Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of confusion around Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) from Red Hat and related distributions such as AlmaLinux OS, Oracle Linux, and Rocky Linux. In addition to this, there are Red Hat variants for RHEL such as CentOS Stream and Fedora. Let me help you clarify the situation.
RHEL, CentOS, Oracle: relatives in code
First, all of these Linux distributions are open source. This means that anyone – yes, even you – can take the source code and create your own distribution based on RHEL. Beware, this is much easier said than done.
You can’t just download code from a Git repository and compile it. It would be too easy. Since 2011, Red Hat has included its own patches directly into the kernel tree. All the code is still there, but as we read at the time: “It’s a bit like asking for a family cookie recipe, and you get cookie dough. This hasn’t stopped code archaeologists like Oracle, for example, from tracking down RHEL in Oracle Linux since 2006.
Some users have chosen the Community Enterprise Operating System (CentOS), a community distribution of RHEL, over Oracle Linux. This distribution, developed by Gregory Kurtzer, was one of the most successful clones of RHEL. Indeed, CentOS has proved much more popular than RHEL in important markets such as web servers.
Red Hat Support
Why ? It’s simple. CentOS doesn’t cost a dime. If you use RHEL for commercial purposes, you must pay a license fee. This is the most obvious difference. A more subtle difference, and the reason why Red Hat was the first Linux company to make $1 billion (before IBM bought it for $34 billion), is that many companies need the support that Red Hat provides to its customers. RHEL.
Discover RHEL at RedHat
Surprisingly, RHEL doesn’t even have a larger share of the RHEL operating system market. Indeed, if you just need a RHEL-like operating system for something as simple as a web server or desktop server, you can easily find system administrators who can run CentOS without any outside help. As a result, many developers know how to build software within the RHEL family.
Red Hat knows this. Thus, the company absorbed CentOS in 2014. CentOS continued on the path of a free license while Red Hat hoped to convince CentOS users to become RHEL customers. But it didn’t work.
CentOS Stream intermediate
So in late 2020, Red Hat modified CentOS to no longer be a stable clone of RHEL, but a “rolling” Linux distribution that became CentOS Stream. In addition, Red Hat announced the end of support for CentOS 7 in 2024. This decision was very poorly received by the community.
Free version of RHEL with community support.
- Downloads: 27
- Release date : 11/18/2020
- Author: CentOS Project
- License: Free Software
- Operating system : Online Service All Internet Browsers
As one user notes, “The CentOS use case is completely different from the CentOS Stream use case. Many people use CentOS in the enterprise for production rather than development. CentOS Stream may be suitable for development/testing, but people are unlikely to adopt CentOS Stream for production.”
Discover the CentOS flow
However, Chris Wright, CTO of Red Hat, states that “CentOS Stream is stable enough for production.” According to him, “CentOS Stream now occupies an intermediate position between the innovations embodied in Fedora and the stable performance of RHEL.”
I believe CentOS Stream is stable enough for enterprising companies that prioritize new features over guaranteed stability. Of course, Fedora remains Red Hat’s Linux community for developers and users who want to be at the forefront of the RHEL family.
AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux: for those who are nostalgic for CentOS
What place does this suddenly leave for a frustrated CentOS Stream? There are two great options for them: AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux.
Remember when I said that people are unhappy with the evolution of CentOS Stream? Two prominent Linux developers, Igor Seletsky, founder and CEO of CloudLinux, and Gregory Kurtser, founder and CEO of CentOS CIQ, decided to respond by building new RHEL clones. Both decided that the old CentOS should be reborn.
As Igor Seletsky explained at the time, “The demise of the stable version of CentOS left a very significant gap in the Linux community, prompting CloudLinux to step in and launch an alternative to CentOS.” CloudLinux, for those unfamiliar, is a commercial clone of RHEL, but it’s designed specifically for Linux web hosting. AlmaLinux is a free Linux community.
Rocky Linux is managed by the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF). According to Gregory Kurtzer, the idea is that “open source projects should not be subject to corporate control or commercial logic.” “What makes an open source project successful is that there is not one person behind it – or even a large company – what makes it successful is the presence of many people and many companies that support and manage it collectively, based on common interests. This has been our goal with Rocky Linux and RESF since day one. RESF’s Bylaws and Bylaws reflect our intention that neither Rocky Linux nor any other RESF project will ever be controlled, purchased, or directed in any way by any particular entity or individual.
Discover Rocky Linux
Today, both groups offer support for their RHEL clones, but you don’t have to pay a dime for their basic usage. “Support is the most important offering in our open source product line. We can offer several support models, but the one that provides better support than what is currently available is most appreciated,” states Gregory Kurtzer.
Both organizations are also working to ensure that their releases are consistent with Red Hat releases. So Red Hat released RHEL 8.7 and RHEL 9.1 in November. They were followed by AlmaLinux 8.7, AlmaLinux 9.1, Rocky Linux 8.7 and Rocky Linux 9.1.
So what is the right solution for you? It depends on your needs.
If you need serious support, RHEL has a case. If your business is based on Oracle, you can also use Oracle Linux.
Then I would advise against using CentOS Stream for production. But if you want the latest Linux features and have some experience, go for it. If you are a developer and want to live with the latest news, choose Fedora. But don’t use it on production servers.
Fedora is a free and open source operating system based on the Linux kernel. You can install it on any PC instead of Windows or dual boot to have both systems.
- Downloads: 28
- Release date : 11/15/2022
- Author: Fedor Project
- License: Free Software
- Operating system : Linux
Finally, if you and your team are used to old CentOS, AlmaLinux or Rocky Linux is a great choice. Personally, I upgrade my servers from CentOS 7 to Rocky Linux 8.7.