CentOS Stream: Everything You Need to Know About it

CentsOS Stream

What is CentOS Stream? In this article we shall discuss everything that you need to know about CentOS Stream.

Let’s begin with a quick history refresher. As you know, CentOS, one of the most popular Linux distributions, will no longer be supported for CentOS 8, starting 31 of December 2021, while the support for CentOS 7 will end on 30 of June 2024. The CentOS team encourages the current CentOS 8 users to update to CentOS Stream, but this might not be accepted easily and many might migrate to another distro.

So from now on, all the effort will be focused on CentOS Stream.

Why was CentOS Stream Created

Shortening the feedback loop for ecosystem developers to contribute their changes. By working in CentOS Stream between Fedora and RHEL, ecosystem developers will be working on a rolling preview of what’s coming in the next RHEL release. This will allow them to make changes much faster than they can today.

Developing in the open. Currently, much of RHEL development is done with many of Red Hat’s ecosystem partners working behind Red Hat’s firewall. CentOS Stream enables Red Hat and the larger community to do as much transparent development as possible in what will become the next release of RHEL.

Enabling access to innovation faster. Beginning with the release of RHEL 8, Red Hat committed to releasing major versions of RHEL every three years and minor releases every six months. Adhering to this faster and more predictable cadence means that Red Hat need a midstream development environment that anyone can contribute to. That environment is CentOS Stream.

Providing a clear method for the broader community to contribute to RHEL releases. When Fedora was RHEL’s only upstream project, most developers were limited to contributing only to the next major release of RHEL. With CentOS Stream, all developers will be able to contribute new features and bug fixes into minor RHEL releases as well.

What is CentOS Stream

CentOS Stream is a rolling-release Linux distro that exists as a midstream between the upstream development in Fedora Linux and the downstream development for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). It looks forward to the next minor version of RHEL. It sorts of sits in between Fedora, which is more focused on integrating upstream projects into the operating system and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is more focused on responding to enterprise customer needs.

With CentOS Stream, Red Hat is doing their development work out in the open. Now they will assemble all their changes publicly as CentOS Stream. Let’s take a look at where this distro resides in Red Hat’s development lifecycle.

CentOS Stream relationship to RHEL and Fedora

The distro development is directed by Red Hat and its targeted again at the very next minor version of RHEL. Ecosystem developers of CentOS Stream get a preview of what RHEL has planned for the nex minor release and they also get a place to register ideas about what they think come next.

With CentOS Stream in-between Fedora and RHEL, Red Hat can make decisions and communicate them earlier to the ecosystem as a whole. If RHEL is a going in a particular direction for one minor release or another, the folks out in the public can notice that change, comment on it and even propose changes themselves a whole lot earlier in that process.

So developers know what’s coming and this shared space of collaboration lets Red Hat practice upstream first by landing features in Fedora, giving those features an enterprise flavor in CentOS Stream.

CentOS Stream is an upstream development platform for ecosystem developers. It is a single, continuous stream of content with updates several times daily, encompassing the latest and greatest from the RHEL codebase. It’s a view into what the next version of RHEL will look like, available to a much broader community than just a beta or ‘preview’ release.

Chris Wright, vice president and CTO at Red Hat

To put things short, CentOS Streams users will test RHEL ahead of everyone, but they won’t get security updates till resolved in RHEL.

For more information about CentOS Stream, you can visit the project’s website.

Should We Continue Using CentOS

Many people are confused about whether CentOS Stream is a good future path for current users of CentOS Linux. Millions of users have been using CentOS as a stable point distribution for their servers, virtual machines, and appliances. So, at the moment current CentOS users face one key question: Should we continue using CentOS?

Let’s see what the facts tell us: Instead of being the stable RHEL clone, CentOS Stream is slated to be a constantly morphing OS that represents the work that Red Hat’s engineers are doing building the upcoming RHEL release.

As you know, the biggest advantage of CentOS was its stability. Without it, many have no reason to continue using it. When it comes to servers, the users normally don’t want to rely on strategies. They just want it to work.

No one wants to be running a mission critical environment on an untested OS, and ultimately CentOS Stream is a testing channel for RHEL. No one is going to waste their time using a server distribution that can’t be considered stable. In addition, CentOS Stream is a rolling release distro and this could be a problem when we are talking about servers. Therefore, the short answer is NO.

New distributions like AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux are 1:1 binary compatible RHEL forks branding themselves as a CentOS replacement. You can even migrate directly from CentOS to Rocky Linux with just one command.

Another option is to move directly to RHEL, get paid support, and be on a stable release.

Bottom Line

Like CentOS, CentOS Stream is completely free to download, use and distribute, with no limitations on how many instances an individual user or organization can deploy. But CentOS Stream is much different from traditional CentOS Linux.

CentOS Stream is a distribution that community members can use to take advantage of a stable API for development and testing, while still seeing some updates on an accelerated basis. With it you can now contribute directly to RHEL.

IMHO probably IBM/Red Hat no longer wants businesses to see CentOS as a viable option for servers. Some users may migrate their current CentOS systems to CentOS Stream, especially if they like testing the newest features and don’t rely on having extremely predictable systems. But when dealing with a server, especially if it’s a production server that your company relies on for business, you probably should consider migrating to another Linux distro.

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