CentOS Linux 7 Expiring: An Imminent Challenge for Network Administrators - ­čĆć Managed Server

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June 14 2024

CentOS Linux 7 Expiring: An Imminent Challenge for Network Administrators

A network scan reveals that 26% of Linux machines are running CentOS 7, which ends support at the end of this month. What will happen next?

A recent network scan by Lansweeper revealed that 26% of Linux machines are running CentOS 7, a version that will reach end of life (EOL) by the end of June. This situation represents a significant issue, as there is no direct upgrade path.

The spread of CentOS Linux

Lansweeper, a Belgian company specializing in network scanners, periodically collects statistics from its users and publishes the results. The data collected offers a detailed overview of the current IT ecosystem, helping companies to better understand market trends and needs. According to the latest report, a third of Linux machines use Ubuntu, a figure that reflects the popularity and robustness of this distribution. However, what is most surprising is that CentOS Linux ranks second, despite the recent turbulence that has characterized this distribution.

Linux-Distribution-February2024

CentOS 8 reached end of life (EOL) in 2021, an event that took many by surprise, especially since its EOL was initially scheduled for 2029. Red Hat's decision to advance this deadline had an impact significantly on CentOS users, forcing them to look for alternatives. Additionally, the cancellation of CentOS 9 left CentOS 7 as the only version available to users, making the need for migration even more pressing.

The fact that CentOS Linux maintains such a high share of usage, despite these challenges, indicates that many users appreciate the stability and reliability it has offered over the years. CentOS has long been the preferred choice for server and production environments due to its close relationship with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and free availability. This allowed companies to take advantage of a robust system without having to deal with the costs associated with RHEL.

However, with the impending EOL of CentOS 7, organizations are now faced with crucial decisions for the future of their IT infrastructures. Migrating to RHEL, with its associated costs, or adopting alternatives like Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux are options that many are seriously considering. These changes represent not only a technical challenge, but also an opportunity for companies to review and optimize their IT strategies, ensuring long-term security and efficiency.

The end of support for CentOS 7

Red Hat has pushed the end of life of CentOS Linux 8 from 2029 to 2021, leading many users to remain on CentOS 7. With the end of support for CentOS 7 scheduled for the end of June, system administrators find themselves struggling faced with a difficult choice. Red Hat offers a free tool to migrate to RHEL, but RHEL 7 is entering maintenance support 2, which requires you to pay for extended support to continue receiving security updates.

The prospects for the future

Lansweeper predicts that many CentOS users will migrate to RHEL, causing RHEL to surpass Ubuntu in terms of usage. However, this forecast appears optimistic. After CentOS, RHEL accounts for just over 20% of installations, followed by Oracle Linux with less than 4% and Rocky Linux with less than 1,5%.

Red Hat says migrating to RHEL offers numerous benefits, including leveraging familiar tools and methodologies and a secure and reliable environment. However, the influence of ignorance of the alternatives available in the market cannot be underestimated, pushing some organizations to opt for the paid version of a previously free product.

Red Hat's strategy

Red Hat's decision to discontinue CentOS was a calculated gamble, aimed at strengthening its position in the paid enterprise solutions market. In 2014, when Red Hat acquired CentOS, the goal was clearly to eliminate rebuilt versions that, while free, offered users a direct alternative to RHEL without the associated costs. Red Hat's strategy was to integrate CentOS into its ecosystem, ensuring that the source code was accessible only to paying customers and registered developers, as permitted by the GPL. This approach limited free access to source code, incentivizing migration to paid solutions.

To migrate from CentOS 7 to RHEL 7, organizations will face licensing costs, a necessary step to continue benefiting from support and security updates. Subsequently, they may have to opt for extended support, known as ÔÇťExtended Lifecycle SupportÔÇŁ (ELS), which incurs additional expenses to maintain system security and stability. Alternatively, companies can decide to upgrade directly to RHEL 8. With the release of RHEL 8.10, this version is about to enter the "maintenance support" phase, a phase in which new features are no longer introduced, but updates security and critical bug fixes.

Considering this, it would be ideal for organizations to plan a direct migration to RHEL 9, which is the latest version with the longest lifecycle and full support. This step, while challenging, provides greater longevity and stability, reducing the need for additional short-term upgrades and allowing companies to plan with greater certainty for the future of their IT infrastructure.

The alternatives to RHEL

Facing the cost and effort required to migrate to RHEL may push some CentOS users to consider free, open source alternatives like Rocky Linux or AlmaLinux. These distributions, born from the ashes of CentOS, offer a cheaper and often less complex migration path than the transition to RHEL.

Rocky linux is community developed and was created with the intent of providing a stable and reliable solution that maintains compatibility with RHEL. CIQ, the organization behind Rocky Linux, offers detailed migration guidance and support through the CIQ Bridge service, which can facilitate the transition without significant disruption to services.

SoulLinux, supported by the AlmaLinux OS Foundation community, is another valid alternative. AlmaLinux offers the tool Elevate, which allows for in-place upgrades between different versions of CentOS and other RHEL-based distributions. This tool, described in 2022, simplifies the migration process while maintaining business continuity and reducing downtime.

For those looking for a different approach, another option is to reinstall systems using Debian.

Debian is a robust and widely used Linux distribution in the server world. Additionally, to run specific applications that require a RHEL environment, you can use free RHEL container images. This allows you to combine the stability and security of Debian with the compatibility of RHEL applications, offering a flexible and powerful solution.

Conclusions

The impending end-of-life of CentOS 7 presents a significant challenge for network administrators. With the need to find workarounds or migrate to paid versions of RHEL, organizations must make quick and informed decisions to ensure the security and efficiency of their systems. Free alternatives like Rocky Linux and AlmaLinux offer solid options for those looking to avoid additional costs, while RHEL remains a robust choice for those who can afford the extended support.

If you own or have CentOS 7 systems, the end-of-life of this version can pose a significant challenge to your IT infrastructure. Our company, MANAGED SERVER SRL, is ready to support you with a turnkey systemic consultancy service for migration to RHEL or alternative solutions such as AlmaLinux or Rocky Linux. Our team of experts will guide you every step of the way, ensuring a smooth and safe transition, minimizing downtime and optimizing the performance of your system.

Contact us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help you to keep your infrastructure safe and efficient.

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