Secure migration after end of support for CentOS - what options are worth considering?

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Secure migration after end of support for CentOS – what options are worth considering?

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Termination of support for CentOS 8 in the end of 2021 has caused a stir amongst the organizations which have used this free operating system as an alternative to Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Although the security fixes for CentOS 7 will be available at least until 2024, many companies will have to decide about the migration to a different solution in the near future. This decision may involve risk, challenges and cost, that is why it is worth deeply analyzing the available options and choosing the solution which is best tailored to the needs of the organization. In this article are presenting some alternatives available on the market, to aid you in making a conscious decision and avoid the problems related to using a system devoid of updates.

The end of CentOS – a free replacement for Red Hat Enterprise Linux – is coming

CentOS (Community ENTerprise Operating System) has been one of the most frequently used distributions of Linux operating systems, which since its inception, has been developed as a community project. Its construction, based on the source packages of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), meant that any changes made in RHEL had also been implemented in CentOS. After a new version of RHEL has been released, a new version of CentOS usually appears a few months later.

Different versions of CentOS were not only binary compatible with RHEL, but were also expected to have the similar, 10 years long, support period. Compatibility with RHEL has certainly contributed to the prevalence of CentOS in the production applications. This distribution has been, in the last 5 to 10 years, a real, and stable alternative to RHEL.

The period of full support for CentOS 6,7 and 8 has already ended. Only CentOS 7 will be getting critical security updates up till 30th of June 2024. In practice, it means that the CentOS project, which has been a freeware, community based alternative to Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) in production environments, is coming to an end.

Tab. 1. Support for CentOS operating systems (marked in red: expired support; in yellow: situations requiring immediate actions towards migration to other platforms).

This situation can be troublesome for those companies, which have based their infrastructure on CentOS. The time remaining to the complete closure of CentOS lifecycle is worth spending on the analysis of solutions available in the market and making a thoughtful choice on migration to a different solution, chosen on the basis of the analysis of our present business situation and development needs.

What is next after the end of support for CentOS? Overview of selected options

In case of every migration, the organization has to evaluate and test the compatibility of their applications and tools with the new solution. Then the migration itself should be performed, which may involve rewiring scripts, updating the software and executing changes in the configuration of the system. The scope of the necessary changes will depend on the extent of the solution’s compatibility with CentOS.

Let’s briefly analyze what alternatives to CentOS are available on the market.

1. CentOS Stream

CentOS Stream is a continuous release of an operating system which has been created to be compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). For organizations which have used CentOS 8, migration to CentOS Stream can be pretty simple, because many tools and packages are available in CentOS Stream.

However, CentOS Stream is an intermediate version between RHEL and CentOS in which users can have access to new features and updates before they are being added to RHEL. It is worth remembering that CentOS Steam is not fully compatible with RHEL and is also not a long-term release with a defined period of support. In consequence, one should be aware of the fact that CentOS Steam is a system dedicated mostly to testing and pre-production environments.

Initially, CentOS was a RHEL recompiler, created in line with open source licenses used by RHEL. Such software ensured the reliability and security, similarly to the upstream software, i.e., RHEL.

In turn, CentOS Stream is – as stated by the manufacturer – a midstream between Fedora, a communal production center of new functions, and a fully tested production version, that is RHEL. In other words, CentOS Stream acts as an additional pre-production phase.

Pic. 1. Shift in the flow of the code updates between the particular products of the Red Hat ecosystem before and after announcing the change of CentOS role in 2021. The arrows indicate the direction of transferring the modification in the code.

2. Fedora

Another is Fedora, which is an excellent upstream, but it is worth remembering that it is primarily a testing field for solutions, which are subsequently implemented into Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Though the quick developmental cycle may be considered by some as beneficial, the lack of security guarantees and code stability is discouraging. Furthermore, administering such a system may be difficult because of the need to manage the actuality and compatibility of the software. All of this makes Fedora not a recommended solution for the production applications.

3. EuroLinux

EuroLinux is Polish – made Enterprise class distribution developed since 2013, based on the source code Red Hat® Enterprise Linux®, which guarantees the compatibility with RHEL®, Oracle® Linux, CentOS, AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux.

This solution ensures an identical working environment, correct software operation and the hardware certificates of RHEL, thanks to which all of the competencies acquired by the administrators and users are still relevant. It is maintained and developed by experienced architects and developers.

The product is available in different forms, including ISO, VMware, Docker, OpenStack and Vagrant images. Furthermore, it can be launched in the AWS, AZURE, Google Cloud Platform and Alibaba public clouds. The manufacturer offers two versions of EuroLinux: a paid one (with the tech support) and free one (since version 8.3). The products are being offered with professional tech support provided by the engineers, in Polish and English. A strong emphasis is placed on the development of cloud-ready functionalities, which ensure the perspective of development and the ability to utilize the software in the future innovations.

For the organizations which are considering the migration from CentOS or looking for the option to prolong the support for RHEL 6 and 7, EuroLinux is being equipped with additional scripts automating the migration to EuroLinux 6,7 and 8. The said migration scripts, alongside a straight license policy and a flexible approach of the manufacturer towards the needs of the clients, significantly facilitates the migration process.

The script for migration from CentOS 6, Oracle Linux 6, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Scientific Linux 6 to EuroLinux 6 ELS is available on GitHub.

The script for migration from CentOS 7/8/9, Oracle Linux 7/8/9, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7/8/9, Scientific Linux 7/8/9 to EuroLinux 7/8/9 is available on GitHub.

See also:

4. AlmaLinux

AlmaLinux is a free distribution of Linux operating system, which was created as an answer to the need of stable and long term support after the defining of CentOS lifecycle. AlmaLinux is a free alternative to RHEL, supported by the community. Thanks to its origins, AlmLinux is binary compatible with RHEL, which facilitates the migration from other RHEL-based distributions, such as CentOS.

Migration from CentOS to AlmaLinux has its pros and cons. The main advantages of it are the free support of the community and advice from experts from around the world, as well as the ability to utilize the acquired competencies. Furthermore, the full compatibility with RHEL means that all of the applications and tools designed for RHEL will also work on AlmaLinux without any issues.

A serious flaw of migration from CentOs to AlmaLinux may be the fact that the system does not offer professional tech support. It is required, in some cases, by the law regulations or recommended, in the case of corporate systems of critical importance.

5. Rocky Linux

Rocky Linux is a distribution of Linux created in 2020 as a free, community based alternative to CentOS, after Red Hat had announced the termination of support for the 8th version. Rocky Linux is based on the source code of RHEL and has been designed with the aim of ensuring a stable, long term support for the users of the operating system. Migration from CentOS to Rocky Linux seeks to provide the continuation of operating with a reliable and secure operating system, which offers the same level of functionalities as RHEL.

However, similarly to AlmaLinux, this system does not offer professional tech support, which is required, in some cases, by the law regulations or recommended, in the case of corporate systems of critical importance.

6. Oracle Linux

Migration to Oracle Linux is also one of the possible ways of continuing the support after the termination of support for CentOS. Oracle Linux is based on the source code of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), thanks to which a high level of compatibility with RHEL is being ensured. Moreover, it offers long term support for all of its releases, and also provides scripts that facilitate the migration to other solutions, i.e., from RHEL or CentOS.

It is worth remembering though that migration to Oracle Linux entails the costs of the license and tech support, which may create a cost barrier for widespread usage. Before deciding on migrating to Oracle Linux, it is worth comparing its costs with the other options, and also to thoroughly contemplate on your requirements and goals in the long term.

7. Other alternatives for production applications: Debian, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE and Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES)

Debian, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE i Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) are the popular distributions of Linux, which offer stable releases, as well as an extensive base of applications and tools.

It is worth noting, though, that Debian, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE and Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) are not binary compatible with the code of RHEL, which results in the need of a complex migration alongside with rewriting / recompiling of applications.

Such migration is therefore labor-intensive, expensive, and fraught with risk. It may also result in the necessity of retraining the users or altering the line-up of the team responsible for administering the systems.

In the case of migration to Debian, Ubuntu and OpenSUSE the company also needs to ensure that a long term support and security updates will be provided for their operating system. In contrast, Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is an enterprise class operating system with commercial support of the manufacturer.

Ultimately, the choice of Linux distribution for migration depends on the individual requirements and preferences of the company, as well as on the evaluation and testing of applications’ and tools’ compatibility with the new operating system.

8. Migration to the cloud

Using the cloud solutions, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform, might be a good option for companies, which want to avoid costs and effort caused by managing an IT infrastructure. Suppliers of the public clouds usually provide ready-made images of the previously mentioned operating systems, resulting in an easily achievable and stable infrastructure with the functioning system.

Admittedly the provider of the cloud is partially responsible for maintaining the infrastructure, however the majority of challenges, which are to overcome during migration to particular operating systems, appear also in the case of using clouds. Additionally, training is necessary for the personnel in the areas of configuring and administering the cloud resources. Migration to the cloud may also involve other challenges, such as accessibility, securing the data, ensuring compliance with regulations and difficult to estimate costs.

Migration from CentOS with the support of Linux Polska

If you are using CentOS, migration to the new operating system is unavoidable, if you still want to receive updates, patches and new functions. The operating system is one of the key components of an IT infrastructure; you may need support and a partner, who will help you to manage the change in a secure and reliable manner.

How we may help you:

  • IT infrastructure audit – it helps to identify the components of the system, which may need update or modification to the security and compatibility after the termination of support for CentOS.
  • Applications compatibility analysis – evaluation and testing of applications to identify, which of them will work with the new operating system distribution and which may need adjusting.
  • Support in choosing a production class operating system and adjusting it to the specified needs and requirements. 
  • Development of a migration plan with the indication of restrictions and of suitable risk lowering tools, to ensure a seamless migration.  
  • Conducting migration – execution of the migration plan, consisting of the installation and configuration of the new operating system, rewriting scripts, updating the software, changing the configuration and testing.
  • Providing long-term technical and substantive support during the challenges related to the operating system and the development of the IT infrastructure.
  • Training the personnel – training the employees in terms of servicing and managing the new operating system, to ensure an effective and secure work.
  • Monitoring and observability – providing the monitoring services and the new operating system, to ensure constant protection from the threats and its effective operation.

If you need support in migration from CentOs to a new operating system, please contact us

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