TSR – The Server Room Show – Episode 58 – CentOS ( 2004 -2020 )

Obituary for CentOS ( 2004 – 2020)

CentOS Linux 8, as a rebuild of RHEL 8, will end at the end of 2021. CentOS Stream continues after that date, serving as the upstream (development) branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

CentOS was one of the most popular server distributions in the world. It was an open source fork of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and provided the goodness of RHEL without the cost associated with RHEL.

Many companies were able to hire IT professionals and/or geeks to handle their infrastructure on a RHEL binary compatible / bit to bit compatible OS such as * CentOS * and pay the money they would for RHEL subscription prices and contracts instead to these individuals as a salary.

They got the best of both worlds: Stability and Security of a RHEL distribution & Lower Cost of Ownership via hiring their own IT stuff to do the 24/7 maintenance and up keep Vs doing it through RHEL contracts and subscription models.

Many big corporations were still forced for one reason or another to go with RHEL subscriptions and contracts (Gov. & Mission Critical Systems where these support contracts provide a great safety net for executives to point the finger and demand liability of a third party if anything goes wrong) but the smaller shops and corporations could get away if they wanted with hiring their own stuff to maintain and run everything on CentOS instead as it was exactly as RHEL without the Logos and Trademarks and those contracts and subscriptions as mentioned

Red Hat already already had a similar move in the past as You will see just now

Interesting Facts:

CentOS was not started by Red Hat. It was a community project since the beginning. After Red Hat started sponsoring the development, the trademark and ownership of CentOS was transferred to Red Hat in 2014, around 10 years after its creation.

Warren Togami began Fedora Linux in 2002 as an undergraduate project at the University of Hawaii intended to provide a single repository for well-tested third-party software packages so that non-Red Hat software would be easier to find, develop, and use. The key difference between Fedora Linux and Red Hat Linux was that Fedora’s repository development would be collaborative with the global volunteer community.Fedora Linux (through the Fedora Project) was launched in 2003, when Red Hat Linux was discontinued. The project was founded in 2003 as a result of a merger between the Red Hat Linux (RHL) and Fedora Linux projects. It is sponsored by Red Hat primarily, but its employees make up only 35% of project contributors, and most of the over 2,000 contributors are unaffiliated members of the community.

Red Hat’s Business Model

Red Hat operates on a business model based on open-source software, development within a community, professional quality assurance, and subscription-based customer support. They produce open-source code so that more programmers can make adaptations and improvements.

Red Hat sells subscriptions for the support, training, and integration services that help customers in using their open-source software products. Customers pay one set price for unlimited access to services such as Red Hat Network and up to 24/7 support.

In September 2014, however, CEO Jim Whitehurst announced that Red Hat was “in the midst of a major shift from client-server to cloud-mobile”.

Rich Bynum, a member of Red Hat’s legal team, attributes Linux’s success and rapid development partially to open-source business models, including Red Hat’s.

Red Hat Rebuilds

Originally, Red Hat’s enterprise product, then known as Red Hat Linux, was made freely available to anybody who wished to download it, while Red Hat made money from support.

Red Hat then moved towards splitting its product line into Red Hat Enterprise Linux which was designed to be stable and with long-term support for enterprise users and Fedora as the community distribution and project sponsored by Red Hat. The use of trademarks prevents verbatim copying of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Since Red Hat Enterprise Linux is based completely on free and open source software, Red Hat makes available the complete source code to its enterprise distribution through its FTP site to anybody who wants it.

Accordingly, several groups have taken this source code and compiled their own versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, typically with the only changes being the removal of any references to Red Hat’s trademarks and pointing the update systems to non-Red Hat servers. Groups which have undertaken this include CentOS, Oracle Linux, Scientific Linux, White Box Enterprise Linux, StartCom Enterprise Linux, Pie Box Enterprise Linux, X/OS, Lineox, and Bull‘s XBAS for high-performance computing.

All provide a free mechanism for applying updates without paying a service fee to the distributor.

Rebuilds of Red Hat Enterprise Linux are free but do not get any commercial support or consulting services from Red Hat and lack any software, hardware or security certifications. Also, the rebuilds do not get access to Red Hat services like Red Hat Network.

Unusually, Red Hat took steps to obfuscate their changes to the Linux kernel for 6.0 by not publicly providing the patch files for their changes in the source tarball, and only releasing the finished product in source form. Speculation suggested that the move was made to affect Oracle’s competing rebuild and support services, which further modifies the distribution. This practice however, still complies with the GNU GPL since source code is defined as “[the] preferred form of the work for making modifications to it”, and the distribution still complies with this definition.[18] Red Hat’s CTO Brian Stevens later confirmed the change, stating that certain information (such as patch information) would now only be provided to paying customers to make the Red Hat product more competitive against the growing number of companies offering support for products based on RHEL. CentOS developers had no objections to the change since they do not make any changes to the kernel beyond what is provided by Red Hat.[19] Their competitor Oracle announced in November 2012 that they were releasing a RedPatch service, which allows public view of the RHEL kernel changes, broken down by patch.

IBM’s Takeover of Red Hat

On October 28, 2018, IBM announced its intent to acquire Red Hat for US$34 billion, in one of its largest-ever acquisitions. The company operates out of IBM’s Hybrid Cloud division.

Six months later, on May 3, 2019, the US Department of Justice concluded its review of IBM’s proposed Red Hat acquisition and according to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols “essentially approved the IBM/Red Hat deal”. The acquisition was closed on July 9, 2019.

centos.rip a purely satirical website but somewhat true.

What might be the next thing IBM takes away?

Personally I think it will be the now still free Developer subscription of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
This license allow a non-production development only use and access to Red Hat Enterprise Linux latest version and many additional Red Hat Products for free without support and with access to updates and security patches.

It started in 2016 a no-cost Red Hat Enterprise Linux developer subscription, available as part of the Red Hat Developer Program. Offered as a self-supported, development-only subscription, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Developer Suite provides you with a more stable development platform for building enterprise applications – across cloud, physical, virtual, and container-centric infrastructures.


Why is this move of IBM’s (Red Hat) is bad?

with CentOS Stream stability goes out of the door as we know it and got use to it from CentOS

  • Focus shifts from CentOS Linux, the rebuild of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to CentOS Stream, which tracks just ahead of a current RHEL release.
  • CentOS Linux 8, as a rebuild of RHEL 8, will end at the end of 2021.
  • After that, the rolling release CentOS Stream becomes the identity of CentOS project. There will be no CentOS 9 based on RHEL 9 in the future.
  • CentOS Linux 7 will continue its lifecycle and will end in 2024.

Has to point out that not everyone was a free rider. When it comes to small businesses or startups companies like those nearly always lack the funds required to have proper IT departments , procedures and to do things well out of the box just like a proper company does .. a bigger one with the budget to do so.

For these companies CentOS and IT Geeks or IT System Administrators were a great fit. They were able to standardize on a well known and prooven platform which is secure and stable and tried and trusted everywhere you go in the business world yet free to use and actually the same as the brand name equivalent RHEL just without the subscriptions, support and logos.

It was a great path for these companies to do the things right from the start by having standards and platforms they can build upon later and when the moment comes that they can afford and they need RHEL with the support and subscription it comes with they were ready to switch over from day 1 without an issue. Without the need to change or redo anything.

Now these small businesses and companies will never become a RHEL customer for sure… They will build out everything from day 1 on some platform x which is free and when time comes to migrate to something with support RHEL might not even be on their radar hey maybe they will stick to Oracle Linux , CloudLinux (paid or free which is coming in 2021) or ubuntu or debian.

Also there were/are people like myself who do not need the support or subscription and Im happy to fix if something breaks after i intensively googled all the corners of the internet to figure out what and why is happening and perhaps losing all the hope in my abilities in the meantime 🙂 . Myself amongst others were happy to use a #free binary compatible OS with Red Hat Enterprise Linux knowing that everything I learn there can be transferred to a real world experience at the workplace with RHEL and eventually if I want to I can use the same knowledge to obtain a paid certificate from RHEL to get some more leverage as an IT Professional. Most probably for the same reason I always used and recommended CentOS >> Red Hat for the scenarios where it was appropiate and used / using Fedora up until today.

As Red Hat Enterprise Linux is built entirely on Open Source I think every company which does the same should always have a Community version of their product which normally means without the support. There are a lot of examples to this model :::: .( pfsense, XCP-ng, alfresco, Mysql,Automation Anywhere, Visual Paradigm, Veeam Backup and Replication and so on )

As developers have no time to maintain a community edition if it differs from the main product therefore it must be 100% binary equivalent of the paid product *subscription* but without the support part.

Alternatives for Centos (100% binary compatible)


CloudLinux (paid) ( $14 – $18 USD per month not bad IMHO )
Oracle Linux (free)
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (paid)

Coming up:

Rocky Linux (non backed by corporation , community built from day one from the ground up)
CloudLinux free version Project Lenix (top down approach backed by corporation want to build community around it)
(free version to replace CentOS comes 2021)

Ubuntu / Debian ? * non rpm based but alternatives as Linux*
Slackware perhaps?

Forking Your own Linux distribution?






Author: viktormadarasz

IT OnSite Analyst for a big multinational company