Haven’t switched from CentOS 8 yet? Here are your options


Extreme Close-up View of White Clock Face along with Black Hour Hand, Black Minute Hand and Red Second Hand.
Image Credits: MirageC (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Joao Correia


Joao Correia has a long background in IT system administration, where he learned the intricacies of keeping enterprise stakeholders happy and systems protected.

Nobody likes it when Big Tech changes its mind. It’s particularly frustrating when it involves a major course change on something so essential to technology infrastructure as a server operating system. But that’s exactly what happened in 2020 when Red Hat stopped supporting CentOS as a stable release.

It’s a sudden change, and, in theory, you can respond rapidly and switch to a new OS, but the practical realities of large-scale server environments complicate matters. Sometimes, the best alternative isn’t that obvious either, which means you need time to make a decision.

Red Hat left CentOS users in a difficult position when it said it wouldn’t support the stable release beyond December 2021. The challenge of choosing the right alternative means many CentOS users are faced with using an unsupported OS. With just a month to go, time is running out.

Wait, what happened with CentOS?

Here’s a quick recap: CentOS is a really popular free-to-use clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), sponsored and maintained by Red Hat. It’s more than just a clone — it’s a 1:1 binary compatible clone, and that matters because it ensures application compatibility.

RHEL is an enterprise-grade Linux-based OS that’s built for the toughest workloads, but it isn’t cheap. CentOS is such a close clone of RHEL, many organizations chose to rely on CentOS for their enterprise applications instead of RHEL because it saves thousands of dollars in licensing fees.

Besides, Red Hat promised that it would continue to support each CentOS release for about a decade. However, the company changed its mind and suddenly cut support for the latest CentOS release (version 8) with end-of-life now set to be in December 2021. In the same breath, the company also said there will be no future CentOS stable releases.

This sudden change of heart meant that CentOS 8 users had to respond quickly, but given the complexity of changing operating systems and the varying choices, many haven’t yet.

You need to act now

In some ways, using an “unsupported OS” doesn’t sound that serious. What could really happen if you wait a year or two? After all, CentOS 8 will still work just fine in January in 2022 … and probably in January 2025, too.

The problem is twofold. First, there are very real security risks. When a vendor drops official support for an OS, it also stops releasing patches for new vulnerabilities. After December 2021, CentOS 8 workloads are vulnerable to exploits, which has the potential to be catastrophic.

Next, at the enterprise level, compliance is almost always a concern. One of the key compliance requirements large organizations face is around IT security, with mandates the use of supported — i.e., patched — software. Come January 2022, many CentOS 8 users will be in breach of compliance regulations.

So if you chose to do nothing about CentOS 8, you’ll end up with a server workload that’s at risk of cyberattacks and you’ll also be exposing yourself to heavy fines — potentially losing the ability to do business altogether.

OK, so I can just switch, right?

Yes, you can, and switching could involve as little as running a script. There are a couple of new players to choose from as well as established alternatives.

First, let’s deal with CentOS Stream. CentOS isn’t dead entirely, because it lives on as CentOS Stream, but it is not the alternative you might think it is, and it’s certainly not the replacement for CentOS that Red Hat says it is.

CentOS Stream is a rolling release without a stable release equivalent. Enterprise workloads simply cannot depend on an OS that constantly changes without the ability to stop that change, because nobody knows what might break when the code is updated. So while CentOS Stream is perhaps workable in a test environment, it most certainly won’t fit into server environments.

How about CentOS 7? As a slight quirk in Red Hat’s handling of CentOS, release 7 is still supported until June 30, 2024. So what about downgrading to CentOS 7 to gain extra support years? It’s a possibility, depending on your workload, but there’s no straightforward route — and it can involve as much work as switching to an alternative. Besides, in 2024, you’ll just go through the same process again.

Alternatives you should consider

The good news is that given the incredible popularity of CentOS, the open source community quickly jumped in, and two viable CentOS replacements emerged: AlmaLinux and RockyLinux.

Both are free, open source alternatives promising 1:1 binary compatibility with CentOS 8, so they’re pretty much drop-in replacements. Switch and you’re ready to go. The teams behind these projects acted rapidly and released production versions, and in both cases it’s demonstrably easy to migrate to either OS.

AlmaLinux, which also includes RHEL UBI-like containers, has the advantage of being an independent 501(c)(6) nonprofit foundation. RockyLinux is backed and fully controlled by the person who started it all — an original founder of the CentOS project, Gregory Kurtzer.

Established alternatives

Both AlmaLinux and RockyLinux are worth considering as switching is hassle-free and requires limited testing. But it’s understandable that you might want to look toward more established players.

Oracle Linux is a free-to-use 1:1 binary clone of RHEL. Switching from CentOS 8 to Oracle Linux 8 is a breeze, but given that Oracle is a commercial enterprise, you might wonder if Oracle could change its mind about the support and availability of Oracle Linux.

Which leaves two other options: Ubuntu and OpenSUSE. Both are established, widely used distributions with a strong support track record. However, switching from CentOS to Ubuntu or OpenSUSE isn’t straightforward and will require planning and testing.

In fact, your CentOS workload may not work at all and require significant adjustment and development work. For example, Ubuntu and CentOS use different package managers, so you’ll have to reconfigure how you deploy and update packages if you switch to Ubuntu.

Consider extending support to buy you time

Given the pressing need for ongoing support for CentOS 8, you won’t be surprised to hear that third parties are filling the gap.

Enterprise-grade support for CentOS is certainly out there. In fact, some CentOS extended lifecycle support products are already available, and they offer support and security patches beyond the announced end-of-life date, giving you more time to find the right alternative.

Extended support is a great way to keep your workloads safe from vulnerabilities and it keeps you compliant, too. You can easily buy a couple of years to sort out your migration strategy.

CentOS as we know it is dead — but you have options

It’s almost the end of 2021, so if you haven’t switched from CentOS 8 yet, frankly, it’s now time to.

There may be a bigger lesson in here: Vendors can be fickle and their agendas can change. You can’t really blame a profit-centered organization for focusing on its objectives, but a shift in objectives can have significant implications for some users.

So it’s worth keeping your eye on the horizon and being able to respond rapidly.

Disclaimer: TuxCare is a part of CloudLinux. CloudLinux is one of the many sponsors of The AlmaLinux OS Foundation, an independent 501(c)(6) nonprofit.

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo