CentOS Linux 8 is about to die. What do you do next? – ZDNET

The end of CentOS 8 Linux has been coming for a while, and the day is finally here. On December 31, 2021, Red Hat’s CentOS Linux 8 will reach End of Life (EOL). Since that falls right into the heart of the holiday season, Red Hat will extend zero-day support for CentOS Linux 8 until January 31, 2022. In fact, there will be a last version of CentOS Linux 8, maybe even after the official EOL of CentOS 8. After that, it’s all over for CentOS Linux.

What can you do now?

Well, you could try CentOS Stream, but it’s not the same. Classic CentOS was a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS Stream, however, “tracks just before a current version of RHEL.” In other words, CentOS will no longer be a stable point distribution, but a continuous beta Linux distribution.

Why is it so important? For years, experienced Linux users used CentOS for their Linux server. The vast majority of web and server hosting companies offered CentOS as their default operating system. I run my own remote servers and websites on CentOS provided by TMDHosting.

I am far from alone. In addition to small businesses like mine, as MongoDB evangelist Matt Asay notes, “IBM’s consulting practice … for years he told his customers to “only use CentOS.” European fashion brands that would never tolerate someone selling an imitation of their super-expensive bags run CentOS. All of China’s telecom infrastructure runs on CentOS. (Yes, really.) Facebook is also based on CentOS.”

Major companies that have relied on CentOS Linux include Disney, GoDaddy, RackSpace, Toyota, and Verizon. Other major tech companies build products around CentOS. These include GE, Riverbed, F5, Juniper and Fortinet.

CentOS was once everywhere. Now, it’s time for a change.

It is true that the previous version of CentOS, CentOS 7, will be supported until June 30, 2024. But if you want the most up-to-date RHEL clone, well, you’ll be out of luck soon.

Now what?

First things first, you can’t just switch to CentOS Stream. Red Hat CTO Chris Wright came out and said, “CentOS Stream is not a replacement for CentOS Linux.” He’s right. Red Hat sees CentOS Stream as a continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) Linux that supports DevOps. That’s great for developers, not so great for businesses that want a stable RHEL-compatible Linux server or virtual machine (VM).

So here are your options:

ALMALINUX

For many years, CentOS Linux was loved by Linux expert system administrators. They could use it and get all the RHELs without paying for support, unless they really needed help. Now CloudLinux, a longtime supporter of CentOS, is recreating the same model to support its RHEL clone, AlmaLinux.

AlmaLinux is a solid clone of RHEL. Like its enemy, Rocky Linux, AlmaLinux walks in step with RHEL. For example, the latest version of AlmaLinux is AlmaLinux 8.5, which is an exact copy of RHEL 8.5.

The AlmaLinux Foundation, the

non-profit organization behind AlmaLinux, is also working on the open-source ELevate project. This is an effort to enable migration between major versions of RHEL derivatives. So, for example, you can easily move from CentOS 7.x to any clone of RHEL 8.x.

ELevate does this by combining Red Hat’s Leapp framework with a community-created library and service for the required migration metadata set. This service, Package Evolution Service (PES), allows you to download, customize, and submit new datasets for packages. Both users and maintainers can use PES to help make migrations smooth and easy.

CloudLinux offers multi-level support for AlmaLinux, including regular patches and updates for the Linux kernel and core packages, patch delivery service level agreements (SLAs), and 24/7 incident support. In addition, Perforce also offers commercial support for AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux.

Amazon

Web Services’ (AWS) new brand, Linux, Amazon Linux

AMI 3.0, running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), is now based on

Fedora, Red Hat’s Linux community.

Yes, Fedora is the community’s Linux beta for RHEL, but AWS assures users that Amazon Linux 3 is the knee of the bees.

It comes pre-installed with many AWS API tools and CloudInit. CloudInit allows you to pass configuration actions from instances to instances at launch time through EC2 user data fields. This allows you to remotely configure Amazon EC2 instances.

The Amazon Linux AMI is provided at no additional charge to Amazon EC2 users. If you are already running your CentOS servers on AWS, see Amazon Linux 3.0. It may well be your easiest and cheapest alternative.

CENTOS 8 WITH SUPPORT FOR CLOUDLINUX

If you want to stick with CentOS 8 Linux, CloudLinux, a

company with years of experience with CentOS, has a deal for you: CloudLinux TuxCare Extended Lifecycle

.

Service offerings include 24/7 support and updates for system components on Linux operating systems that are no longer supported by their original vendor. CentOS 8 is an addition to TuxCare’s extended lifecycle support that covers Linux distributions that would otherwise be outdated, such as CentOS 6 and Oracle 6.

Pricing for the CentOS 8 TuxCare Extended Lifecycle Support service starts at $4.50 per system per month and live patch services start from $3.95 per system per month. An annual subscription is available at a discount and volume discounts are provided at 1K, 5K, and 10K+ license levels.

Another

clone of RHEL, CloudLinux has made a business of taking RHEL and CentOS code and tweaking the resulting operating system to be a lightweight, high-performance server for web hosting and multi-tenant server companies. They’ve been doing it since 2010, and they’re good at it. I’ve used CloudLinux OS myself, and it works fine.

CloudLinux offers a script to convert existing CentOS servers without any client configuration or data changes to the CloudLinux operating system. A single server license costs $168 a year. If you opt for multiple servers, the license price drops per instance.

HPE CLEAROShave

a small business that relies on CentOS on HPE ProLiant servers? There’s already a CentOS/RHEL-compatible Linux ready and waiting for you: HPE ClearOS.

HPE’s main selling point for ClearOS has been that with it SMBs have an HPE Linux server that’s ready to go right out of the box. It comes in three versions: a free one; a home edition that costs $36 a year; and a business edition that starts at $108 a year.

If you’ve already invested in HPE and aren’t a Linux expert, ClearOS is a great choice. I (and know many other SMB users) like to have a single company for our hardware and software support.

Fifteen years ago

, Oracle introduced its “own” Linux. I put “own” in quotes because Oracle Linux has always been a copy of RHEL. That’s not a bad thing now for CentOS users. But, keep in mind that Oracle has never been so friendly to open source, just ask OpenSolaris fans.

While Oracle Linux is very close to being an exact clone of RHEL, it has some differences. You will find some divergences in Glibc, OpenSSL and other components. So if you need exactly what’s in RHEL, you should look elsewhere.

Still, Oracle

saw its chance to finally get some users for its not-terribly popular Oracle Linux by quickly introducing scripts, which will quickly and automatically port it from CentOS 6, 7, or 8 to Oracle Linux. It does not, tellingly, support portability from CentOS Stream.

I’ve tried it myself and easily moved the CentOS 6 and 7 servers to Oracle Linux. However, if you are using Spacewalk or Foreman to manage your CentOS servers, you will not be able to use these scripts.

Oracle

promises that Oracle Linux, source code, and binaries will remain free. If you want support, that will cost you. Annual Oracle Linux support will bill you $1,199.

RED HAT ENTERPRISE LINUX

I know most of you are flagged in Red Hat, but let’s face it. If you want a plug-and-play alternative to CentOS, it doesn’t get any better. Now you can yell and curse all you want, but if your business depends on CentOS and you can’t afford the time and effort to move to another platform, RHEL may be your best bet.

RHEL server pricing starts at $349 without support. With standard support, the price of the RHEL server starts at $799.

CentOS

had a long and successful history before Red Hat acquired CentOS in 2014. For no more than 10 years, CentOS was a major independent Linux server distribution. In large part, that was due to the hard work that co-founders Greg Kurtzer and Rocky McGough put into CentOS. McGough has passed away, but Kurtzer is still alive and a new RHEL/CoreOS fork named in honor of Rocky: Rocky Linux has begun.

Rocky Linux, like the pre-Red Hat CentOS, is a free, community-based, server-oriented Linux. This RHEL clone tracks RHEL very closely. For example, RHEL 8.5, was released in November 2021, and Rocky Linux 8.5 followed a few days later.

Rocky Linux is free. If you need support, Kurtzer’s company, CIQ, also known as Ctrl IQ, can come to your aid.

Ubuntu from

UBUNTU

Canonical needs no introduction. It is very popular on desktops, servers and the cloud. For companies looking for a rebrand, Ubuntu is already turning heads. Debian, while also popular, is the direct ancestor of Ubuntu, but there is no corporate support for it. If you are already an expert in Debian, then by all means continue to use it. But, if you’re not, Ubuntu is a better choice.

But Ubuntu has a big problem: it’s not a RHEL relationship. It is from the Debian Linux family tree. It also uses many software packages that CentOS doesn’t use, such as snap instead of flatpak to make it easier to install the app.

Can you move from CentOS to Ubuntu? Of course. People do it every day. But, when you move to Ubuntu, you’re making a major move. With all the other distributions I’ve mentioned, it’s a smaller movement.

Is it worth it? It depends on your needs. If you’re a large company that can afford to port your applications in-house, or if you’re a smaller company that relies on standard Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python (LAMP) applications, move to Ubuntu. If you’re not, or rely on a lot of CentOS-specific code, try one or more of the Linux distributions above.

Like CentOS, many people run Ubuntu without support. If you need Ubuntu support, Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure starts at $225 for essential support for a physical server and $75 for a virtual server.

WHERE NOW?

I can’t answer that question for everyone. Personally, as someone who has been working with Linux for almost 30 years, I would be inclined to go with AlmaLinux or Rocky Linux if I were a CentOS user. Both are backed by good people and if you know the RHEL family of distributions, you’ll do well with either.

Good luck.

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