Popular CentOS Linux server gets a major refresh

The new CentOS 7 release, based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.3, has arrived.

CentOS doesn't get many headlines. But it's still the server Linux of choice for many hosting companies, datacenters, and businesses with in-house Linux experts. That's because CentOS, which is controlled by Red Hat, is a Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone. As such, it reaps the benefits of RHEL's business Linux development efforts without RHEL's costs.

CentOS Logo

So, now that CentOS 7 1611, which is based on RHEL 7.3, has arrived, I expect to see many happy companies moving to it.

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If you're considering jumping to CentOS, keep in mind that while its code-base is very close to RHEL, you don't get Red Hat's support. As the project web page explains, "CentOS Project does not provide any verification, certification, or software assurance with respect to security for CentOS Linux. ... If certified/verified software that has guaranteed assurance is what you are looking for, then you likely do not want to use CentOS Linux." In short, CentOS is for Linux professionals, not for companies that need high-level technical support.

That said, the new CentOS does a better job of handling bugs. By using Automatic Bug Reporting Tool (ABRT), CentOS-7 can report bugs directly to bugs.centos.org.

This CentOS release also fully supports the latest Intel processors. These are Intel 7th-generation "Kaby Lake" Core i3, i5, and i7 processors and I2C on 6th-generation Core processors.

This Linux also comes with updated and rebased versions of many popular Linux desktop and server tools. Among others, this includes Samba, squid, systemd, krb5, gcc-libraries, binutils, gfs-utils, libreoffice, GIMP, SELinux, firewalld, libreswan, tomcat, and open-vm-tools.

For brave system administrators, CentOS 7 1611 also supports Btrfs, OverlayFS, CephFS, DNSSEC, kpatch, the Cisco VIC and usNIC kernel driver, nested virtualization with KVM, and multi-threaded xz compression with rpm-builds as technology previews.

Even though SELinux, a major Linux security program, is completely supported, it does have some problems. The good news is that SELinux in this release is much easier to deploy. The bad news is that, on both CentOS and RHEL, setting up SELinux profiles that don't break functionality is still a real problem.

Should you upgrade? There are many older versions of CentOS still out there doing useful work. I should know. I'm running some of them. Still, as Karanbir Singh, CentOS Project leader, says: "This release supersedes all previously released content for CentOS Linux 7, and therefore we highly encourage all users to upgrade their machiness."

This CentOS release is currently available as ISO files. Singh recommends users download the images from a mirror site or as torrents. The Docker container, Vagrant images, cloud images, and Atomic Host images are being prepared and will be released in the next few days.

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