triple the price in a few years.

Option 2 is to move to another existing distro. There are plenty of options out there to choose from which have long-term support. These include RPM-based systems such as OpenSUSE or OpenMandriva. There are the apt-based distros like Ubuntu and Debian, both of which offer 5 years of LTS. Finally, there are distros offering extra bonuses such as Slackware which gives LTS along with the benefit of no systemd.

Option 3 is to move to a different O/S entirely. Perhaps this is the nudge that will move you towards one of the BSDs?

Finally, there is the possibility of a "new CentOS" emerging. Gregory Kurtzer has suggested that with enough backing he may once again create a new publicly-available rebuild of RHEL. This will take time and a great deal of effort but might yet hold out the best hope for those so entrenched within CentOS that moving would appear too great a hurdle.

What are Openstrike's plans?

Back in 2018 we began a project to migrate away from operating systems such as CentOS which mandate the use of systemd. As of today, all of our core systems are running on Slackware and our users are already seeing the benefit with increased stability and better performance. It is therefore only by chance that we have avoided having to make any knee-jerk decisions.

There remain only a small handful of legacy systems running on CentOS and they are due to be decommissioned within the next 6 months. CentOS served us well for more than a decade but it is clearly now the end of that particular road.

Update: As of the 19th of April 2021 there are no longer any CentOS systems in use by Openstrike.

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