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What Red Hat’s Changes To CentOS Mean For Users, The Community, and Competitors

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How the Change to CentOS Affects the Community

This past year, Red Hat made some changes to how CentOS is developed and released. With CentOS’s strong following, the change came as a big surprise to the community, the user base, and enterprise companies. To that, Rob Hirschfeld, CEO and Co-founder of RackN, had this to say: “If CentOS was designed originally to be an alternative for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), it was supposed to be an enterprise-grade Linux based on Red Hat bits.” According to Hirschfeld, that led to a degree of commercial tension between the enterprise version (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) and CentOS.

But how did this impact the end users? Hirschfeld makes it clear the impact was and is significant. At RackN, Hirschfeld says, “We heard immediately from customers, asking questions about how they were going to sustain their versions of deployed operating systems.” Hirschfeld offered up some specifics on what happens when the previous version of an operating system (in this case CentOS 8) isn’t maintained. He says, “When somebody has a patch, or a change, or an upgrade, or they’re writing software that relies on that version, which is very common, then they do not have a way to get patches or fixes for the operating system, they have to literally forward port anything they’ve built on that operating system to the latest version.” Hirschfeld also adds that this type of forced migration is very bad, unattractive, not desirable, or not even commercially feasible.

As far as competitors are concerned, Hirschfeld mentions both Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux, both of which are forks of CentOS and whose developers have committed to maintaining versions over time. He adds, “It’s also worth noting that there are a lot of Linux distributions, like SUSE, Ubuntu, and Debian, which should be considered as an alternative.” However, Hirschfeld says of their clients, “We do see people waiting to look at these alternatives. Some of them are just saying, I’m going to switch to a distro where I don’t have to deal with vendors like Red Hat.

Hirschfeld ends the discussion with talks of migration and says, “I think the jury’s still out on whether or not we end up with as dominant a distribution as we have seen with CentOS. And that ultimately, I think, will cause further fragmentation in the Linux industries.”

Video summary was written by Jack Wallen

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