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In shocking news the CentOS project announced today that they are shifting their Linux distribution to be based on the beta (non-stable) branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, rather than the stable branch. And that they are terminating CentOS 8 updates at the 31st of December, 2021.

The CentOS project will now release something named “CentOS Stream”, which is a Linux distribution built on the beta branch of RHEL so that contributors and interested groups can solve issues and report bugs before the software are shipped in RHEL. In other words, CentOS will become a testing mice for RHEL before new RHEL versions get released.

Historically, the CentOS Linux distribution was always built on the stable branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, providing binary compatibility between the two while also providing the same quality and stability. Red Hat publishes the source RPMs (SPRMS) of all its packages publicly on the Internet, and what the CentOS project was doing is that it was taking these packages, building them, and then shipping them under the CentOS re-branding. It also provided a promise that it will support each CentOS release up to 10 years with updates. Today, all of these promises are canceled as the project takes a new direction.

Red Hat took the control over the CentOS project in 2014, and IBM took the control over Red Hat in 2019. One can definitely thank IBM for this betrayal.

It is a betrayal, because for more than two decades IT executives and DevOps engineers in the industry kept using and recommending CentOS for others because of the compatibility it offers with Red Hat, and the stable 10-year updates cycle. People would even recommend CentOS over Debian or Ubuntu because it gave “more quality and stability” over the other projects which may be influenced by corporate interest. But today, the CentOS project is a victim of its own marketing slogans.

It is a larger betrayal because the announcement has destroyed an already-given promise; DevOps engineers have 1 year remaining to completely migrate their infrastructure from CentOS to another alternative, such as Debian or Ubuntu, instead of the original promise of being supported up to 2029.

The CentOS project have updated their support period table on their official page to reflect these changes:

9 December 9, 202011 December 9, 2020
New update period vs Old update period

CentOS was widely used in the industry because unlike RHEL, it doesn’t require a subscription and anyone can download and use it. Hence, you basically get a free Red Hat Enterprise Linux with same packages and same updates. Developers would spin a CentOS server on their local machines fully knowing that the software they develop and package on it will be 100% compatible with the RHEL distributions empowering their production corporate servers.

All of this is sadly ending. The CentOS project has just committed suicide today as no sane person would dare to run beta-grade software on the production servers of their company or enterprise. Interested parties are strongly advised to migrate away from CentOS 8 to avoid using an unmaintained infrastructure by the end of the next year.

Of course, anyone can take the SRPMs packages from Red Hat and start a new project similar to CentOS. But in order to establish such project huge time, investment and community effort is going to be needed so that the same mistakes do no get repeated again.

This move is totally understandable from IBM’s/RedHat’s side; They clearly hope that IT executives would simply pay them and migrate from CentOS to RHEL in order to avoid the downtime and huge efforts needed to migrate from CentOS to other alternatives. Migrating from CentOS to RHEL is easy since they use the same codebase and offer the same package versions, but migrating from CentOS to something like Debian or openSUSE is a totally different process, since these distributions are built and managed in a different way and hence, require more time and effort to manage the migration process.

The CentOS project is an example, as of this day, on what happens when corporate interest takes the leadership over the community. People used to joke of Canonical in the past and how the community can’t even select the default wallpapers shipped in each version, but today, these jokes are better directed toward Red Hat and the big screw up they did for the CentOS project, and the entire DevOps and IT industry.

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10 Comment
sola December 9, 2020
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IBM is massively commercializing all RedHat efforts. Nothing usable remains free. I will move my centos stuff to Debian.
John December 9, 2020
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Wow. IBM making a business decision that disregards open source entirely? Color me shocked! (NOT) This is seriously pathetic. CentOS was, as stated, most org's free RHEL without the subscription stuff. This was valid and fair because devop teams could select and utilize CentOS to make sure RHEL in production worked based on anything stood up and tested with CentOS. Now the incentive is to make EVERYONE wanting to use anything related to RHEL to make sure they use RHEL and not CentOS. Absolutely pathetic. I would feel bad for CentOS if they actually committed suicide but the reality is they sold out. They SOLD OUT! This was all so obviously a business move that it isn't even funny. Pitiful.
Caitlyn Martin December 9, 2020
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Springdale Linux, developed at Princeton University, is already a viable alternative to CentOS. It used to he called PUIAS Linux and has been around longer than CentOS.
Voice_of_truth December 9, 2020
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This is not a suicide, this is a murder done by corporate pigs from IBM
Scott Dowdle December 9, 2020
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I totally disagree with the conclusions made in this article. CentOS 8 has 1 more year of support left... and CentOS Stream 8 will be supported until 2024. Red Hat has stated that it expects CS8 (or C8S?) to be as good or better than CentOS 8 is now... as it will have Red Hat developers actually working on and doing QA for it... as opposed to the non-collaboration wall that separated CentOS devs and Red devs in the past. While there are definitely some disappointments here, there are also some good things too. I recommend people take a wait-and-see approach and to hold Red Hat's feet to the fire and make them prove their claims about the improvements are real... rather than jumping to unfounded conclusions with little to no evidence... and going on gut reaction only. We'll have to wait and see how successful they are. My magic 8-ball says the future is uncertain.
Scott Dowdle December 9, 2020
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If by IBM-took-control-over-red-hat you mean... that Red Hat's former CEO is now the President of IBM, you are correct.
Sok Puppette December 10, 2020
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CentOS *and* RHEL are basically a plague. They give IT types cover to stay behind upstream development and build up infinite technical debt.
Paul Rütter March 29, 2021
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Note that there are valid alternatives available, like Amazon Linux 2, which is also RedHat based. I've migrated 3 docker images from CentOS 8 to AL2 without too much pain. No dnf, use yum instead. Other than that, i haven't encountered issues.
Alberto Salvia Novella March 31, 2021
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Never shell your assets.