Community Profile: CentOS Project
Name: CentOS [Community Enterprise Operating System] Project
Initial release: May, 2004
Project Lead: Karanbir Singh
Upstream: Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Governance: CentOS Governance Board
Web Site: http://www.centos.org
Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, G+ Page, G+ Community
Software: Download, Source Code
Description: A free software project primarily responsible for the creation of the enterprise-ready Linux distribution CentOS.
The Open Source and Standards (OSAS) team at Red Hat helps support a number of diverse projects and their communities, and that number is growing alone with the responsibilities of the team. To highlight the projects with which OSAS works, a new series of community profiles will highlight the projects and the people who work with them. To start the series, we'll examine the CentOS Project--likely the most unique project within the OSAS ecosystem.
With most projects in OSAS--indeed, most open source projects in general--there's usually at least an open-source licensed bit of code with which contributors and users work. Then, if there's any sort of commercial interest, then there could be a commercially distributed version with either a licensing fee or a support and training agreement. Within the Red Hat ecosystem, a classic example of this would be the free-as-in-freedom-and-beer Fedora distribution as the "upstream" to the free-as-in-freedom Red Hat Enterprise Linux's "downstream."
But CentOS is a pretty big exception to that rule; its upstream is the commercially supported and released RHEL. So, in terms of "stream" path, code goes from Fedora to RHEL to CentOS. It doesn't stop there, either: there's a broad and vibrant free and open source downstream ecosystem that builds off of CentOS as well.
From 2004--when the distribution was one part of the broader cAos Linux project--to early 2014, the CentOS Project managed the creation of the CentOS distribution independently of the Fedora Project and Red Hat. Volunteers within the CentOS Project would acquire RHEL code that was licensed under the GPL and other free and open source licenses and then release the code as CentOS--taking care to remove any Red Hat trademarked material. Under the terms of most open source licenses, this kind of activity is completely above board and has been done by other projects too, such as Scientific Linux and the former White Box Enterprise Linux.
But in late 2013, it occurred to several people on both sides of the fence that a more formal partnership between Red Hat and CentOS would benefit each side very well.
By working with the CentOS Project, Red Hat could not only work with platform innovators and contributors in the Fedora Project, but all now reach projects and people in need of a community Linux distribution that's stable enough for enterprise use. More directly, projects like RDO, ManageIQ, and oVirt would immediately benefit by having a free enterprise platform on which they can be demonstrated and deployed in production.
CentOS would benefit by having the resources for its key participants to work full time on CentOS--something the volunteer developers and sysadmins in the CentOS Project could rarely do. These new resources afford the CentOS team to work on such projects like the CentOS special interest groups (SIGs). These SIGs, such as Cloud, Virtualization, Storage, and Atomic, focus on tighter sets of issues and builds of CentOS that are optimized for specific tasks.
Nearly a year and a half later, the partnership between Red Hat and CentOS within OSAS is flourishing. CentOS has become even more popular as an enterprise platform, both within the cloud and the datacenter, and other OSAS-supported projects have benefited from being able to strut their stuff on CentOS. The CentOS Project is a key project within OSAS and the broader Red Hat ecosystem, and its success reflects well for all involved.
About the author
Brian Proffitt is a Manager within Red Hat's Open Source Program Office, focusing on content generation, community metrics, and special projects. Brian's experience with community management includes knowledge of community onboarding, community health, and business alignment. Prior to joining Red Hat in 2014, he was a technology journalist with a focus on Linux and open source, and the author of 22 consumer technology books.