What is CentOS and where did CentOS come from?

What is CentOS and where did CentOS come from?


CentOS (Community Enterprise Operating System) is a very popular Linux distribution. Developers, server administrators, and users from over the world use Linux operating systems for its enterprise-like reliability and stability. 


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What is CentOS?

Let's take a look at where CentOS comes from, the purpose it was developed for, and the future of this popular OS.


Where did CentOS come from?             

Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS relationship

There are a small number of Linux distributions that stand taller than others among the various Linux distros. These are the distributions on which others are built. Of those, one of the most well-known and well-regarded is the Red Hat Enterprise Linux. But Red Hat doesn't exist by itself. It lives in a symbiotic relationship between CentOS and Fedora. 


Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or RHEL for short, was developed for the needs of large enterprises. Red Hat provides RHEL and generates revenue by selling subscriptions. Red Hat provides superior support to the companies where downtime means lost revenue. But according to the General Public License (GPL), Linux is supposed to be free. Since 2004, Red Hat has been providing its own free Linux version, CentOS Linux, compiled from the RHEL source code but without Red Hat’s trademarked components like branding, logos, and artworks.


After CentOS’s essential acquisition by Red Hat in 2014 they claimed sponsorship for the CentOS project and announced that CentOS became a part of the Red Hat family. Several participants of the CentOS team became employees in Red Hat’s Open Source and Standards team.


As a community-driven free software, the CentOS project has CentOS Governing Board members from Rad Hat. These facts stress the role of Red Hat in assistance and guidance in CentOS’s progress and development. Packagecloud enables users to efficiently, reliably, and securely set up and update machines without owning any of the infrastructure that is typically required to do that.


Check out the Packagecloud free trial to see how easy it is to distribute packages throughout your entire organization. 

Where did CentOS start?         

CentOS development purposes

Unlike another Linux distro from Red Hat, like Fedora, which contains many innovations and is used to be a technical playground, CentOS Linux is a downstream branch of RHEL. That means that the CentOS Linux release comes out after the internal Red Hat’s development process and official RHEL release. CentOS, as people say, is bug-to-bug compatible with RHEL and has rock-solid reliability. Red Hat takes advantage of the CentOS community and allows the opportunity to check CentOS Linux capabilities, applications work, and performance for further probable movement to RHEL with its professional support. 


CentOS Linux is recommended when you need a Linux distribution that has excellent compatibility with RHEL and EPEL (extra packages for enterprise Linux) packages but don't want to spend money. CentOS Linux could be ideal for development and test OS or for a lab environment that might be preparing to eventually move on to RHEL. If you are going to use Linux for production applications, you're going to use RHEL, and purchase a support subscription.


Future of CentOS

An official announcement of the CentOS team in December 2020 claims that EoL (end-of-life) accelerated CentOS Linux 8 to December 31, 2021, instead of scheduled support until the year 2029. This means no further OS updates will be available after 2021. For CentOS Linux 7 the life cycle remains unchangeable but could be potentially changed in time. Updates and security patches will be available through June 2024.


Essentially, CentOS Linux shifted focus to continuously delivered distro CentOS Stream. Some people call CentOS Stream a rolling release distro. CentOS Stream is constantly updating. This means that CentOS integrates bug fixes and enhancements immediately instead of accumulating them and releasing them as point releases such as CentOS Linux 8.1 and so on. CentOS Stream takes place as a midstream between Fedora and RHEL now.


Basically, CentOS Stream allows the community to see what features and capabilities are coming in the next version of RHEL.


And for those who want to migrate from one system to another, switching from CentOS Linux to CentOS Stream is painless and migration from one system to another requires just two commands: 


[root@centos ~]# dnf swap centos-linux-repos centos-stream-repos


[root@centos ~]# dnf distro-sync


The CentOS project announcement about CentOS Linux EoL garnered a negative reaction from the Linux community and social media. The CentOS community felt betrayed by the Red Hat company.


What about online businesses and data centers that are based on CentOS Linux?


What about the end-users who are looking for free bit-to-bit compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux which is well known for its solid enterprise reliability? 


There are some alternatives to CentOS Linux.

  • You may use RHEL provided via Red Hat Developer Subscription to Individuals for development, testing, and small production use cases. This plan is limited to 16 virtual or physical machines.
  • Another option is the community-driven distro Rocky Linux, led by Gregory Kurtzer, the founder of the original CentOS project.  The current ETA for a beta release is April 30th.
  • You might also want to consider the 100% free application binary compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux Oracle Linux for an unlimited number of devices for development and production purposes.
  • Lastly, there’s the option of free community-driven AlmaLinux OS, another RHEL fork developed by the CloudLinux team.


However, for those who want to stay with CentOS Linux, CentOS Project promises that by shifting focus from CentOS Linux to CentOS Stream they will provide features from the Red Hat ecosystem with security and stability inherent in RHEL.



Cloud-based service Packagecloud provides a great opportunity for companies to decrease infrastructure costs and save time on setting up and updating machines. Providing software package storage and distribution in a unified, reliable, and scalable way, without owning any infrastructure, Packagecloud ensures package distribution across your company's machines in one repo regardless of OS or programming language faster and with less overhead expenses than ever before. 


Check out the Packagecloud free trial to see how easy it is to distribute packages throughout your entire organization. Never worry about the scaling, consistency, or security of your packages again.

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