CentOS Linux alternatives

Last updated on 14 Febbraio 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 4.2 welcome screen

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?

Available options

We’re maintaining an opinionated, possibly incomplete list of the most credible CentOS alternatives.

Community-based distributions:

  • Rocky Linux
  • openSUSE
  • Debian/Ubuntu

Non-free or driven by a vendor:

  • Lenix
  • Oracle Linux
  • Amazon Linux

Rocky 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

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.

Support length:

See also:

Oracle Linux

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

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.

See also

Federico Razzoli

Image credits

A proposito di Federico Razzoli

Federico is Vettabase Ltd director, and he's an expert database consultant specialised in the MariaDB and MySQL ecosystems.

3 Replies to “CentOS Linux alternatives”

  1. Hey!

    You could a bit update article regarding Oracle Linux, for first it is for free if no need support (which CentOs didnt provide anyways, just community driven fixes).
    They have a community behind it and there is a nice page with common questions answered for possible migrations:
    https://community.oracle.com/tech/apps-infra/categories/3824
    https://linux.oracle.com/switch/centos/

    Plus If one is using mysql as db – then oracle linux is a very good choice (as Redhat for quite some time switched to mariadb).
    Of course have to take into account that Oracle Linux is mostly optimized for Oracle apps and dbs, but it is fork based on RedHat thus really stable and it is main OS for Oracle itself when they develop oracle products. And for sure it is not a selling point for oracle to gain customers and it never was.

    Amazon Linux is redhat/centos based as well. But to migrate to it if not using amazon cloud services is rather strange idea.

    But regarding Centos itself – i think people are bit too panicking too early. CentOs 7 is supported till end of 2024. Thus there is plenty of time to come up with stable OS and no need for frantic action in migrating something somewhere.
    Plus if there is a centralised patching mechanism in place (RedHat Satellite, Foreman, Spacewalk etc) … admins still control process of when and what gets updated, plus it is minor patching stream, thus no major features will get streamed.
    Of course in overall it is sad what IBM has done with CentOS (as for Redhat there was all the stuff in place to keep supporting things as they are till 2029), but no need to panic either.

    • Hi Laura!

      Thanks for commenting, I love to see different opinions.

      Yes, Amazon Linux only makes sense in AWS. VM images are only available for test. I added this info to the article to make it clear.

      Oracle Linux is surely an option for Oracle software customers/users, but it may bring some dependency on the vendor. After all OMySQL has official repositories that can be used with other distros as well (just like Percona and MariaDB) and that’s a better option than using non-vendor repos. And binaries are an even better option in my opinion.

      Some people already upgraded to CentOS 8 and they should probably migrate soon (or downgrade). CentOS 7 still gives us plenty of time, yes, and that’s why I suggest to keep an eye solutions that are still in development (Rocky, or Lenix if you sell hosting/cloud).

      Cheers,
      Federico

  2. Please correct some mistakes:
    – Rocky Linux has announced a first release for Q2 2021
    – openSUSE is not “Red Hat based” but SUSE Linux Enterprise Server-based (in fact since openSUSE Leap 15.3, it uses exactly the same binaries). You can upgrade from openSUSE Leap to SLES directly and get support from SUSE.
    – Lenix will be 100% open source and not a CentOS Stream-like project but exactly the same as CentOS was: a free and open source RHEL clone.
    – Debian is not more conservative than Ubuntu when it comes to software versions. It’s just Debian releases every 2 years but Ubuntu every 6 months (although Ubuntu LTS releases only happen every 2 years, like Debian’s).
    – SELinux is available on Debian too

    You could also add Springdale Linux (another RHEL clone) and Alibaba Cloud Linux 2 (which can be used outside Alibaba Cloud, with updates and everything).

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