CentOS End of Life – Does your company have a plan?

Publication date

As a downstream version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS is a stable, secure, and self-supported Linux distribution. Since it’s both excellent and available for free, the operating system is a popular choice among the world’s largest tech corporations, such as Amazon and Google, as well as major higher education institutions, all of which have the skill set to support themselves and therefore have no interest in paying Red Hat—or any other major Linux distributor— for a support/service contract. CentOS is also used by many companies that choose to get support from third-party providers. In short, use of CentOS is ubiquitous.

But things are about to change. In December 2020, Red Hat (now owned by IBM) announced that mainstream CentOS would be discontinued, with the end of life set at June 2024 for CentOS 7 and December 2021 for Centos 8. This means companies that had recently upgraded to CentOS 8 had just one year of notice to make a decision about their operating system.

After those dates, CentOS will be unsupported, meaning no patches will be released and the environment could become unsecure. As a result, your systems could become vulnerable to security issues or unavailable, directly impacting your bottom line. What’s more, system vulnerabilities pose a serious compliance concern for companies that store third-party data.

Immediate action is needed. Does your organization have a plan? If not, you’re not alone.

What are the options?

Despite the short timeframe, Red Hat isn’t necessarily leaving companies in a lurch. Starting in January 2022, they’ll be offering CentOS Stream as a no-cost alternative. But since it will be upstream of RHEL, it could mean running production systems within an unstable OS that’s being updated at more rapid pace than what we prefer in a more stable release. In other words, CentOS Stream probably won’t meet the needs of most current CentOS users.

This leaves companies with the obvious choice of simply biting the bullet and paying for RHEL, an option that some businesses may seriously consider. Tools and scripts are already available to assist with this transition.

For bigger players that don’t want or need external support, there’s no shortage of other free, self-supported Linux products to consider. Here’s a shortlist of some of the top contenders, along with their respective advantages and disadvantages:

  • Rocky Linux – A direct downstream derivative of RHEL.
    Pros: It’s made by the same team that was originally behind CentOS and is financially backed by AWS, Arm, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and other firms that inspire confidence.
    Cons: The product just came out in June 2021, so it’s hard to know if it will last.
  • Oracle Unbreakable Linux – A direct downstream version of RedHat Enterprise Linux, with paid support available if you want it.
    Pros: You get the stability of a large organization (Oracle) that will keep the system up and running.
    Cons: There are concerns that Oracle could start charging for the product, as we’ve seen other large IT industry players do, including the recent move by Red Hat (IBM).
  • AlmaLinux – Very similar to CentOS.
    Pros: This product has been around for a while and is backed by CloudLinux, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Arm and other major players.
    Cons: It never gained the same traction as CentOS, which raises questions about its long-term viability.
  • Amazon Linux 2 – Downstream to RedHat and serves as the operating system for Amazon Web Services (AWS).
    Pros: This choice makes sense if you’re using AWS. It provides the reassurance of being backed by a very large firm.
    Cons: It means being tied a little more closely to AWS.
  • openSUSE Leap – Derivative of Suse Linux Enterprise Server, which is just as popular as RHEL, but with more market share in the European market.
    Pros: You know you’re getting a very well-established product that doesn’t charge users.
    Cons: Transitioning from Centos to openSUSE Leap, is sure to be a more involved process.

Which Linux OS is right for you?

CentOS users have plenty of good options to choose from, but they don’t have much time to mull over the alternatives. Because the end-of-life deadline is looming for CentOS 8, companies need to make a quick decision and move forward with the transition.

While there’s isn’t always an obvious right or wrong when it comes to choosing a Linux operating system, certain products may be better suited to your company’s needs. The factors to consider include the nature of your business, the size and capabilities of your in-house IT team, your budget and your risk appetite.

Transitioning to a new operating system isn’t excessively complex, but it’s not something you want to do often. That’s why it’s important to make the right choice now. If you’re not sure which product is best for your company, consider meeting with a third-party expert. With in-depth knowledge of Linux, the team at R2i can recommend the best environment for your needs and help you put together a transition plan. We can even do the installation, setup and transition with you or for you.

Share on your social media