Why Migrate from CentOS Linux to Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL)?

Why Migrate from CentOS Linux to Red Hat Enterprise Linux(RHEL)?-feature image
January 27, 2023 11 Min read

Hello, thank you, and welcome to this discussion around the Business Value of Transition to RHEL, and with me is Sukanta Basak. Sukanta Basak is the principal architect in Red Hat and he’s also a subject matter expert in the RHEL ecosystem.

Sukanta, there has been a lot of discussion and confusion around CentOS or the Community Enterprise Operating System, as it was originally called. There was an announcement that the RHEL Rebuild of CentOS will end in 2021.

This has led to many questions in everybody’s mind. Please remove this clutter for all our viewers, and tell us what is really happening with CentOS.

Where Do You Go Now That CentOS Linux is Gone?

Sukanta Basak

Thanks for having me for this discussion. The announcement about the end of life of CentOS Linux 8 on December 2021 has put a lot of customers and their IT strategies into disruption. But to answer this, we first need to understand the context behind this- why such kind of move has happened.

If we look into the origin of CentOS, CentOS is a downstream project of Red Hat Enterprise Linux whereas Fedora is the upstream project of RHEL. This means, all the innovations that are happening for RHEL are happening on Fedora too. From there, some of those innovations are flowing into RHEL.

When the source codes are submitted to the GitHub channel of CentOS, the CentOS consortium extracts the codebase from GitHub, adding some value to it and rebuilding it as a community-supported innovation for the partners and customers, whoever is actually adopting.

Now, let’s understand this flow better. For a sustainable ecosystem, all the members of an ecosystem have to contribute, which means that the innovation that is happening on Fedora, RHEL, and CentOS should actually come together and help build a better work environment for RHEL.

That is the intention of having an ecosystem around RHEL upstream and downstream. All the innovations and developments that were conducted by CentOS community developers, customers, and partners were actually adopted. They were not actually cycling back to RHEL upstream, which is Fedora.

On one hand, RHEL is missing out on those innovations which have been built on CentOS – this will be a bigger miss from the community perspective. But on the other hand, the adopters of CentOS who are actually the innovators are burdened with doing the lifecycle management of those innovations with the versions of CentOS.

Obviously, every time a new release comes in, they have to start the lifecycle management again. There is a gap in the existing downstream CentOS Linux module.

Developers, partners and their customers need a way to collaborate and find a way to the future version of RHEL. Since this gap is identified now, they have announced the CentOS Team project which is an upstream development platform for the CentOS community which includes developers, customers, and partners who are actually doing this innovation and will now have the opportunity to get their contribution accepted and march into the upstream model.

So, CentOS sits right in-between Fedora and RHEL. This was declared in September 2019. Now with these CentOS Team’s availability, today Red Hat is able to shorten the feedback loop among the developers, consumers and partners.

In December 2020, Red Hat announced that CentOS Teams will be the future investment from the CentOS community. So, there will be no longer an investment of the CentOS community going into the CentOS Linux project. Rather, they will focus only on CentOS teams’ project.

To make it happen, the end of life of CentOS Linux 8 project was announced as December 2021. But the previous release of CentOS, which is CentOS Linux 7 will continue up to June 2024, which was the original schedule.

Additionally, we also know that the newer releases will be under CentOS Teams project and so CentOS  9 will be released in 2021.

What’s Next for CentOS Users?

Asheet Makhija (7:35)

 You very well clarified exactly what’s happening and what’s the background. And now the next question arises, how does Red Hat help the existing users of CentOS? If you could give us some understanding around that.

How is Red Hat helping users in migrating from CentOS?

Sukanta Basak (7:55)

This particular announcement has actually disrupted the IT initiatives of a lot of customers who had adopted CentOS projects within their IT landscape.

We are not actually thinking about it as a re-platform. Red Hat has launched CentOS to RHEL transition initiative. Under this program, there is a bunch of benefits that is getting delivered to customers who are ready to adopt this program.

The first thing is that customers can today leverage Red Hat and its knowledge base, which includes consultants, solution architects that are there with Red Hat and the partner ecosystem.

The knowledge team can come together and work with customers, helping them build the best transition strategy. We aim to help these organizations adopt a future-ready business platform with minimum disruption.

Moreover, the broadest ecosystem which is attached to RHEL will now be available for the customers to select the right set of development tool kits, build toolkits, etc.

Now, the developer community will also get access to a low cost RHEL based development platform. It obviously is the most welcome work environment because seeding of innovation and ideas happens during the development stage, which adds up to the production phase. Obviously, as a part of this project, they will have access to the RHEL migration knowledge base.

There is a microsite that RedHat has provided, with all the required documentation, videos, transition videos. Everything is available to the customers to consume and offers a free toolkit for migration.

If a customer has an in-house team with competence to work on CentOS and RHEL work environment, he has to go and download that free toolkit and move ahead with the transition strategy.

Apart from that, as these announcements have come in the middle of a financial year, RedHat has also brought out some financial incentives as part of this package.

CentOS Replacement

Now, there are multiple options available depending on what are those transition objectives that customers are setting and the complexity of the environment that they’re having. Accordingly, they can choose the right fit for them.

Asheet Makhija (11:33)

Thank you, it’s very encouraging for a lot of people who are on the CentOS platform. There is a genuine programmatic approach coming from Red Hat around this. Thank you very much for clearing that up.

Why Migrate From CentOS to RHEL?

Sukanta Basak (11:56)

The first thing that we should understand is that CentOS Linux is a community project whereas RHEL is an enterprise-ready Linux distribution.

The major differentiation here is that once RHEL is built and the source code is published to GitHub, the CentOS consortium gets the text to source code and adds some non-certified code base into it, which are not a part of our RHEL preview.

Secondly, there are a few functionalities of RHEL, which CentOS couldn’t rebuild. For example, the RedHat insight, it’s a very important predictive analytics tool that is absent in CentOS. So, there is a difference between the CentOS build and the RHEL build. That’s the first differentiation from a technology perspective.

Now, while customers adopt RHEL with VCenter, the immediate benefits that they realize are access to a stable and secure RHEL platform, which not only gives them a defined life cycle of 10 years, plus two years of the extended life cycle. And, the predictable performance also which is proven through benchmark reports (TVC report that are available).

Second thing, all those government, industry and public security and compliance certifications that are part of RHEL are accessible to customers because the code is already certified.

Then the accessibility to the broader ecosystem, which takes a lot of their ownership in terms of the stability of business work environment that they’re going to build. There are three specific technical benefits which typically impact the production environment of customers.

1. The availability of extended updates support for 18 months as a part of RHEL minor release lifecycle. During this period, customers enjoy security patches, bug fixes.

Whereas on the CentOS side, the extended updates support team does not exist. CentOS moves from one minor version to another. If there is a bug, the fix is not available until the next release. In between, they cannot actually have it.

2. Is the availability of hot fixes for RHEL work environment. So, the customers and partners who have adopted RHEL in their business work environment get access to a binary hotfix from Red Hat when a bug is identified on RHEL ecosystem.

If that impacts, they get it from Red Hat and it is delivered as soon as that solution is reached, even before it is released to the community. So, that is a big advantage. For the CentOS team to have that particular codebase, they have to wait for that particular code to come through the right release framework, and get submitted to the GitHub.

Then, they can extract it and build it. The typical delay is of up to around six weeks which for an enterprise work environment is a big risk.

3. Is the one that impacts the production of work environment is a kernel live patching. This particular service is a part of the Red Hat kernel build process. However, this particular kernel lives patching service team does not exist for CentOS.

These are the three topmost technologically impacting benefits that RHEL customers enjoy.

Asheet Makhija (17:06)

From an organization perspective, what are the business benefits that our customers can avail by moving from CentOS to RHEL?

Benefits of Migration From CentOS to RHEL

Sukanta Basak (17:34)

Our experience from working with the customers over the last one year or so is that majority of those who have adopted CentOS earlier are expanding their CentOS transition project vision beyond OS platforms. They are adopting or executing on use cases, which deliver incremental value for the IT infrastructure.

Some of the major benefits are #1 increase in operational efficiency overall for the data centres or their IT landscape, #2 increase in developer productivity.

Many times we have seen customers talking about shifting away from reactive management i.e. SOP’s  built around reacting to some incident & moving to a predictive management framework – RedHat insight is one of the key instruments which can help here.

While they are actually thinking about this particular expansion of their vision, customers often talk about adoption of a consistent operating environment across the entire lifecycle environment.

Whether the work environment is deployed on premises, on virtual platform, on a private cloud or on a public cloud, it doesn’t matter. Customers want to have a consistent environment.

This leads us to the second business use case, which has a direct impact on increasing operational efficiency and developer productivity. They have a choice today to standardize on developer toolkits & the build tools that are required for the final application code base and then standardize on operations management tools.

All three of them, will remain same whether they being used for development environment, test, QA, production, pre-production. Whatever and wherever they are delivering it, it really does not matter.

This is the big benefit that customers are actually talking about as part of this vision expansion. Second thing which has a direct impact on the cost of the CentOS work environment that customer are actually having, and how it is impacting in decreasing the TCO with RHEL. Customers can now leverage lot of native tools, which come inbuilt with RHEL. RHEL insight is one of the key ones here.

So, the adoption of native tools helps customer achieve the functionalities related to management, related to observability, related to reporting. It doesn’t involve any cost escalation.

Apart from that, for the customers who are having their development environment, one of the big use case that they’re actually looking at is how they can influence the development of the OS feature functionality. The idea is, if they’re able to impact it, their development cost goes down.

All those innovations which they’ll be submitting to RHEL, their lifecycle management will be automatically taken care of by RedHat. This is the big benefit in terms of influencing and reducing the development costs from customer’s perspective. So early access to the CentOS teams is actually benefiting the customer.

The customer or partners who want to impact the major version release of RHEL will work with Fedora project. Those who want to impact the minor release version of RHEL will work with CentOS Teams project. So that, innovations can be delivered faster to RHEL through CentOS teams.

Asheet Makhija (23:15)

Fantastic. Thank you very much. Like every time you’ve been very clear in explaining things and you removed a lot of gaps in my understanding, I’m sure our viewers will also be feeling the same and there is a lot better clarity now on what’s really happening around CentOS and why organizations and developers should move from CentOS to RHEL. So, thanks again for joining us, and have a good day. Thank you.

Written by Rajan Rauniyar

Rajan is pursuing CA with a keen interest in trends and technologies for taxation, payroll compliances, Tally Accounting, and financial nuances. He is an expert in FinTech solutions and loves writing about the vast scope of this field and how it can transform the way individuals and businesses... Read more

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