Running your private cloud on CentOS… Now what?

In December last year Red Hat announced that the future of CentOs is streamed ( https://blog.centos.org/2020/12/future-is-centos-stream/ ). This came as a shock to a lot of IT departments and enthusiasts. It came up in a lot of talks I had the last two months. So I thought it might be nice to share our vision about this development. Running your private cloud on CentOS… Now what?

 

CentOS was founded in 2004. CentOS’s first 2004 release was named version 2 and since then, each major version increment of RHEL has resulted in a corresponding new major version of CentOS, following the same versioning scheme and built largely from the same source.

 

Traditional CentOS is a rebuilding of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system, built from RHEL’s own source code, but with Red Hat’s proprietary branding removed and without Red Hat commercial support. This allowed CentOS to enjoy guaranteed binary compatibility with “proper” RHEL.

 

As a non-paywalled, no-hassles version of RHEL, CentOS appealed to a broader market of developers, tinkerers, and others who might eventually decide to upgrade to commercially supported RHEL. It also made it easier for developers to build and manage dev environments that would be guaranteed-compatible to their commercially supported RHEL production environments.

 

The latest version of CentOS is CentOS 8, built on top of RHEL 8. CentOS originally got the same ten-year support lifecycle as RHEL itself, which would give CentOS 8 an end-of-life date in 2029. But the announcement states that Red Hat has changed that to CentOS 8, now ending in 2021. There will be no follow up on the CentOS conditions after CentOS 8. Red Hat instructs after CentOS 8 to migrate either to RHEL itself or to the newer CentOS Stream project, originally announced in September 2019.

If you are using CentOS and haven’t proceeded yet to CentOS 8, it is good to know that Red Hat restated their commitment to provide long time support for CentOS 7 until June 30 2024.

 

If you don’t want to move to RHEL or a stream project, what are your options?

 

I understand the concerns about CentOS change of policy, but there are several solutions available without impacting your services. We discussed and developed several of those with a large part of our customers that run their Open Infrastructure clusters on CentOS, whether it is OpenStack, Ceph, software defined networking and virtual network functions or container platforms.

 

We do see that due to the decision of Red Hat more companies need to adjust how to comply to set policies in the future for deploying and maintaining a secure and predictably stable Linux infrastructure. We see that our customers have a few different ways to handle this, depending on what exactly drives or should drive their distribution choice. Such as the ability to get support on certain applications, reuse existing knowledge and having a homogeneous Linux infrastructure. CentOS’s popularity was in large part due to the ability to reuse RHEL knowledge and deployment/maintenance infrastructures as they are of course.

 

For our Open Infrastructure clouds though, we are less concerned with the specific distributions. The ability to deploy Open Infrastructures inside containers and the integration of configuration management creates a deployed solution that is virtually the same on every Linux platform. Furthermore we also see that CentOS is far from the only option for a rebuild distro that is binary-compatible with RHEL. Some companies are also looking into the possibility to start using Debian Ubuntu instead of a RHEL compatible solutions as Ubuntu remains committed to having an open source ‘copy’ of the enterprise OS.

 

First important step is to not migrate to, or migrate back from CensOS 8 and for now use CentOS 7. As this is a LTS (long term supported) version and Red Hat maintenance updates are assured until June 30 2024. This will give you all opportunity to decide and prepare one of (at least) the following strategies:

  1. Migrate to CentOS Stream.
    Following the rumbles in the communities, this seems not the most popular decision because Red Hat said that it is not a replacement for CentOS Linux, but for a lot of users it might be a valid option. CentOS Stream and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will still track very closely to one another.
  2. Migrate to a different RHEL/CentOS compatible distribution like for example Cloud Linux, Rocky Linux or Springdale Linux. For Companies that value enterprise maintenance backing of their distribution, these probably will not suffice.
  3. If you have support concerns about enterprise type applications now hosted on CentOS you may also want to consider Oracle Linux. They provide a stop gap and permanent solution for the CentOS 7 and 8 problem. Oracle has long positioned their Oracle Linux as a full CentOS and RHEL compatible alternative. They charge no money for using it, while maintaining the ability to purchase enterprise support from Oracle. This commercial model resembles the one used by Canonical for Ubuntu, while the Oracle Linux code is based on the code of RHEL.
  4. As mentioned in the prior option: Migrate to a different Linux distribution like Debian Ubuntu. Ubuntu has long term supported versions and can also be software supported by the company behind Ubuntu: Canonical.

 

We are capable to define a viable migration strategy in any direction with regards to Linux distributions and Open Infrastructures and help companies to execute it. From CentOS to any of the above distributions, to RHEL or to Ubuntu and back again. Open Infrastructure is designed and built in such a way that it enables seamless migration between hardware platforms and Linux distributions. And we can of course provide you with distro specific knowledge and training if needed.

 

After the first shock about the announcement, this exercise reinforces my love for open source cloud solutions: the open source community provides alternatives preventing vendor locking and cloud technology prevents your production workloads are affected by that.