With Red Hat killing off CentOS 7, where do organizations move to?

With Red Hat killing off CentOS 7, where do organizations move to?

Red Hat has announced that CentOS 7 will no longer receive updates as of June 2024. It will also stop offering source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) for non-customers, preventing free distribution. By doing so, it wants to force more customers toward RHEL. What options do you have as an alternative to this Linux distribution as a company?

Organizations are deploying a platform like CentOS 7 to power cloud infrastructure and enterprise servers, among other operations to power IT environments. The big advantage of CentOS? It is free and leans on RHEL’s reliable source code, which does require a fee. Thanks to this feat, it is about 20 times more popular than RHEL , according to InfoWorld. Since Red Hat officially took over development of CentOS Linux in 2014, the company has been restructuring its own enterprise offerings.

The announcement that CentOS would not be developed further followed in 2020, with CentOS Stream as the new offering. The latter will be the only repository for public RHEL-related source code releases. In fact, Stream is a glorified beta of future RHEL releases, so reliability cannot be guaranteed. That just so happens to be what organizations are most looking for


Red Hat offers customers an easy transition from CentOS 7 to RHEL via an automated tool. We are not talking about staggering sums of money immediately if we assume the easy-to-view U.S. costs. Those who are going to make this switch are choosing predictability. That a large party like Salesforce, for example, has chosen to move to RHEL speaks volumes. It can therefore count on consistent updates and in case of any problems Red Hat engineers are ready to help. We cannot say the same about the alternatives that rely on Red Hat code.

Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux are the main alternatives to RHEL. These parties boast bug-for-bug compatible offerings. In other words, there is as little tinkering as possible with the underlying programming code while still providing a free alternative. However, these two solutions rely on volunteers, who cannot possibly achieve the same level of support as Red Hat. After all, we are talking about a company that is part of IBM versus a fairly loosely organized group of developers. Yet NASA, for example, has chosen Rocky Linux, which indicates a solid reputation. Likewise, with CERN, AlmaLinux has a prominent user on its hands.

The future of these two projects is somewhat uncertain. As with CentOS, Red Hat could eventually acquire these parties to secure its customer base further. Specifically, it is only difficult for organizations for the time being to determine how reliable these solutions will be. For a more minor, non-vital purpose, problems are manageable, but the enterprise format requires certainty. That means that within the RHEL cloud, you can only choose the authentic product. Especially in the longer term, if we may take Red Hat’s current actions as an indication of the future. It cannot just endlessly provide indirect support to parties who have nothing to show for it. In short: Red Hat must eventually be able to make money from its own efforts.

Beyond RHEL: SUSE, Ubuntu

There is the option of switching from Linux to Windows, but realistically it is not feasible for many larger organizations to make such a drastic switch. Within Linux, however, there is more to choose from.

SUSE SLES is an alternative to RHEL about which various updates will be announced during SUSECON 2023. Currently, it already contains many integrations with Microsoft Active Directory, for example, and with AppArmor, among others, it has an extensive security offering that protects systems from extensive infections. Recently, it was announced that it is taking steps in terms of AI workloads and focusing on confidential computing.

In addition, Ubuntu is a well-known name among individual users, but with its long-term support (LTS) packages, it can also serve as an enterprise solution, with five years of updates. Indeed, these updates focus on security and stability, which are essential for enterprise applications.

Ultimately, it may be a point of principle for CentOS 7 users not to start paying for something that was free before. However, as mentioned, larger organizations aren’t faced with an insurmountable bill to pay if they opt to move to RHEL. Those considering switching to something other than RHEL after all will inevitably have to do a lot of work to get the IT environment back to the way it was before. RHEL is compatible with a lot of hardware, offers a lot of support and has a strong track record of stability and predictability. Perhaps it is best for organizations to view the purchase of RHEL as simply an investment in security.

Also read: Red Hat unveils Enterprise Linux 9.2, sporting many new features