Difference Between Centos And Redhat Enterprise Linux

admin13 April 2024Last Update :

Understanding the Core Differences

CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) are both popular choices in the world of enterprise-level server operating systems. While they share a common ancestry, there are several key differences that set them apart. These differences can be crucial for businesses and developers when deciding which distribution best fits their needs.

Origins and Development Philosophy

RHEL is developed by Red Hat Inc., which is now a part of IBM. It is a commercial product that offers subscription-based access, providing support, updates, and additional tools necessary for enterprise use. On the other hand, CentOS, which stands for Community ENTerprise Operating System, was a free and open-source platform that aimed to provide a downstream, binary-compatible version of RHEL without the cost of support and certification services.

Licensing and Cost Structure

The most apparent difference between CentOS and RHEL is the licensing and cost structure. RHEL operates on a subscription model, where users pay for support, certifications, and maintenance. In contrast, CentOS was entirely free, as it was maintained by a community of developers rather than a single corporation.

Support and Certification

With RHEL, customers receive official support from Red Hat’s team, which includes access to their knowledge base, security updates, and direct technical assistance. CentOS, while not offering official support, had a robust community and forums where users could seek help and advice. However, for organizations requiring guaranteed support levels and response times, RHEL was often the preferred choice.

Software Repositories and Package Updates

RHEL provides stable and thoroughly tested updates, ensuring that changes do not break existing systems. CentOS used to mirror these updates after a delay, once they were released by Red Hat. This meant that while CentOS users eventually received the same updates, they did not get them as promptly as RHEL subscribers.

Product Lifecycle and Update Frequency

Both distributions have different approaches to their lifecycle and update frequency. RHEL has a longer lifecycle, typically around ten years, with phases that include full support, maintenance support, and extended support. CentOS followed the same lifecycle but lagged behind RHEL in terms of receiving updates and patches.

Enterprise Features and Usability

Security Enhancements

RHEL comes with SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) enabled by default, providing a robust security framework. CentOS also featured SELinux, but due to its community-driven nature, implementing advanced security configurations might require more effort or expertise from the user.

Performance and Stability

Both CentOS and RHEL are known for their stability and performance in enterprise environments. However, RHEL subscribers benefit from early access to performance enhancements and optimizations, which are only later available to CentOS users.

Compatibility and Integration

RHEL is certified by top hardware and software vendors, ensuring compatibility and smooth integration with various enterprise environments. CentOS, being almost identical to RHEL at the binary level, generally enjoyed the same level of compatibility, though without the official certifications that some enterprises may require.

Community vs. Corporate Backing

The Role of the Community in CentOS

CentOS thrived on community involvement, with users contributing to its development, testing, and distribution. This collaborative approach fostered innovation and allowed for a wide range of perspectives in its evolution.

Corporate Governance in RHEL

RHEL’s development is tightly controlled by Red Hat, ensuring a focused and unified direction for the product. This corporate governance model aims to meet the specific needs of enterprise clients, including stability, security, and support.

Strategic Use Cases

When to Choose RHEL

  • Business Critical Operations: For environments where uptime and support are paramount.
  • Compliance Requirements: When industry certifications and audits are necessary.
  • Commercial Support: Access to dedicated, professional support teams.

When CentOS Was the Right Choice

  • Cost-Sensitive Projects: Where budget constraints make free solutions appealing.
  • Community Support: If relying on community expertise and resources is acceptable.
  • Non-Critical Applications: For projects where immediate updates and support are not critical.

Impact of CentOS Stream Introduction

In December 2020, Red Hat announced a shift in strategy, transforming CentOS from a stable RHEL clone into CentOS Stream. This new project sits between Fedora and RHEL in the ecosystem, serving as a rolling preview of what’s next in RHEL. This change has significant implications for users who relied on CentOS for a stable, production-ready environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is CentOS Stream?

CentOS Stream is a rolling-release distribution that provides a preview of the next minor RHEL release. It is designed for developers and contributors to collaborate directly with Red Hat.

Can I still use CentOS for production environments?

While CentOS Stream is not intended to replace CentOS in production environments, some organizations may choose to use it if they are comfortable with a “rolling release” model and do not require the level of stability offered by traditional CentOS or RHEL releases.

Is there a direct replacement for CentOS?

Since the shift to CentOS Stream, several alternatives have emerged, such as Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux, aiming to fill the gap left by the traditional CentOS distribution.

How does the end of CentOS impact existing deployments?

Organizations using CentOS need to plan migrations to other distributions like RHEL, CentOS Stream, or alternative RHEL derivatives to ensure continued support and updates.

References

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