Critical choices in the Linux world: CentOS or RHEL?

Spaceships in space competition to represent CentOS and RHEL

The eternal rivalry between open source software and proprietary licenses is one of the most common scenarios that the technological landscape has designed, and continues to do so. In the Linux Enterprise environment, the most common distributions are CentOS and RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux).

Given the next conclusion of the CentOS Linux 7 lifecycle, scheduled for June 2024, let's explore in this article the opportunities and difficulties of this imminent change.

What are the differences between a Linux distribution with CentOS or RHEL?

Some historical notes, useful to provide the context.

RHEL Is it born like Linux distribution with enterprise support from Red Hat Inc., oriented to stability and guaranteed by multiple certifications. Originally, RHEL also guaranteed early access to security patches, new features and Bugfixes compared to CentOS.

CentOS, on the other hand, was born as a fork of RHEL from an Open Source perspective to allow a greater diffusion of the Red Hat product even in less critical environments than RHEL. However, the development of patches and new features has always followed the model “First RHEL, then CentOS” with a delay of several months. All this was possible thanks to RHEL's binary compatibility with CentOS up to version 8, the sharing of the package manager (YUM and DNF), the supported hardware architectures and the documentation.

With the introduction of CentOS Stream, in 2021, Red Hat reverses the cycle of releasing security patches and new features, thus making them available first on CentOS Stream and only later on RHEL.

This change of course guarantees a greater volume of systems being tested before the changes are applied to the RHEL distribution, used in more sensitive contexts in the fields of stability, security and certifications.

As Red Hat comes to an end of support for CentOS versions, which will take place on 30 June 2024, IT departments around the world are faced with a disreputable scenario that requires 2 choices:

  • Continue to use systems with CentOS without support at the level of security patches, bug fixes and functionality additions;
  • Migrate to a different distribution with the consequent transfer of the applications currently running on CentOS systems.

Both choices involve risks and efforts to continue to ensure the operability of the systems, and this is why SUSE provides a third option.

But like SUSE? Wasn't we talking about Red Hat?

About 18 months ago SUSE forked the CentOS source code, in anticipation of the expiry of support from Red Hat, and created the “SUSE Liberty” project.

SUSE Liberty is the project that provides a third option: maintaining the current operating system, ensuring continuity and support of the currently installed CentOS systems, for the next 36 months. This allows you to expand the IT lifecycle without imminent migrations.

Two possible Tiers are available with SUSE Liberty:

  • Support for the release of security patches only;
  • Premium support for the release of security patches and bugfixes based on the needs of the individual system;

End of Life doesn't necessarily mean migration or decommissioning

Each solution just proposed certainly depends on the needs of each reality and on the current situation of the applications and the compatibility in the event of a migration.

That said, in my opinion, the option to extend support with SUSE Liberty, to date, appears to be the most logical and least expensive choice, both in terms of effort and cost. Even if it remains a temporary solution, it gives all CentOS users an extra amount of time to decide how or where to migrate, providing everything necessary to minimize disruptions or inconveniences.

As the debate between open-source and licensed systems continues, the user community is increasingly called upon to choose from the available options, looking for the right balance between stability, innovation and freedom.

Read the White Paper and find out how to deal with the unknowns related to the End Of Live of a Linux Distro hither. What if you have any doubts or want to talk to us about it? Contact us!

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