What are the best alternatives to CentOS?
A couple of years ago, Red Hat announced some surprising changes that affected a large number of users. More specifically, these changes were that they were officially ending support for CentOS, which was a free alternative to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).
The company then announced that it invites all existing users to make the switch to their new platform - CentOS Stream.
This made the community start looking for a viable alternative to the operating system, which is why in this article we are going to present you with some of the best CentOS substitute options that you can choose from.
Why are people looking for an alternative to CentOS?
While surprising for all CentOS users, the aforementioned announcement came as a shock especially to those who had already migrated to CentOS 8. This was because the initial end-of-support date for the 8th version was set to expire in 2029. However, the announcement stated that this date was being pushed forward to December 31st, 2021, leaving everyone stunned.
Luckily, CentOS 7 users were more fortunate because the support dates for the 7th version of the operating system were left unchanged, meaning that the OS will continue to receive critical updates up until 2024.
However, seeing as the date for CentOS 8 has already passed and that of CentOS 7 is also coming closer, it is no surprise that more and more people are looking for a viable alternative that they can switch to.
CentOS Stream vs the community
Red Hat stated that the new platform - CentOS Stream, will be the most balanced distribution to ever be released, combining the innovation of Fedora and the stability of RHEL.
The company clarified that they will be entirely focusing on supporting CentOS Stream in order to be able to meet the community’s needs. Additionally, this would make the new OS the “the main center of innovation for the RHEL ecosystem”.
Although Red Hat wanted to express their reasons for the changes in a confident way, their announcement was met with backlash from the community. For example, the moderators of the CentOS subreddit changed the description from corporate-driven to community-driven in response to the announcement.
Additionally, CBS Interactive's ZDNet magazine also openly expressed their thoughts that the withdrawal of CentOS support is nothing more than just extra promotion for RHEL.
Red Hat responded to the negative reaction of the community by changing the developer guidelines for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
Previously, the developer program had a "one developer, one license" rule , meaning that one distribution could only be deployed in a single local environment. However, starting from February 2021, it was allowed for multiple team members to participate in this program with the number of licenses being increased from 1 to 16.
The reviewed conditions now also allow installing the OS in public cloud service instances but only for software development purposes.
Should you switch to a different distribution or OS?
Before presenting you with some CentOS alternatives, you should think about whether you would like to make the switch by taking into consideration a couple of factors.
Remember the old saying - the best Linux distribution is the one that your sysadmin understands.
Although UNIX-like operating systems are based on the same working principles, each distribution has its definitive characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, which largely determine how effective the work of the IT infrastructure, created with it, is going to be.
If you have been using a specific operating system for a long time, you have probably written hundreds of scripts that you carefully designed and tweaked in order to match your selected software environment. This also means that making a complete switch will require you to rewrite everything, which brings additional financial and time costs, not to mention any issues that might occur during the process.
Because of this, the most rational step will be to migrate to a similar distribution. Luckily in the case of CentOS, there are a plethora of similar distros that you can choose from!
What are the best alternatives to CentOS?
As we already mentioned, there are quite a few viable CentOS substitutions that you can switch to. Here are some of the most popular ones.
Oracle Linux is essentially a duplicate of RHEL. It is completely compatible with most existing applications on your CentOS server.
Additionally, the company behind Oracle Linux also presented a useful conversion script that you can use to automatically migrate your production systems.
The script automatically switches your CentOS Linux server to Oracle Linux and supports CentOS 6, 7 and 8. Oracle Linux closely also follows the release cycle of RHEL.
Another notable alternative is AlmaLinux. This OS was developed as a response to the early support termination of CentOS 8.
AlmaLinux follows the basic principles and fundamentals of CentOS. The alternative has a promising future with excellent chances to fill in the shoes of CentOS.
Given that the CloudLinux team behind AlmaLinux has substantial experience in the development and maintenance of RH-based projects and the fact that the company's newest product is also based on RHEL, you can rest assured that this alternative operating system will continue to become more popular and a preferred choice amongst the community.
As a response to the CentOS announcement, we have made AlmaLinux available for all our servers!
The last CentOS alternative that we want to focus on is Rocky Linux. It is a CentOS fork project led by the founder of CentOS - Greg Kurtzer.
It is a community-enterprise operating system, designed to be entirely compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This distribution aims to function as a downstream build similarly to how CentOS used to do so, building releases after the upstream vendor adds them rather than before they do so.
So, given the fact that Rocky Linux is also based on RHEL, its future seems to be bright. Most importantly, given that it is a community-based distribution, it won't experience any sudden changes like a commercial company would. This means that you won’t have to worry about Rocky Linux suddenly making crucial announcements like CentOS.
We also have Rocky Linux as an available OS that you can switch to for our servers!
Are you still undecided?
As we already mentioned, it is crucial for you to make a change from CentOS. However, you should also keep in mind that you need to switch to a similar distribution in order to avoid having to rewrite a large number of scripts.
Because of this, we recommend that you use one of the three CentOS alternatives that we discussed - Oracle Linux, AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux as they closely resemble the original operating system with most of them even being direct clones or forks of CentOS.