More than five years ago, Red Hat and the CentOS Project joined forces to further the development of next-generation Linux innovations for enterprise IT. Since then, we’ve seen the open source model continue to thrive, fueling the rise of Linux containers, Kubernetes, microservices, serverless and more. Given the rapid pace of this community-driven innovation, we, in agreement with the CentOS Project leadership, are pleased to introduce a new model into the CentOS Linux community: CentOS Stream.

CentOS Stream is a developer-forward distribution that aims to help community members, Red Hat partners and others take full advantage of open source innovation within a more stable and predictable Linux ecosystem. It is a parallel distribution to existing CentOS Linux, which this morning saw the release of CentOS Linux 8.

Why CentOS Stream?

Red Hat’s current Linux ecosystem model starts with the Fedora Project driving core innovation. As these technologies mature, they are slowly incorporated "downstream" into Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). RHEL hardens the packages of these components, adds security errata and updates and integrates them into the broader RHEL partner ecosystem. From there, the RHEL source code is released to the CentOS Project community for additional developer integration to be built on the backbone of enterprise-ready code. 

Further supporting our ecosystem model is the Red Hat Universal Base Image and the RHEL Developer subscription, both of which provide even more options for developers to build next-generation applications on the backbone of the world’s leading enterprise Linux platform.

This current model serves IT administrators and operations teams well, but developers need something more to address their specific challenges. They require earlier access to code, improved and more transparent collaboration with the broader partner community, and the ability to influence the direction of new RHEL versions. It is these opportunities that CentOS Stream is intended to address.

What is 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.

The CentOS Stream project sits between the Fedora Project and RHEL in the RHEL Development process, providing a "rolling preview" of future RHEL kernels and features. This enables developers to stay one or two steps ahead of what’s coming in RHEL, which was not previously possible with traditional CentOS releases. CentOS Stream better connects ISV, IHV and other ecosystem developers to the operating system developers of the Fedora Project, shortening the feedback loop and making it easier for all voices to be heard in the creation of the next RHEL versions.

What does this mean for CentOS?

CentOS Stream is parallel to existing CentOS builds; this means that nothing changes for current users of CentOS Linux and services, even those that begin to explore the newly-released CentOS 8. We encourage interested users that want to be more tightly involved in driving the future of enterprise Linux, however, to transition to CentOS Stream as the new "pace-setting" distribution.

A broader, more diverse developer community

CentOS Stream is part of Red Hat’s broader focus to engage with communities and developers in a way that better aligns with the modern IT world. Along with CentOS Stream, Red Hat now provides platforms to address a broad spectrum of developer needs, including:

  • The Fedora Project, foundation of the Fedora operating system, for those looking to contribute to the leading-edge of operating system innovation.

  • CentOS Stream for ecosystem developers who need to see what is coming in RHEL and need to introduce changes in order to enable their hardware or software.   

  • The Red Hat Universal Base Image, a cost-free, redistributable and developer-ready image for creating cloud-native enterprise applications. With the Red Hat Universal Base Image, developers can more easily create certified applications for production deployment on RHEL and across Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud portfolio, including Red Hat OpenShift. 

  • The RHEL Developer subscription, a free, self-supported subscription for developers, provides a dev/test environment for applications that are meant to be deployed into production on the stable, more secure and high-performance foundation of RHEL.

We want all of our communities to feel engaged in an open, collaborative process, and look forward to how CentOS Stream can help drive this shared vision forward. Open source flourishes when as many hands and eyes as possible can contribute, helping to lead towards the next great IT innovations.

Chris Wright is vice president and CTO, Red Hat.

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