Red Hat reveals CentOS plans

Months after adopting the Red Hat Enterprise Linux clone CentOS, Red Hat is starting to unveil its CentOS plans.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Napa Valley, CA: First things first. Here's what Red Hat is not planning to do with CentOS: 1) Red Hat's not going to charge you for CentOS;  2) CentOS will not be replacing Red Hat's community distribution, Fedora; and 3) CentOS is not being put out to pasture to die. OK? OK! 


So, what is Red Hat planning? Well, I'll let Karsten Wade, Red Hat's CentOS Engineering Manager, tell you what he told me and an audience at the Linux Foundation's Linux Collaboration Summit.

Wade opened by saying that getting CentOS under the Red Hat umbrella took about a year and a half of work, but they didn't try to agree on the technical details. That part is what they've been working on for the last few months.

Red Hat did this because it believes there are three very different ways that 70 to 80 percent people tend to use Red Hat Linux distros. Businesses that want a lot of support and device and staff certification pay for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Fedora is for users, often developers who use the latest and greatest Linux and open-source software and want to be ahead of the curve.  CentOS is for Linux experts who can handle their own support and want a stable platform.

At the same time, CentOS was seeing that its users wanted some cool new software that the Fedora fans were getting, while keeping the stability of RHEL. Since CentOS didn't have the resources to do this, they were open to incorporating their Linux distribution with Red Hat.

For its part, Red Hat wanted all the people who use CentOS, which Wade admitted may be more than those who use RHEL and Fedora combined, to be using an "official" Red Hat Linux distribution. In addition, Red Hat wanted to defragment the major Red Hat rebuilds. Wade said "Red Hat wanted that programming energy more productively than in just recreating RHEL." It all seems likely that if Red Hat can even get a small percentage of CentOS users to move up to RHEL, the deal will add to Red Hat's already impressive profits.

So what the newly united Red Hat and CentOS is planning on are multiple CentOS releases. This will be something like Fedora Spins. Instead of Spins, these will be called Special Interest Group (SIG) releases.

First, there will be the CentOS Core SIG. This will be the closest to the CentOS that many of you are using now on your own servers, Web hosting site. or data center. The other official SIGS are CentOS Storage, CentOS Cloud, and CentOS Virtualization.

All these start with the CentOS Core distribution. This will be built using the most recent RHEL release. However, there's a firewall between RHEL and CentOS developers. The net effect is that CentOS will continue to lag a bit behind RHEL in releases. Even so, CentOS releases will be coming out on RHEL heels rather than weeks or months behind.

On top of that RHEL base, each CentOS SIG will decide what cutting edge software it will use. For example, CentOS Cloud will probably include the latest OpenStack build. CentOS Virtualization will offer a variety of hypervisors, not just KVM.

There's more than a dozen SIGs in progress. Under consideration are desktop, Web hosting, and a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) servers. Other SIGs will be considered depending on the amount of developer interest.

As before, if you want to build a distro of your own on CentOS, you can do that. It will just need to be labelled "Based on CentOS." According to Wade, there may be fewer of those in the future. Scientific Linux, the other major RHEL clone, is now considering joining with Red Hat as well. This is still at a very early stage of discussions.

Looking ahead, Red Hat appears well on its way to unifying the Red Hat clones. The one exception will be its frenemy, Oracle with its RHEL-based Oracle Linux.

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