Last updated on 14 February 2021
Red Hat announced that the CentOS project is being discontinued. Support for CentOS 8 will terminate in December 2021. Support for CentOS 7 will end in 2024 as planned.
Organisations that use CentOS should quickly choose an alternative Linux distribution for their servers.
CentOS and the Red Hat ecosystem
CentOS was born as a community Linux distribution based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). In 2014 it was acquired by Red Hat. Its long-term support and its choice to be based on a solid system made it perfectly suitable for enterprises.
Red Hat decided to end the CentOS project and start the CentOS Stream project. Despite the name similarity, CentOS Streaming has little to do with CentOS. While CentOS was a RHEL downstream distribution, CentOS Streaming is an upstream distribution. Not a more stable flavour, but a less stable flavour.
Incidentally, I have some concerns for Fedora too. Because Fedora used to be the upstream for RHEL. Now that RHEL switched to a different upstream project, what will happen to Fedora? I hope its life will continue autonomously, but will there be the same level of interest about it?
We’re maintaining an opinionated, possibly incomplete list of the most credible CentOS alternatives.
- Rocky Linux
Non-free or driven by a vendor:
- Oracle Linux
- Amazon Linux
In theory, Rocky Linux is CentOS natural continuation. The project was started by Gregory Kurtzer, the creator of CentOS. Rocky Linux will be an enterprise, open source system. It aims to be fully compatible with CentOS.
However that there is no ETA. We wish all the best to Rocky Linux, but there is no guarantee that the project will succeed, and there is no guarantee about its quality. We’ll be happy to test it once it’s ready.
The community is actively worked in the project. If you are interested in helping, visit their forums.
Support length: Unknown.
openSUSE, once known as SUSE Linux, is one of the oldest Linux distributions.
Support length: See the Lifetime page.
AlmaLinux (Project Lenix)
One of the recommendations I’ve read (from multiple sources) is to migrate from CentOS to CloudLinux. It is worth mentioning that CloudLinux is not free, it is not fully open source, and its main features are only useful for hosting providers (and maybe cloud vendors).
However, the CloudLinux company started AlmaLinux, which aims to create a new Linux distribution with a very easy migration path from CentOS. They promise it will be possible to launch the migration on several servers by pressing a button. One of their goals is to promote KernelCare, their commercial solution to upgrade the Linux kernel without restarting the system.
According to the project website, AlmaLinux is for “Individuals and organizations that require an enterprise-grade, Fedora-like distribution but who do not want to or cannot pay for a RHEL license”.
AlmaLinux is not free and it is not community-driven. But it’s worth mentioning that CloudLinux has a great reputation and had been around for several years.
Project Lenix was an initial temporary name used on their website and on this page.
Support length: “CloudLinux has committed to supporting AlmaLinux until 2029”. But it’s unclear how long each version will be supported. It’s worth mentioning though that the company still supports CentOS 6.
Debian and Ubuntu
Debian and Ubuntu are distributions with very strong communities. Debian is developed by the community itself and doesn’t have a vendor, while Ubuntu is produced by Canonical. Ubuntu is based on Debian. Debian is more conservative than Ubuntu when it comes to package versions.
Switching to a Debian-based distribution means to change package manager and switch from SELinux to AppArmor (by default). It you are looking for an easy migration path, it could be better to stay on Red Hat-based systems.
- Debian: See the Debian Releases Page.
- Ubuntu: See the Ubuntu lifecycle and Releases pages.
- LTS support can be long or not, it is not the same for each version.
- MariaDB post-release quality assurance in Debian and Ubuntu – Otto Kekäläinen – FOSDEM 2021
Oracle Linux is free and it’s based on Red Hat. The migration path from CentOS should be easy. While Oracle says that they don’t use Oracle Linux to attract new customers, this statement seems to us very unlikely. There is no real community behind Oracle Linux.
Support length: Unknown.
Amazon Linux is produced by Amazon. It can only be used in AWS EC2, and it integrates well with various AWS services. Amazon Linux is intended to be used in AWS, and VM images are only released for development/testing purpose. The source code is not available, and there is no real community behind Amazon Linux.
Support length: Unknown.
- Database Migration Service from CentOS – Vettabase can help you migrate your CentOS database servers to another distribution without a downtime.