I’ve read a few articles about the demise of CentOS Linux this week. It brought to mind my introduction to a young Kevin Bacon in the movie Animal House, when his character tried to calm the panicked attendees of Faber College’s disastrous homecoming parade by shouting, “ALL IS WELL! REMAIN CALM!” over and over at the top of his lungs, until he is inevitably trampled.

Instead of standing in the street and yelling platitudes, Red Hat has provided some detailed information addressing the situation, pointing everyone to CentOS Stream as the collaboration hub for RHEL. According to Red Hat, the landscape looks like this:

  • Fedora Linux is the place for major new operating system innovations, thoughts, and ideas—essentially, this is where the next major version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux is born.
  • CentOS Stream is the continuously delivered platform that becomes the next minor version of RHEL.
  • RHEL is the intelligent operating system for production workloads, used in nearly every industry in the world, from cloud-scale deployments in mission-critical data centers and localized server rooms to public clouds and out to far-flung edges of enterprise networks.

The old process looked like this:

Upstream updates/bugfix/security -> Red Hat Build & QA Process -> RHEL -> rebuild for CentOS

The new process is:

Upstream updates/bugfix/security -> Red Hat Build & QA Process -> CentOS Stream -> rebuild for RHEL

This means that CentOS Stream will now get software, security, and bugfix updates BEFORE Red Hat Enterprise Linux and that these packages will go through the same FULL Red Hat build, test and QA process they did before.

Proponents of this new process are already floating some the benefits this will provide:

  1. RHEL development becomes more transparent and reliable.
    Any CentOS Stream user will have access to, and be able to participate in, this process.
  2. ISVs and developers can now contribute fixes and features.
    What was basically a code repository can now become a true community.
  3. The whole community can provide feedback.
    All users, not just those with “partner managers”, can now provide feedback.
  4. A rolling stream allows us to move faster and freer.
    That’s what happens in a cloud native world.
  5. The value of working directly with Red Hat engineering.
    After years of being a community-driven project with more wants than there was time and energy to meet them, users will finally have direct support.
  6. A sudden influx of new, smart, highly motivated power users who like to contribute, not consume.
    An upstream rebuild will give directly useful feedback to RHEL, and what they will learn from the information contained in feature requests and bug reports should be very powerful.

According to Red Hat, CentOS Stream is an appropriate and perfectly adequate option for enthusiasts and home-labbers. Additionally, Red Hat is making RHEL available at no cost for small-production workloads. (“Small” in this case, being 16 systems or fewer). This change to allowing RHEL licensing for small Installations is BIG news. “Where, how?” you may ask…and Red Hat answers: “With our newly expanded Red Hat Developer Subscription program!” Unroll your eyes. Unclench your fists. This is NOT intended to be a sales program. There will be no strings attached and no sales representative will follow up, according to Red Hat.

In addition to this expanded program, Red Hat is also increasing availability of developer subscriptions to teams and individual users. Entire dev teams can be added to a subscription at no cost, allowing the entire team to use Red Hat Cloud Access for simplified deployment and maintenance. This covers RHEL on many well-known cloud providers, including AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure. Moser does recommend these developer subscriptions; but we also recommend investigating the other options that are available. You should choose the one that is right for your needs, objectives, and specific use case. Red Hat has been asked about guarantees for this program repeatedly and specifically. For example: Will the terms for free small-production use stay valid for the length of general support for the RHEL version they cover?

Red Hat’s official answer was: “A Red Hat subscription gives you access to all available versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux except for those in extended support. This access ends when the subscription ends, as does access to all related documentation, support, services, patches, etc., so it’s important to think about the subscription separately from the platform.

The Red Hat Developer program isn't a fly-by-night or quickly-produced program; it has existed since early 2015 with multi-system deployments supported from 2018. The big change today is that now a small number of production systems can now be included under the subscription for individuals, but the program itself is tried and true. We've never removed anything from the program, only added to it, highlighted by today's announcement.

The Individual Developer subscription is currently set up as a one year subscription. Renewals will be a simple process as close to "clicking a button" as possible. We have no intent to end this program and we’ve set it up to be sustainable—we want to keep giving the users that want to use RHEL access to it. The primary reason we need a subscription term is because it is legally difficult to offer unlimited terms globally and as new laws come into effect, for example GDPR, we need to be able to update the terms and conditions. This is similar to how our customers buy Red Hat subscriptions for fixed terms, not in perpetuity.

Our intent is to keep small-production use cases as a key part of the Red Hat Developer program and the Individual Developer subscription to help bring enterprise-grade Linux to more users.”

CentOS Linux is gone. Long live CentOS Stream.