Requiem for CentOS, Hello Debian

“Software developed by non-profit organizations tend to have the best quality and (therefore) longevity.”

CentOS 7 support ends June 30th, 2024. Apparently, the CentOS team will end support for CentOS 8 on December 31st, 2021, two and one half years prior to CentOS 7.

CentOS is a re-compile of RedHat Enterprise Linux. This is allowed under the GNU Public License, the license that governs the Linux kernel and much of the software that surrounds it. CentOS runs software built on RHEL, obviating the need for customers to purchase RHEL.

In December, CentOS and RedHat announced that CentOS would be switching to a Stream only release. There will be no more point releases, 8.5, 8,6, 8.7, etc. RedHat will used Stream to then add updates to the RHEL 8 point releases, effectively inverting the RHEL / CentOS relationship. This will result in CentOS being a testbed for RHEL, and no one wants to bet their business on a testbed. An interesting piece on this is on Ars Technica:

Congratulations should go to RedHat. Revenue generation should increase with CentOS removing support and becoming a sandbox. And it’s not only CentOS. Another re-compile of RHEL is Scientific Linux. Oh no! Back in April, 2019, SL posted that they ended their distribution, moving to CentOS 8.;11d6001.1904

Now this all makes sense. Perhaps seeing an opportunity after the SL announcement, RedHat moved to collaborate with CentOS, with the end result being CentOS Stream only releases. It is reminiscent of “embrace and extend.”

CloudLinux has said they will do their own, freely available re-compile of RHEL. This is a wonderful gesture, as real money and many hours will be spent doing so. Yet, CloudLinux is a company, companies do what they do.

So what prevents this from happening again? Nothing. This means that it is time to go back to real Linux roots. When dealing with technology, it is incredibly important to invest your time in systems and languages that are as open as possible, since they have the most lifespan with the least restrictions.

RHEL was tantalizing. It was an operating system that companies could adopt and have long term support. It made RedHat a billion dollar company. Their contributions to the free software community are hugely generous. And their business is based on the work of others.

It’s time to take a hard look at Debian. Being a 27 year old distribution, it checks the longevity box. It has ties with the FSF, another bonus. It is a global collaboration that is funded by a non profit, Software in the Public Interest. Its trademarks are owned by this 501c3. Many familiar Linux distributions are based off of its work, with Ubuntu being the most well known.

Was it a mistake to spend so much time investing in the inner workings of RHEL and CentOS? No, mostly. But there are some lingering regrets.