I’ll be there for you

CentOS makes friends with Red Hat

Elliot Bentley

Community Linux distribution leaders hail a “new era” as corporate giant pours resources into project.

“new era” for popular Linux distribution CentOS began yesterday, as
community leaders announced a deal with Red Hat that will see the
open-source giant pouring resources into the project.

An unofficial clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS was
initially released in 2004, and despite almost
collapsing in 2009
after reclusive founder Lance Davis “crawled
into a hole” has established itself as a popular choice.

Now, after almost a decade, Red Hat have surprised everyone by
embracing CentOS, sponsoring some of its core contributors, and
helping to found a new merit-based leadership structure for the
project. CentOS leaders were
keen to emphasise
that the changes would be strictly positive,
and that the “firewall” between it and RHEL would remain in

But what does Red Hat gain from helping out what is essentially
a free clone of its bread-and-butter business? In a press release,
the company claimed that “taking a role as a catalyst within the
CentOS community will enable [Red Hat] to accelerate development of
enterprise-grade subscription solutions” – ambiguous to say the

Cutting through the marketing speak, the key here is that RHEL
will remain the only version with paid support, making CentOS and
Fedora – Red Hat’s other Linux distribution – the freemium

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst praised CentOS for being “one of the
reasons that the RHEL ecosystem is the default”.

“It helps to give us an ubiquity that RHEL might otherwise not
have if we forced everyone to pay to use Linux,” he
told ReadWrite
. “So, in a micro sense we lose some revenue, but
in a broader sense, CentOS plays a very valuable role in helping to
make Red Hat the de facto Linux.”

In an FAQ,
Red Hat position the three as: RHEL as the “trusted, hardened,
supported” production version, Fedora as the cutting-edge Linux
distribution, and CentOS as a place to “experiment” with a more
stable distribution before paying out for a subscription.

The company says the move is also about building a broader
enterprise user base for Linux-based projects like Gluster,
OpenStack and oVirt – which, funnily enough, Red Hat is heavily
investing in.

Rather than attempt to quash their (legal) clone, Red Hat have
chosen to use it as a weapon in the cloud game, which will only
bolster its reputation for promoting open source, working alongside
competitors, and generally doing ‘the right thing’.

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