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In September 2019, we announced CentOS Stream, an upstream development platform designed for CentOS community members, Red Hat partners, ecosystem developers, and many other groups to more quickly and easily see what’s coming next in Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and to help shape the product. Since its introduction, we’ve seen great enthusiasm from partners and contributors around CentOS Stream and the continuous stream of innovation that the project provides. Given this, we’ve informed the CentOS Project Governing Board that we are shifting our investment fully from CentOS Linux to CentOS Stream.

Before we jump into details, it’s worth sharing examples where we’ve seen our ecosystem embrace CentOS Stream as a "rolling preview" of what’s next in RHEL, both in terms of kernels and features. Facebook runs millions of servers supporting its vast global social network, all of which have been migrated (or are migrating) to an operating system they derive from CentOS Stream. While Facebook continues to drive internal innovation on CentOS Stream, the company has recognized the value in collaborating within the Red Hat ecosystem to further push their platform’s capabilities.

Red Hat’s long-time partner Intel is also engaged with CentOS Stream:

"Intel has a long history of supporting the Linux ecosystem by driving open source innovation across IT environments, from corporate datacenters to cloud deployments. We are excited about the potential of CentOS Stream within our customer ecosystem."

-- Mark Skarpness, vice president, Intel Architecture, Graphics and Software Group, Intel

When Red Hat first brought CentOS Linux into the Red Hat ecosystem, the project fit the need as an innovation platform as-is. Community projects like OKD, RDO and more needed a stable base to build upon, which CentOS Linux provided. But the model for open source development is not static; it’s constantly evolving and changing to fit the emerging needs of enterprises and communities alike.

The technology world we face today isn’t as simple as what we faced even a year ago, let alone five years ago. From containerized applications and cloud-native services to rapid hardware innovations and ecosystems shifting to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), the operating system can be hard pressed to answer even one of these needs, especially at scale and in a responsive manner.

This is where we see CentOS Stream fitting in. It provides a platform for rapid innovation at the community level but with a stable enough base to understand production dynamics. These changes and feedback can more quickly be channeled into productization, resulting in Linux platforms that meet the needs of an incredibly varied user base.

Red Hat believes that shifting our full investment to CentOS Stream is the best way to further drive Linux innovation by giving the broader ecosystem community a closer connection to the development of RHEL. CentOS Stream now sits between the Fedora Project’s operating system innovation and RHEL’s production stability. To make CentOS Stream the primary innovation hub for the RHEL ecosystem, we will shift our investments to CentOS Stream exclusively on December 31, 2021. Our commitment to CentOS Linux 7 will continue until the distribution’s published end of maintenance updates in 2024.

There are different kinds of CentOS users, and we are working with the CentOS Project Governing Board to tailor programs that meet the needs of these different user groups. In the first half of 2021, we plan to introduce low- or no-cost programs for a variety of use cases, including options for open source projects and communities and expansion of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Developer subscription use cases to better serve the needs of systems administrators. We’ll share more details as these initiatives coalesce.

The future of CentOS Linux is CentOS Stream

CentOS Stream isn’t a replacement for CentOS Linux; rather, it’s a natural, inevitable next step intended to fulfill the project’s goal of furthering enterprise Linux innovation. Stream shortens the feedback loop between developers on all sides of the RHEL landscape, making it easier for all voices, be they large partners or individual contributors, to be heard as we craft future versions of RHEL.

We encourage all of our partners and developers to not just engage in CentOS Stream, but to start building their own branches and use this innovation hub to test solutions to their own specific challenges. We believe CentOS Stream truly is the future of enterprise Linux, and it will let the community more directly influence the direction of Red Hat Enterprise Linux releases, from minor incremental releases to major milestones. Red Hat will also be moving all of our internal projects to CentOS Stream, so we’ll be able to share best practices and strategies with the broader community as this work takes place and evolves.

Building a broader, more diverse community

Already, Red Hat offers a set of platforms -- in addition to CentOS Stream -- to address a 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.

  • The Red Hat Universal Base Image, a free-of-charge, redistributable and developer-ready image for creating containerized, 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.

CentOS Linux has truly helped to make RHEL and the supporting communities better, and with CentOS Stream, we intend to continue this drive to make Linux innovation faster and more collaborative. Red Hat intends to provide the tools, support, and expertise to help all use cases transition to the new innovation hub for RHEL.

To learn more about CentOS Stream and the future of the CentOS Project, please read the associated FAQ.


About the author

Chris Wright is senior vice president and chief technology officer (CTO) at Red Hat. Wright leads the Office of the CTO, which is responsible for incubating emerging technologies and developing forward-looking perspectives on innovations such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, distributed storage, software defined networking and network functions virtualization, containers, automation and continuous delivery, and distributed ledger.