How CentOS changes the cloud Linux game

Amidst all the news from AWS re:Invent last week—mainframe modernization, database updates, ARM-based Graviton3, etc.—one thing might have slipped your notice yet deserves the spotlight: Amazon Linux 2022. AWS CEO Adam Selipsky didn’t mention it in his keynote, though it did earn a tweet from AWS Compute Services VP Deepak Singh (though so did this chess match and this tree). But that’s probably appropriate since Amazon Linux 2022 is the kind of big deal that is meant to fade into the background while offering stability, security, and performance.

It’s also an interesting release as much for what it isn’t as for what it is. For the first time, Amazon Linux 2022 isn’t based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) code (and has never been based on CentOS, the longtime RHEL clone that made waves in late 2020 when Red Hat announced it would eschew a fixed-point release pattern in favor of a rolling, “stream-based” approach). Instead, Amazon Linux 2022 is based on the Fedora community upstream project.

Don’t think that’s a big deal? Maybe you should ask the other big cloud providers what they intend to do now that Red Hat has announced the end of life of CentOS 8 at the end of 2021. Want to sell the U.S. government CentOS-based services? CentOS is no longer FedRAMP compliant. Switch to RHEL or another supported OS or don’t do business with the federal government. Ouch.

Whether prescient or simply lucky, AWS’ focus on Fedora could well pay significant dividends. But for enterprises wondering what to do with the CentOS free ride about to end, it’s perhaps worth remembering that “free software” often isn’t free.

“The most abused software in the history of computing”

It makes sense that each of the cloud vendors would build on CentOS. After all, everyone does. Everyone. Take a look at the underlying OS for some of the largest software-as-a-service providers on earth and you’ll find plenty of CentOS. Dig into IBM’s consulting practice and how the company for years told its customers to “just use CentOS.” European fashion brands that would never countenance someone selling a knockoff of their uber-expensive bags run CentOS. The entire telecom infrastructure of China runs on CentOS. (Yes, really.) Facebook is CentOS-based, too.

Nor is this CentOS usage relegated to test and development instances. In a conversation with someone close to CentOS, he shared a comment by an executive at a large cloud provider with many big customers running CentOS: “This is the most abused software in the history of computing. Our top 10 users of CentOS have over 50,000 instances, and they’re the who’s who of the Fortune 100. They know what they’re doing. These aren’t developers running dev/test. They’re not small companies.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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