Dec 19

CentOS Linux is dead

Red Hat CTO Chris Wright and CentOS Community Manager Rich Bowen each announced a massive change in the future and function of CentOS Linux. Moving forward, there will be no CentOS Linux—instead, there will be CentOS Stream.

Originally announced in September 2019, CentOS Stream serves as “a rolling preview of what’s next in RHEL” or a beta—it’s intended to look and function much like a preview of Red Hat Enterprise Linux as it will be in the future.


CentOS—which is short for Community Enterprise Linux Operating System—was founded in 2004. CentOS’s first 2004 release was named version 2—to coincide with then-current RHEL 2.1. Since then, each major version increment of RHEL has resulted in a corresponding new major version of CentOS, following the same versioning scheme and built largely from the same source.

Traditional CentOS is an open source build of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system, built from RHEL’s own source code—but with Red Hat’s proprietary branding removed and without Red Hat commercial support. This allowed CentOS to enjoy guaranteed binary compatibility with “proper” RHEL.

As a non-paywalled, no-hassles version of RHEL, CentOS appealed to a broader market of developers, web hosts, and others who might eventually decide to upgrade to commercially supported RHEL.

Red Hat acquired CentOS in 2014

Although CentOS was and is a wildly popular distribution— it was the most commonly used Web server distro in the world—it suffered its share of community struggles. CentOS founder Lance Davis drifted away from the project in 2008 but retained control of its domains and financials. A year later, the CentOS team made contact with Davis and regained control of the project, but this didn’t entirely repair significant damage to public perception of CentOS.

In 2014, the CentOS development team still had a distribution with far more marketshare than resources. So when Red Hat offered to partner with the CentOS team in production of the distribution, the deal looked good to both sides. Red Hat gained control of an entity it saw as coloring the reputation of its own brand, and CentOS developers got Red Hat jobs allowing them to work on CentOS full time while still keeping the lights on

Goodbye CentOS Linux, hello CentOS Stream

The current version of CentOS is CentOS 8, itself built atop RHEL 8. Normally, CentOS enjoys the same ten-year support lifecycle as RHEL itself—which would give CentOS 8 an end-of-life date in 2029. This week’s announcement puts a headstone on CentOS 8’s grave much sooner, in 2021. (CentOS 7 will still be supported alongside RHEL 7, through 2024.)

Current CentOS users will need to migrate either to paid for RHEL itself or to the newer CentOS Stream project, originally announced in September 2019. The distribution FAQ states that CentOS Stream will not be “the RHEL beta test platform”  but CentOS Community Manager Rich Bowen’s own announcement describes Stream as “the upstream (development) branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.”

Say hello Rocky Linux

CentOS co-founder Greg Kurtzer is one of the many community members who isn’t happy about Red Hat’s decision to shutter CentOS Linux. Prior to CentOS, Kurtzer ran a Red Hat rebuild project called Caos Linux. Kurtzer’s work merged with that of the now deceased Rocky McGough and Lance Davis to form the CentOS Project. There will other such forks with Cloudlinux also throwing their hat in the ring. Time will tell…