The Red Hat extended family

CentOS Stream

CentOS Stream uses the old CentOS logo [6] and continues CentOS's version numbering, but the continuity of the name is misleading. CentOS was a rebuild of RHEL, while CentOS Stream is an intermediary between Fedora and RHEL. In other words, while CentOS was downstream from RHEL, CentOS Stream is upstream. That means that, although CentOS Stream's next release will be 9, it is not built on CentOS 7, which is still supported, or on CentOS 8, which was abandoned after development stopped. Instead, its starting point is RHEL. Nor is it clear how Fedora and CentOS Stream relate to each other, aside from the fact that both are upstream from RHEL. Still, its newness alone is enough for it to be frequently downloaded, at least in the short term. For now, many in the community seem unsure what to make of it, and some condemn it for replacing CentOS. However, the start of CentOS Stream does mean that at least an early version of RHEL's code will now be available.


The end of CentOS was quickly answered by the announcement of at least two successor distributions, both of which had a first release a mere four months after the end of CentOS development. The first of these successors is AlmaLinux [7], which is supported by CloudLinux, ARM, AWS, Equinix, and Microsoft. The distribution implicitly responds to Red Hat and the end of CentOS by describing itself on its home page as an "Open Source, community owned and governed, forever-free enterprise Linux distribution, focused on long-term stability, providing a robust production-grade platform," adding that "AlmaLinux OS is 1:1 binary compatible with RHELÆ and pre-Stream CentOS." Another hint is the name of AlmaLinux's Elevate project, which is designed to assist migrations between RHEL derivatives.

Rocky Linux

The other main CentOS successor is Rocky Linux [8], named for CentOS co-founder Rocky McGaugh. Like AlmaLinux, Rocky has widespread support, notably from Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and VMware. The development team describes the project in terms much like those AlmaLinux uses to describe itself, as a "bug-for-bug compatible" and freely available implementation of RHEL. In deliberate contrast to RHEL, Rocky Linux also emphasizes the transparency of its build process. For instance, in its latest release, Rocky introduces Peridot, an open source, cloud-based build system. In addition, Rocky is pursuing accreditation from standard groups for its security implementation, especially for cryptography. In July 2022, the latest release of Rocky rivaled and even surpassed downloads of RHEL and CentOS in the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) repository.

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