CentOS is “dead” – now what?

You might notice it already but the CentOS project has made a significant change in how they release future releases: Details

CentOS was the first choice in the past when it comes to an Enterprise Ready Linux without a need for paying anything. That has changed from now on and the reason why this post has been created.

So now what? You are thinking of migrating away from CentOS? Then this is for you.

Here is a summary of my personal thoughts and recommendations on the topic: Which Enterprise-Ready Linux to choose and why – especially (but not limited to that) when it comes to Splunk.

 

My CentOS Alternatives | Enterprise Linux recommendations

 

Warning:

  1. All prices are checked at article date and so might change at any time.
  2. All prices are the bare minimal support offer available for 1 year and does not reflect any discounts by choosing other time period contracts and quantity discounts.
  3. Every vendor has different features included in their support levels which might be or might not be important for you so check these with care!

RHEL

Homepage

  • Why use a clone and not the source directly?
  • The industry standard for Enterprise Linux
  • Support mandatory (per server/year: standard support approx. 670 €)
  • No “free” version, i.e. even updates require support
  • New installation necessary (but I would recommend it either way)
  • on the market since 2000 (since 2003 as “RHEL” brand)
  • Kernel live upgrade included in support
  • In use by my clients: very often

Oracle Linux

Homepage

  • some details what/why: here
  • Support possible (optional! per server/year: Oracle Linux Basic Limited Support 444 € (max 2 sockets) | Oracle Linux Basic Support 1080 €)
  • RHEL clone (like CentOS only better and more up-to-date)
  • Even a migration from CentOS would be extremely easy (I would still recommend a new installation)
  • on the market since 2006
  • no code difference between Enterprise and Free customers
  • Kernel live upgrade possible (if support is purchased)
  • Optimized kernel for heavy storage and database usage (UEK)
  • In use by my clients: rare (prediction: will very likely increase due to the CentOS move)

Ubuntu LTS Server

Homepage

  • Identically stable as RHEL
  • More up-to-date software selection than RHEL / Oracle Linux
  • Support possible (optional! per server/year $250 ~ 210 €)
  • New installation necessary (but I would recommend it either way)
  • on the market since 2004
  • no code difference between Enterprise and Free customers
  • Kernel live upgrade possible (included in support above or “Essential”: $75 / server / year)
  • In use by my clients: very often

CentOS Stream

Homepage

  • What does a rolling release mean in terms of administration:
    One could say it means “Continues Administration”.
    I.e. it can happen that after updates administrative interventions are necessary (e.g. because of incompatibilities). However, it also means that you theoretically never have to reinstall a system, as is often necessary for major release upgrades and/or recommended in practice.
    In short, the great effort of a new installation and major upgrades is completely eliminated, but you always have to stay on the ball.
    One could also say: The administrative effort in rolling release is not higher but more frequent.
  • No kernel live upgrade integrated
  • Community-based support only
  • Popularity prediction: very rare

ClearOS

Homepage

  • mainly driven by HPE (might be the reason why it never got far from here?!)
  • extreme slow development, CentOS 8 has been released 2019 and even now (March 2021) v7 is the latest ClearOS release
  • App based model (you have to pay for extra functionality). Means a lot of 1-click installs (e.g. Mail-Server, Samba etc) but many (not all) need to be paid.
  • Support possible (optional! per server/year $108 ~ 90 €)
  • No kernel live upgrade integrated
  • In use by my clients: very rare

SLES (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server)

Homepage

  • No “free” version, i.e. even updates require support
  • New installation necessary (but I would recommend it either way)
  • Support mandatory (starts at: per server/year 670 €)
  • on the market since 1994
  • Kernel live upgrade possible (included in SLES)
  • In use by my clients: very rare

openSUSE Leap

Homepage

  • New installation necessary (but I would recommend it either way)
  • Community-based support only
  • on the market since 2006
  • No kernel live upgrade integrated
  • In use by my clients: N/A

Conclusion | TL;DR

In my opinion, there are many arguments in favour of Ubuntu LTS and it is therefore my first choice but if that fits for you – depends ;)

Here is my recommendation / ranking:

  1. Ubuntu LTS (if live-patch necessary: with “Essential” Support)
    Summary: (most) up-to-date while still “rock-stable”, free or paid
  2. RHEL + compulsory support
    Summary: industry standard Linux, paid only
  3. Oracle Linux (if live-patch necessary: with support)
    Summary: free or paid, as close as possible to RHEL, so might be the first choice for many when switching from CentOS and no support needed
  4. SLES + compulsory support
    Summary: Rock-Stable, less popular, paid only

From experience, however, people usually prefer to stick with the Linux they know/used before – so for most customers who don’t want to or can’t invest any money, this means:
Oracle Linux followed by Ubuntu while Oracle Linux has an own Kernel named Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK) which is heavily optimized for high load and database usage – so sounds ideal for Splunk right?
Only in exceptional cases will people want to get involved with CentOS Stream as a productive system, simply because it is too difficult to assess and there is no support option available. Stream is therefore completely out of my recommendation.

SLES and openSUSE did not get a higher rating here because from what I saw in the past they are not very popular in companies – at least in those I had contact with (since the year 2000 there were many..).
Why is popularity important? Mainly because of self-support / researching issues that’s why SLES wins before openSuSE due to the fact you can call someone when in trouble. I do not recommend openSUSE here as it is like Debian (next topic) not possible to get support and this paired with a non-that-popular OS is nothing you want to see in production. Don’t get me wrong openSUSE has a big and strong community but like ClearOS it is nothing I see often in customer environments and so nothing I would start with.

 

Last words or why is XXX missing?

The following distributions are a valid choice but usually out-of-scope:

  • Amazon Linux 2 is your first choice when using the Amazon AWS cloud and there is nothing wrong with it. If you are using AWS choose AL2 as it is perfectly integrated and due to the fact being a RHEL clone rock-stable and well supported.
  • While Debian is like RHEL very conservative in adding new features and at least as stable as RHEL, well supported and a good choice always .. most companies have a negative feeling if something is free of charge. For debian there are no support options available as it community based only and so is something often rejected by companies. Other then that Debian would be my second choice right after Ubuntu but from my experience this is often no option because of that.
  • Rocky Linux and Alma Linux are both too new (as of writing) so cannot be considered as stable. They are RHEL clones, too so should be as stable as that but a lot of stuff can go wrong when re-packaging, building and providing updates. I would not rely on them on production servers at the moment but lets see where they are in 2023 ;)
  • There are a lot of other Linux distributions out there and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The above is just from my experience, personal feelings and no offense in any way for all the other Linux versions out there. Each of them has its meaning and is doing a great job .. but again the above is my personal recommendation so always feel free doing your own tests & the choice is up to you anyways ;)
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