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The end of CentOS is approaching: A review of the alternatives Rocky Linux and Alma Linux.

CentOS Linux, which for decades was considered one of the most reliable and popular Linux distributions for enterprises, has changed its role as an enterprise solution. With the introduction of CentOS Stream as a "midstream" between Fedora Linux and RHEL, businesses now need to look for alternatives. In this article, we will introduce the two most promising enterprise alternatives, Rocky Linux and Alma Linux, which continue the tradition of the old CentOS as a RHEL alternative.

The End of the Old CentOS Linux

1.1 The History of CentOS

CentOS was originally introduced in 2004 as a community enterprise operating system (OS) based on the source code packages of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). CentOS's primary goal was to provide businesses with a free and open-source alternative to RHEL, supported by a dedicated community.

1.2 The Change: CentOS Stream

In December 2020, Red Hat announced the discontinuation of traditional CentOS versions and introduced CentOS Stream as a "midstream" between Fedora Linux and RHEL. This decision received mixed reactions, as many businesses and developers relied on CentOS as a stable and reliable RHEL alternative. The switch to CentOS Stream means that there are now continuous updates and changes, resulting in less stability and predictability for businesses.

2. Rocky Linux: A New Enterprise Alternative

2.1 Background and Emergence

In response to the end of the old CentOS Linux and the transition to CentOS Stream, Gregory Kurtzer, one of the original founders of CentOS, announced the development of Rocky Linux. Rocky Linux is a new enterprise Linux distribution aimed at filling the gap created by the change in CentOS.

2.2 Features and Benefits of Rocky Linux

Rocky Linux aims to be a reliable, stable, and free alternative to RHEL, supported by a dedicated community. The main features of Rocky Linux are:

  • 100% compatible with RHEL: Rocky Linux is designed to be fully binary compatible with RHEL, allowing applications and software to run smoothly on both distributions.
  • Long-term support (LTS): Rocky Linux offers LTS versions that receive security updates and bug fixes for several years.
  • Active and dedicated community: The Rocky Linux community is committed and growing rapidly to further develop and improve the operating system.
  • Easy transition from CentOS: Migrating from CentOS to Rocky Linux is relatively easy, as both distributions are based on RHEL and use similar package management systems.

3. Alma Linux: Another RHEL Alternative

3.1 Background and Emergence

Alma Linux is another enterprise Linux distribution that emerged in response to the end of CentOS Linux. The project was initiated by CloudLinux, a company focused on developing Linux-based solutions for web hosting providers. Alma Linux was officially released in March 2021 and has since established itself as a solid alternative to RHEL.

3.2 Features and Benefits of Alma Linux

Alma Linux offers businesses a stable, secure, and reliable option as a replacement for the old CentOS Linux. The main features of Alma Linux are:

  • RHEL compatibility: Like Rocky Linux, Alma Linux is also binary compatible with RHEL, meaning that applications and software can seamlessly work between the distributions.
  • Long-term support (LTS): Alma Linux also promises LTS versions, which receive long-term security updates and bug fixes.
  • Support from CloudLinux: Alma Linux benefits from the expertise and resources of CloudLinux, a company specialized in developing Linux-based solutions.
  • Migration from CentOS: Since Alma Linux and CentOS are both based on RHEL, migrating from CentOS to Alma Linux is straightforward and requires only a few adjustments.

4. CentOS Stream: An Alternative for the Adventurous

4.1 Background and Positioning

Although CentOS Stream is no longer considered a true enterprise solution, it can still be an interesting option for adventurous businesses and developers who are willing to trade some stability for newer packages and features. As a midstream distribution between Fedora Linux and RHEL, CentOS Stream benefits from the latest developments and innovations from the Fedora Project before they are integrated into RHEL.

4.2 Features and Benefits of CentOS Stream

CentOS Stream offers some advantages for users who do not rely on the highest stability and are keen to have early access to new features and packages:

  • More up-to-date packages: CentOS Stream receives continuous updates and therefore includes newer packages and software versions compared to traditional enterprise distributions like RHEL, Rocky Linux, or Alma Linux.
  • Early access to new features: Due to its proximity to Fedora Linux, CentOS Stream users have earlier access to new features and improvements that are later introduced in RHEL.
  • Community engagement: CentOS Stream allows the community to actively participate in the development and improvement of the distribution and provide feedback before changes are adopted in RHEL.

4.3 Concerns and Challenges in Using CentOS Stream

It is important to note that CentOS Stream, due to its continuous updates and changes, may offer less stability and predictability for businesses. Therefore, it may not be the best choice for organizations for which stability and security are top priorities. In such cases, Rocky Linux or Alma Linux are better suited.

5. Conclusion: Choosing the Right Alternative

The end of the old CentOS Linux has led to a change in the landscape for businesses and developers looking for reliable enterprise Linux distributions. Rocky Linux and Alma Linux offer solid alternatives for those who need stability and RHEL compatibility. CentOS Stream, on the other hand, can be an interesting option for adventurous users who are willing to trade stability for newer packages and features. When deciding on the right distribution, businesses should carefully weigh their specific requirements and needs and consider the advantages and disadvantages of each distribution.