What Is CentOS? A Beginner’s Guide to CentOS Linux Distro

Learn what CentOS is and how it works. History, key features, development purposes, relationship with Ubuntu, RHEL, and CentOS Stream explained.

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Dimitri Nek
Dimitri Nek
Web Hosting Geek

CentOS Logo

CentOS, short for the Community Enterprise Operating System, is a free and open-source platform derived from the sources of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It’s often hailed as the “enterprise-grade” Linux distribution for those who want RHEL’s reliability without its price tag. Given its roots in RHEL, CentOS mirrors the robustness, security, and performance of its progenitor, becoming an attractive choice for administrators and developers alike.

In web hosting and server management, understanding the intricacies of operating systems like CentOS is paramount. It’s not just another Linux distribution; it’s a testament to the open-source community’s power and dedication. From businesses looking to run their web servers efficiently to individual developers aiming for high performance without incurring the costs associated with premium OS offerings, CentOS offers a solution. Its compatibility with numerous enterprise-grade software and tools, coupled with extensive web hosting options, makes it indispensable for those in the tech realm.

This guide digs deep into the world of CentOS. From its historic ties with RHEL to its distinguishing features that set it apart from other Linux distributions, every aspect is covered. Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a newbie in the Linux world, or someone in between, this comprehensive article ensures you walk away with a better grasp of CentOS. Explore its advantages, understand its architecture, get insights into CentOS Stream, and much more. Stick around to unveil the intricacies of this powerful operating system.

Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways:

  • CentOS, a free counterpart to RHEL, offers enterprise-level capabilities without the cost. Post-acquisition by Red Hat in 2014, it has seen several shifts in its development strategy.
  • Acting as a bridge between Fedora and RHEL, CentOS Stream provides insights into what’s next for RHEL. This rolling-release model allows community engagement and previews of RHEL’s future updates.
  • A reliable Linux distribution, CentOS boasts high security, regular patches, and compatibility for both x86_64 and x86 architectures. It’s a top pick for many enterprises, offering stability and robust performance.
  • With traditional CentOS Linux being phased out, the focus shifts to CentOS Stream. Alternatives like Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux OS have sprung up, providing community-driven platforms similar to RHEL.
  • While CentOS offers extensive documentation and a growing community backing, it differentiates from RHEL in its lack of official support. However, the community’s involvement ensures knowledge-sharing and collaborative problem-solving.

History and Evolution of CentOS

CentOS was conceived as an open-source endeavor to offer a free, enterprise-grade computing platform. Drawing its roots from the RHEL codebase, CentOS provided users with a platform that was essentially RHEL without the proprietary branding and support.

The purpose behind the development of CentOS was multifold. On one hand, it aimed to address the needs of organizations that sought a stable, secure, and high-performing Linux distribution without the cost associated with commercial licenses. On the other, it intended to foster a thriving community where developers, enthusiasts, and enterprises could converge to innovate and improve.

Year Event
2004 CentOS was officially launched as a free platform mirroring the sources of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).
2009 CentOS 5.4 released, marking significant growth in its user base due to strong enterprise features.
2011 CentOS 6 launched, which included enhanced virtualization capabilities.
2014 Red Hat acquired CentOS, ensuring closer alignment between CentOS and RHEL.
2017 CentOS 7.4 released, bringing better integration with cloud technologies.
2019 Introduction of CentOS Stream, a rolling-release distribution previewing next-gen RHEL content.
2020 Release of CentOS 8, including features like AppStreams and enhanced container support.
2021 Red Hat’s decision to shift from CentOS Linux to CentOS Stream causes community debate. The transition indicates a major change in the project’s direction, emphasizing CentOS Stream as the primary innovation hub. Emergence of alternatives like Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux, intended to fill the void left by the shift in CentOS’s strategy.

Tracing the timeline of CentOS reveals a rich tapestry of innovation and collaboration. From its inception, it garnered attention as a reliable alternative to other leading Linux distributions, providing a stable environment for hosting services, applications, and development projects.

However, 2014 marked a pivotal moment in the history of CentOS. In this year, Red Hat, the company behind RHEL, acquired CentOS. This acquisition led to an infusion of resources, expertise, and vision, ensuring that CentOS could grow, evolve, and cater to a broader audience.

Post-acquisition, the years between 2014 and 2021 witnessed several paradigm shifts. Red Hat’s stewardship led to enhanced collaboration between RHEL and CentOS, further blurring the lines between commercial and community-driven offerings. The introduction of CentOS Stream in 2019, deemed as a “rolling preview” of RHEL’s future innovations, further attests to this synergistic relationship.

While the essence of CentOS as a free, open-source platform remained unaltered, the dynamics between CentOS and RHEL underwent subtle transformations. This evolving relationship paved the way for future innovations, as CentOS continued its march towards being an indispensable asset in the Linux world.

Understanding CentOS: Key Features & Architecture

CentOS is a reputable Linux distribution, famed for its remarkable blend of performance, security, and reliability. When diving deep into its foundational structure and features, it’s evident why CentOS is a top choice for many server administrators, IT professionals, and businesses.

Here’s a breakdown of CentOS’s main features:

  • High Performance & Availability: Built for both speed and uptime, CentOS ensures that your applications run seamlessly and your servers exhibit minimal downtime.
  • Stable Linux Distribution: Despite being free, CentOS matches the reliability and stability of its premium counterparts, often used for critical infrastructures and business solutions.
  • Regular Updates & Support: With a proactive approach to patches and upgrades, CentOS keeps itself updated against potential vulnerabilities, always offering the latest features.
  • High Level of Security: Boasting features such as SELinux and consistent security updates, CentOS protects user data and provides peace of mind in an era of rampant cyber threats.
  • Comprehensive Repositories: These centralized storage locations house an array of software packages, allowing for easy installation and updates.
  • Efficient Package Manager: The YUM tool (Yellowdog Updater, Modified) simplifies software management, ensuring easy installations and automatic updates.
  • Structured Release Cycle: Prioritizing stability, CentOS’s release cycles are well-timed, ensuring users receive thoroughly vetted and stable updates.

CentOS stands as a pillar in the world of Linux distributions. Recognized for its unparalleled combination of reliability and robustness, CentOS ensures users benefit from a system that’s both high-performing and highly available. Its impeccable performance doesn’t come at the expense of stability. Instead, CentOS is celebrated as a consistently stable Linux distribution, making it a preferred choice among IT professionals and businesses alike.

A crucial factor in CentOS’s consistent reliability is its commitment to regular updates and support. With these timely updates, users are shielded from potential vulnerabilities, and they also gain access to the latest functionalities, ensuring their systems remain current and competitive. When exploring hosting options, it’s paramount to consider the underlying software’s support system, and with CentOS, users are never left in the dark.

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Beyond its foundational strengths, CentOS doesn’t falter when it comes to security. In an age where cyber threats are rampant, CentOS provides a high level of security, safeguarding user data and ensuring smooth operations. Its security measures are in line with those of dedicated servers, making it a top choice for businesses and individuals who prioritize data protection.

Delving into the architecture of CentOS, we discover a well-structured, modular design. The architecture, particularly optimized for cloud hosting solutions, ensures that the system is scalable and resilient. Furthermore, CentOS supports a broad spectrum of hardware, most notably the x86_64 and x86 architectures, ensuring compatibility across various platforms.

Repositories play an integral role in CentOS’s ecosystem. They function as storage locations from where software packages can be retrieved and installed. CentOS repositories are known for their comprehensive collection of software packages, allowing users to access both essential and specialized software with ease.

A notable feature of CentOS is its efficient Package Manager. Using the YUM tool, users can easily manage and install software packages, ensuring that system software remains updated without manual intervention. This package management system is offering a streamlined and comprehensive approach.

Lastly, the Release Cycle of CentOS demonstrates its commitment to stability and security. While some Linux distributions might release frequent updates that can potentially disrupt user operations, CentOS ensures that its updates, although regular, are thoroughly tested and stable. This ensures that users can upgrade their systems with confidence, knowing that they won’t encounter unexpected issues post-update.

Default Software Versions in Different CentOS Releases

For server administrators and web hosting professionals, understanding the default software versions bundled with various CentOS releases is crucial. Below, I’ve compiled a comparative list of key server and web hosting software across the CentOS versions mentioned:

Software CentOS 9 CentOS 8 CentOS 7 CentOS 6
Apache 2.4.x 2.4.x 2.4.x 2.2.x
NGINX 1.20.x 1.14.x 1.12.x (via EPEL) 1.0.x (via EPEL)
MySQL 8.0.x 8.0.x 5.7.x (via MySQL repos) 5.1.x
PHP 8.0.x 7.2.x 5.4.x 5.3.x
Python 3.9.x 3.6.x 2.7.x 2.6.x
PostgreSQL 13.x 10.x 9.6.x (via PostgreSQL repos) 8.4.x
MariaDB 10.5.x 10.3.x 5.5.x Not included (use MySQL)
Perl 5.32.x 5.26.x 5.16.x 5.10.x
Ruby 3.0.x 2.5.x 2.0.x 1.8.7
Node.js 16.x 10.x (via EPEL) 6.x (via EPEL) Not officially supported
Bind (DNS) 9.18.x 9.11.x 9.9.x 9.8.x
Vsftpd (FTP) 3.0.x 3.0.x 3.0.x 2.2.x

CentOS Advantages

CentOS, often lauded as a flagship in the Linux distribution world, boasts a myriad of advantages that cater to both individual developers and large enterprises. Here’s a deep dive into its key benefits:

Advantage Description
Stability & Reliability CentOS stands out for its stability, prioritizes a well-tested environment suitable for mission-critical systems, backed by a 10-year support cycle.
Extensive Software Selection Offers a vast repository of tools and utilities. Efficient Package Manager coupled with AppImages, Flatpacks, and Modules ensures versatile software deployment.
Security CentOS is fortified with SELinux, providing fine-grained control and stringent access controls. Commitment to regular security patches and updates.
Optimized Kernel Performance Kernel that’s fine-tuned for performance, ensuring efficient task execution and memory allocation. Ideal for data-intensive operations and high-traffic servers.
Advanced Virtualization Support Natively supports KVM with tools like libvirt for effective VM management. Suitable for cloud environments and hosting multiple services on a single hardware.
Networking Capabilities Advanced networking with support for namespaces, crucial for containerized apps. Adherence to the latest protocols ensures swift and secure data transfers.
Extensive File System Support Supports multiple file systems including XFS, Btrfs, and ext4. Ensures versatile data storage and management options with high-speed access.
Efficient Resource Management Uses cGroups for meticulous resource management, facilitating optimal allocation of CPU, memory, and I/O resources, especially vital in multi-tenant setups.
Community & Documentation Backed by a vibrant community providing technical support and a wealth of documentation including guides, manuals, and tutorials.
Flexibility & Scalability Known for adaptability in varied scenarios, from web servers to container orchestration. Container-friendly and scalable in public/private cloud deployments.
Cost Efficiency A free alternative to RHEL, offering enterprise-grade Linux capabilities without licensing costs, making it budget-friendly without compromising on performance.

Stability & Reliability

CentOS stands out for its stability, largely owing to its roots in Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Unlike some other distributions that adopt a bleeding-edge approach, CentOS prioritizes a well-tested, stable environment, making it an excellent choice for mission-critical systems. This stability is underscored by its 10-year support cycle, assuring users of extended periods without disruptive changes.

Extensive Software Selection

One of the standout features of CentOS is its extensive software repository. Users have access to a broad range of tools, applications, and utilities, whether they’re looking for development platforms or server applications. Its Package Manager is highly efficient, simplifying software installation and management. With the inclusion of AppImages, Flatpacks, and Modules, software deployment becomes even more versatile.


Security is paramount in today’s digital landscape, and CentOS doesn’t disappoint. With SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) integrated, CentOS offers fine-grained control over system processes, enhancing security policies and ensuring stringent access controls. Additionally, its dedication to releasing timely security patches and updates ensures vulnerabilities are promptly addressed.

Optimized Kernel Performance

CentOS’s kernel undergoes rigorous testing and tuning to ensure optimal performance. This meticulous attention to detail means that tasks, from process execution to memory allocation, are handled with efficiency. For businesses running data-intensive applications or managing high-traffic servers, this optimized kernel can drastically improve throughput and response times.

Advanced Virtualization Support

Virtualization is at the heart of many modern IT infrastructures, and CentOS shines in this department. With native support for KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) and tight integration with tools like libvirt, CentOS offers a robust platform for creating and managing virtual machines. It’s an excellent choice for building cloud environments or hosting multiple isolated services on a single hardware node.

State-of-the-Art Networking Capabilities

CentOS supports advanced networking features, such as network namespaces, which allow for isolated network environments within a single OS instance. This is critical for containerized applications, ensuring that each container can have its own network stack. Additionally, CentOS supports cutting-edge protocols and tools, ensuring high-speed and secure data transmission.

Extensive File System Support

CentOS offers support for a multitude of file systems, including but not limited to XFS, Btrfs, and ext4. This extensive file system support ensures flexibility in data storage and management. For instance, XFS is renowned for its scalability and performance, making it an ideal choice for applications that require high-speed data access.

Efficient Resource Management with cGroups

CentOS implements cGroups (Control Groups) to efficiently manage and monitor system resources. With cGroups, administrators can set resource limits and priorities for processes, ensuring optimal allocation of CPU, memory, and I/O resources. This becomes especially valuable in multi-tenant environments, preventing any single process or user from monopolizing system resources.

Community & Documentation

Behind CentOS is a thriving and active community. This collective of developers, IT professionals, and enthusiasts contribute to the CentOS project, offering insights, troubleshooting advice, and technical expertise. For newcomers and seasoned professionals alike, CentOS’s wealth of documentation provides guides, manuals, and tutorials, making it easier to navigate its features and functionalities.

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Flexibility & Scalability

CentOS is known for its adaptability, making it suitable for various use cases, from web servers to container orchestration with Kubernetes. It’s also container-friendly, catering to the growing trend of containerization in modern software deployment. Whether you’re scaling out an application or deploying in public or private clouds, CentOS remains a reliable choice.

Cost Efficiency

One cannot overlook the fact that CentOS is a free RHEL alternative. Organizations and individuals can leverage the power of a robust enterprise-grade Linux distribution without the associated licensing costs. This positions CentOS as a cost-effective solution for those seeking performance and reliability without straining their budget.

CentOS Disadvantages

Despite the widespread popularity and trust that CentOS has garnered over the years, it’s not without its drawbacks. When opting for CentOS, especially in a business environment, it’s vital to be aware of these potential pitfalls.

Disadvantage Description
Delayed Updates CentOS’s stability can lead to delays in the latest software and security updates. It may lag behind distributions like Fedora.
Complexity for Newbies Less user-friendly for newcomers due to its technical setup and configuration demands.
Limited Desktop Use Best for servers; lacks the user-centric features of distributions like Ubuntu.
Transition to CentOS Stream The move to CentOS Stream, a rolling release, has raised concerns about potential instability.
Reliance on Red Hat Changes in RHEL’s strategy, such as the transition to Stream, impact CentOS.
Compatibility Issues Some software may not be compatible with CentOS, requiring workarounds or alternatives.
Limited Commercial Support Relies on community support, potentially lacking for businesses needing immediate assistance.
  • Delayed Updates: While CentOS offers a highly stable environment thanks to its rigorous testing, this often results in delays for the latest software and security updates. Compared to other distributions like Fedora, CentOS might lag in providing the most recent advancements.
  • Complexity for Newbies: CentOS’s technical nature makes it less user-friendly for those unfamiliar with Linux environments. Its initial setup and configuration demand a steep learning curve, often daunting for beginners.
  • Limited Desktop Use: Although CentOS shines in server environments, its application as a desktop OS is limited. It lacks the graphical finesse and user-centric features of distributions like Ubuntu or Mint.
  • Transition to CentOS Stream: The shift from CentOS Linux to CentOS Stream has been met with skepticism. Stream, being a rolling release, can introduce instability, which could be a concern for enterprises seeking a rock-solid platform.
  • Reliance on Red Hat: CentOS’s close relationship with Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a double-edged sword. While it benefits from RHEL’s robustness, any strategic changes in RHEL’s direction, like the move to Stream, directly impacts the CentOS community.
  • Compatibility Issues: Some proprietary software might not be readily available or compatible with CentOS, necessitating workarounds or alternative solutions, which can be time-consuming.
  • Limited Commercial Support: Unlike RHEL, which comes with dedicated commercial support, CentOS largely relies on community support. While the CentOS community is vibrant and active, businesses requiring immediate or specialized assistance might find this aspect lacking.

CentOS vs. Other Linux Distributions

A Linux distribution, often referred to simply as a ‘distro’, is an operating system made from a software collection based on the Linux kernel. This kernel acts as a bridge between the computer’s hardware and software applications. Every Linux distribution combines the Linux kernel with different software packages, graphical user interfaces, package managers, and more to create a complete operating system.

CentOS and RHEL share a close relationship, but they aren’t identical twins. While RHEL is a commercial offering from Red Hat, CentOS was initially a free, community-supported rebuild of RHEL’s source code. This means that while CentOS leverages the stability and features of RHEL, it doesn’t come with the official Red Hat support or some proprietary components present in RHEL.

Popular Linux distributions include Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and of course, CentOS. Each distribution has its strengths and is tailored to particular use-cases and audiences. Choosing the right one depends on specific needs, compatibility, and desired support levels.

Distro Key Features Pros Cons Best Used For
RHEL Enterprise-oriented, Subscription model, SELinux integration Stable, High security, Official support Costly subscription Enterprise servers, Mission-critical applications
Debian Free software emphasis, APT package management, Long release cycle Highly stable, Large software repository Older software in Stable release Servers, Stable production environments
Ubuntu Based on Debian, LTS versions, User-friendly Popular, Large community, Regular updates Not as stable as Debian or RHEL for production Desktops, Web servers, Development environments
Fedora Testing ground for RHEL, Frequent releases, Cutting-edge software New features, Community support Shorter support cycle, Less stable than RHEL Desktops, Developers, Early adopters
AlmaLinux RHEL fork, Community-driven, Backed by CloudLinux Inc. Free, Stable, Built for enterprise Younger project (compared to CentOS) Enterprise servers, Former CentOS users
Rocky Linux RHEL fork, Community-driven, Aims for bug-to-bug compatibility Free, Stable, Created by original CentOS founder Still building its ecosystem Enterprise servers, RHEL alternatives
Oracle Linux RHEL clone, Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel, Oracle optimizations Optimized for Oracle products, Free with paid support option Specifically tailored for Oracle products Oracle database servers, Enterprise applications

CentOS vs. RHEL

  • Origin: Both originate from the same source code. CentOS is a free, community-supported rebuild of RHEL’s sources.
  • Licensing & Cost: RHEL comes with subscription fees, offering support and other proprietary features. CentOS is open-source and free.
  • Support: RHEL subscribers receive official support from Red Hat. CentOS users rely on community-driven support.
  • Updates: RHEL often gets priority for security patches and updates. CentOS, being a rebuild of RHEL, may experience slight delays.

CentOS vs. Debian

  • Roots: CentOS has roots in RHEL and is enterprise-oriented. Debian is one of the oldest distributions, emphasizing free software and community support.
  • Package Management: CentOS uses YUM/DNF with RPM packages. Debian uses APT with DEB packages.
  • Stability: Both are known for stability, but Debian’s stable branch is especially solid, often used for production servers.

CentOS vs. Ubuntu

  • Origin: While CentOS is derived from RHEL, Ubuntu is based on Debian.
  • Package Management: CentOS uses YUM/DNF with RPM packages. Ubuntu uses APT with DEB packages.
  • Desktop vs. Server: Ubuntu is popular for desktop use due to its user-friendliness, while CentOS is often preferred for enterprise servers.

CentOS vs. Fedora

  • Relationship with RHEL: CentOS is a rebuild of RHEL. Fedora is more of a testing ground for RHEL, with new features being introduced first in Fedora.
  • Release Cycle: Fedora has a short release cycle and may not be as stable as CentOS. CentOS has longer release cycles focusing on stability.
  • Cutting-edge vs. Stability: Fedora often incorporates the latest software, while CentOS prioritizes stability.

CentOS vs. AlmaLinux

  • Origin: Both are RHEL forks. AlmaLinux was created as an alternative to CentOS when CentOS shifted its focus to CentOS Stream.
  • Funding: AlmaLinux is backed by CloudLinux Inc., ensuring financial support.
  • Target Audience: Both cater to those looking for a free enterprise-ready OS.

CentOS vs. Rocky Linux

  • Origin: Like AlmaLinux, Rocky Linux was created in response to the shift in CentOS’s direction. It’s spearheaded by Gregory Kurtzer, one of the original CentOS founders.
  • Purpose: Rocky Linux aims to provide a bug-for-bug compatible alternative to RHEL, similar to the classic CentOS goal.

CentOS vs. Oracle Linux

  • Base: Both are RHEL clones, but Oracle Linux offers specific tweaks and features, particularly tuned for Oracle databases.
  • Support & Cost: Oracle Linux offers paid support with its Oracle Premier Support. CentOS is community-supported.
  • Unique Features: Oracle Linux provides the Unbreakable Enterprise Kernel (UEK), optimized for performance and reliability.
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CentOS in the Real World

CentOS’s versatility, stability, and community support make it a favored choice in real-world IT scenarios. From serving as a platform for popular web applications to being the backbone of enterprise systems, CentOS’s footprint is vast and growing. Шts value is seen in a variety of real-world applications, from running popular CMS platforms like WordPress to serving as a backbone in enterprise environments.

Why IT Leaders Love CentOS

CentOS stands as a preferred choice for many IT leaders, and here’s why:

  1. Stability and Reliability: CentOS is known for its stability, making it an ideal choice for mission-critical tasks. IT leaders prefer an environment where system crashes or unplanned downtimes are minimal, and CentOS offers just that.
  2. Security: With features like SELinux and regular updates, CentOS provides a robust security system. The emphasis on security measures ensures that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly.
  3. Cost-effective: Being an open-source platform, CentOS eliminates licensing costs, making it a cost-effective alternative to other commercial operating systems.
  4. Community Support: The CentOS community is ever-growing and robust. The presence of a large user community ensures peer support, shared resources, and troubleshooting tips, beneficial for IT leaders.
  5. Flexibility and Compatibility: CentOS supports a wide range of hardware configurations and is adaptable for various applications, making it a flexible choice for diverse IT needs.

CentOS in Enterprise Environments

CentOS is a prominent choice in enterprise IT for various reasons:

  • Broad Application Support: CentOS supports a plethora of enterprise-grade applications, tools, and platforms, ensuring businesses have the tools they need.
  • High Availability and Performance: For enterprises, downtime means lost revenue. CentOS’s stability ensures high availability, which is crucial for mission-critical enterprise operations.
  • Security Protocols: Enterprises are often targets for cyber threats. CentOS’s rigorous security protocols make it a trusted choice for businesses, ensuring data protection and regulatory compliance.

Public and Private Clouds, Kubernetes

CentOS’s versatility is evident in its widespread use across different platforms:

  • Public Clouds: CentOS is commonly used in public cloud environments like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure. Its compatibility with these platforms ensures seamless operations and optimized cloud performance.
  • Private Clouds: For organizations that opt for in-house cloud solutions, CentOS offers the tools and stability to run private clouds efficiently.
  • Kubernetes: CentOS serves as a robust base for running Kubernetes, a popular container orchestration platform. Its compatibility with Docker and other container tools makes it a preferred choice for containerized applications.

Running WordPress on CentOS Stream

WordPress, the world’s leading content management system (CMS), is often hosted on CentOS, specifically the CentOS Stream. Here’s why:

  • Optimized Performance: CentOS Stream offers a smooth and optimized environment for WordPress, ensuring faster page loads and reduced server response times.
  • Enhanced Security: With CentOS Stream, users benefit from regular security patches, ensuring a secure environment for WordPress sites, reducing the risks of hacks or breaches.
  • Scalability: As websites grow, the underlying infrastructure must support increased traffic. CentOS Stream can easily scale to accommodate growing website demands, making it suitable for WordPress sites with high traffic.
  • Ease of Management: With tools like cPanel available for CentOS, managing WordPress sites becomes easier and more intuitive.

CentOS Stream: The Future of CentOS?

CentOS Stream stands as a pioneering endeavor within the CentOS project. Unlike the traditional CentOS, which has always been a downstream project (receiving patches and updates after RHEL, its upstream source), CentOS Stream operates upstream to RHEL. In simpler terms, it provides a preview of what’s next in RHEL, making it a rolling-release distribution that showcases future RHEL content.

How does CentOS Stream work?

CentOS Stream operates in a continuous delivery approach. As mentioned, it positions itself between the Fedora project and RHEL in the development chain. While Fedora is the ground for the newest, often experimental features, CentOS Stream receives those features after they’ve been more refined, but before they make it into RHEL. As a result, users and developers get a snapshot of the upcoming RHEL version. This process not only helps Red Hat refine the features for their enterprise offering but also provides the community with a more stable environment than Fedora.

In essence, think of CentOS Stream as the bridge that harmoniously connects the cutting-edge innovations of Fedora with the stringent stability of RHEL.

Advantages of CentOS Stream

  • Predictability and Preview: CentOS Stream offers businesses and developers an early glimpse into the RHEL ecosystem’s future, allowing them to prepare and adapt their applications and systems accordingly.
  • Community Engagement: With its upstream nature, CentOS Stream encourages the community’s direct involvement in shaping the future of RHEL. This collaborative approach fosters innovation and rapid problem-solving.
  • Continuity: CentOS Stream’s rolling release nature ensures that users always have access to the latest features, improvements, and fixes without waiting for a major release.
  • Enhanced Stability: While it offers newer features than Fedora, it still retains a degree of stability closer to RHEL, providing a balance between innovation and reliability.

Will CentOS Stream replace CentOS Linux?

The announcement of CentOS Stream brought about a wave of speculations and concerns. While CentOS Linux as a traditional downstream build will end with CentOS 8, it doesn’t mean CentOS Stream is its direct replacement. Instead, CentOS Stream offers a different approach, a glimpse into the next minor RHEL release. For those who heavily relied on CentOS Linux for an enterprise-grade, free OS without the tight update schedule of RHEL, transitioning might require some adjustments.

However, Red Hat’s clear messaging is that CentOS Stream is not merely a “replacement”, but a reimagining of CentOS’s role in the Linux ecosystem. It’s a shift towards a future where the community plays a pivotal role in shaping enterprise-level offerings.


CentOS has always served as a free alternative to RHEL, offering nearly identical features and performance. This new iteration of CentOS, operating upstream to RHEL, ushers in a novel phase, presenting a rolling-release distribution that previews the future content of RHEL. With unparalleled stability, high security, regular updates, and broad support for architectures, CentOS caters to both newcomers and seasoned professionals in the Linux community.

CentOS occupies a unique space in the Linux ecosystem. It bridges the gap between the enterprise-level stability of RHEL and the free, open-source nature of Linux distributions. As a result, businesses that sought a robust operating system without the associated costs often turned to CentOS. With the advent of CentOS Stream, it continues to be a pivotal component, now offering insights into future RHEL developments and encouraging community participation more than ever.

If you’re on the precipice of embarking on a Linux journey or a seasoned professional contemplating a shift, there’s never been a more exciting time to explore CentOS. Whether it’s the tried and tested CentOS Linux or the future-forward CentOS Stream, there’s a wealth of experience awaiting you.

Welcome to the comment section below.


  1. What is the main difference between CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)?

    CentOS is essentially a free and open-source clone of RHEL, made from RHEL’s source code. While RHEL comes with a subscription fee, offering support and services, CentOS offers similar capabilities without the official support from Red Hat.

  2. Why did Red Hat acquire CentOS?

    Red Hat acquired CentOS in 2014 to further establish its dominance in the enterprise Linux market and to collaborate closely with the CentOS community, ensuring a platform that aligns with their enterprise offerings.

  3. What is the significance of CentOS Stream?

    CentOS Stream serves as a rolling-release version of CentOS, allowing users to see and contribute to the development process. It provides a preview of what will be incorporated into RHEL, ensuring more transparency and collaboration between Red Hat and the community.

  4. Is CentOS suitable for production environments?

    Yes, CentOS is often used in production environments, particularly for servers. It offers stability, security, and compatibility with a variety of software, making it a preferred choice for many enterprises. However, users should consider their support needs since CentOS doesn’t offer official support like RHEL.

  5. With CentOS Linux being phased out, what are some alternatives?

    With the shift in CentOS’s direction, alternatives such as Rocky Linux, AlmaLinux OS, and Oracle Linux have become popular. These distributions aim to offer a free and community-driven platform compatible with RHEL, suitable for enterprise use.


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