Red Hat introduces free RHEL for small production workloads and development teams

In response to complaints about Red Hat's latest plans for CentOS Linux, Red Hat will start offering no-cost Red Hat Enterprise Linux for small production workloads and customer development teams.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

When Red Hat announced it was switching up CentOS Linux from a stable Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone to a rolling Linux distribution, which would become the next minor RHEL update, many CentOS users were upset. Now, to appease some of those users, Red Hat is introducing no-cost RHEL for small production workloads and no-cost RHEL for customer development teams. 

First, in place of CentOS Linux, Red Hat would like to remind developers that no-cost RHEL has long existed through the Red Hat Developer program. The offering terms formerly limited its use to single-machine developers. Now Red Hat will expand this program so that the Individual Developer subscription for RHEL can be used in production for up to 16 systems. 

Yes, they mean production use and there's no catch. This is a free, self-supported RHEL offering. To get it you need only to sign in with a free Red Hat account (or via single sign-on through GitHub, Twitter, Facebook, and other accounts) to download RHEL and receive updates. 

In a post announcing the program, Red Hat underlines that: "Nothing else is required. This isn't a sales program and no sales representative will follow up. An option will exist within the subscription to easily upgrade to full support, but that's up to you."

In addition, you can also use the expanded Red Hat Developer program to run RHEL on major public clouds including AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. You must, of course, pay your cloud provider's usual hosting fees. But, RHEL itself will be free for both development and small production workloads.

This updated Individual Developer subscription for RHEL will be available by February 1, 2021.

As for developers, Red Hat is also expanding its Developer program by making it easier for your entire development teams to join the program and take advantage of its benefits. Thus, development teams can now be added to this program at no additional cost via your existing RHEL subscription. 

This will help make RHEL more accessible as a development platform for your entire organization. Through this program, RHEL can also be deployed via Red Hat Cloud Access and is accessible on major public clouds including AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure at no additional costs except for the usual hosting fees charged by your cloud provider.

"What about me?," you might ask. "I use CentOS Linux all the time, and I don't want to switch to CentOS Stream." Red Hat understands many CentOS users are in this boat. "We know that these programs don't address every CentOS Linux use case, so we aren't done delivering more ways to get RHEL easily. We're working on a variety of additional programs for other use cases and plan to provide another update in mid-February."

Of course, this doesn't address what's probably the most important CentOS use case: Its use by hosting, web hosting, and cloud providers as a free-as-in-beer Linux distribution. CentOS, along with Ubuntu Linux, are the most popular free Linux distributions for companies wanting a solid, well-documented server Linux, one that they can support themselves. These companies' CentOS users must look to other alternatives, such as the in-work CentOS Linux clones Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux.

That said, Red Hat really wants to keep its CentOS users and turn them into RHEL customers. Therefore, the company announcement noted, "We want to make RHEL easier to use and are removing many barriers that stand in the way, working to keep pace with the evolving needs of Linux users, our customers, and our partners. This requires us to continuously examine our development and business models to meet these changing needs. We believe that these new programs -- and those to follow -- work toward that goal."

Finally, Red Hat stated: "We aren't done with this work. We want to hear from you, whether or not your needs fall into one of the use cases described here." 

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