In December 2020, CentOS users were hit by a surprise announcement that the CentOS Project would be dropping support for CentOS 8 by December 2021. They would also be changing their model to be a beta or “rolling” release of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Needless to say, a lot of people were unhappy. In retrospect, this should have been expected when RedHat acquired the CentOS Project in 2014 and they themselves were acquired by IBM in 2019; who promptly increased the cost of the RHEL subscription. This caused a lot of universities worldwide to drop RHEL in favour of CentOS.
These changes have left users scrambling to find a CentOS replacement and platforms trying to fill the hole that CentOS will leave. There are two that are trying to establish themselves as a CentOS replacement and a couple of other options that are paid. Today we will take a look at the pros and cons of each of these platforms.
AlmaLinux is RHEL fork being developed by CloudLinux who specialize in extended OS support and commercial hosting. The 8.3 version has already been released and can be downloaded for free on their website. CloudLinux promised $1M in development funds each year towards AlmaLinux. As long as they don’t get bought out by IBM, the AlmaLinux 8 would have support through 2029.
Pros: Led by Cloudlinux, whose distro is widely used by shared hosting providers.
Cons: Not pioneers of free software. Hopefully, they’ll stick to their message “Always free, always open source.”
RockyLinux is another RHEL fork being developed by the community, with CentOS’ original creator, Gregory Kurtzer, leading the charge. The same day Red Hat announced its plans to replace stable CentOS 8 with rolling release CentOS Stream, the original developer of CentOS announced a new project to provide a RHEL fork to CentOS users. The Release Candidate should be released on April 30th with a full release to come shortly thereafter. They have a few sponsors, including Amazon AWS, helping them out with development, but Gregory Kurtzer is mostly the sole lead sponsor of the project. They do have a lot of contributors and volunteers helping out the project.
Pros: Led by the founder of the CentOS project.
Cons: ETA for RC April 30th with full release further down the line.
Which one should I choose?
Frankly, both seem like fine alternatives. If you prefer that your OS is run by volunteers and helpers, RockyLinux is right for you. If you prefer that there was a proper company with a good track record behind the OS development, AlmaLinux might be your preferred choice. But it all depends on the software you’re also going to run. If you’re the type of person to use cPanel, AlmaLinux and its parent company, CloudLinux OS, already support cPanel. It’s still unknown if RockyLinux will be successful in the long run as CentOS 5 and 6 had a shaky beginning, but we at CWH wish them the best of luck.
Oracle Linux – Another Option
There’s also another distro that constantly gets overlooked. Oracle Linux. It’s a free alternative to CentOS that operates on paid support. Has existed since 2006. It is however run by another corporation that is known to drop support for their other Open Source software, i.e. MySQL and OpenOffice. But if you want to protest IBM/RedHat’s direction Oracle Linux could be your choice of distro. If all you need is Free Enterprise OS Oracle Linux might be the choice for you.
Pros: It’s from Oracle.
Cons: It’s from Oracle.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux
RHEL is developed by RedHat, an IBM subsidiary that was purchased in 2019 for $34 billion and operates out of IBM’s Hybrid Cloud division. The OS Self-Support cost is $349/socket-pair for 1 year and $995/socket-pair for 3 years. It has a limitation of only one guest/VM. More info on their website and how they calculate the subscription cost. You do get premium support if you opt for a more expensive version with engineers helping you out. So, if your needs include fast support and solution, RHEL is the choice for you.
Pros: The source of all of the clones. Spectacular support.
Cons: Not cheap and from the same company that pulled the plug on CentOS
CloudLinux OS is an RHEL rebuild distro designed for shared hosting providers. It’s a much cheaper alternative, costs $168/year and includes support. The CloudLinux OS Plus has priority support included and the cost is $216.00/year; neither version has artificial limits set in place, unlike RHEL.
Pros: Great support, has extended support for EOL OS and easily integrates with cPanel.
Cons: Paid OS
Which of these options call out to you? Are there any other options that you think we missed?